U.S. Drug Czar Admits to Failed Ad Campaign, After Wasting Nearly $1 Billion in Taxpayer Money

Press Release May 13, 2002
Media Contact

Shayna Samuels at (212) 547-6916

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, Drug Czar John Walters plans to ask Congress for continued support of his office’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign, despite definitive evidence of its failure to reduce drug use among American youth. A new report evaluating the five- year old campaign, which has spent $929 million in taxpayer money so far, found that it “isn’t reducing drug use,” as Mr. Walters told the Journal.

Remarkably, however, Mr. Walters, head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is pushing for continued support of the failed program as it comes up for Congressional reauthorization for another five years.

Call to action

Congress is now considering whether to reauthorize the anti-drug ad program that has failed to reduce drug use among teens. Urge your senators to redirect the $180 million to drug treatment plans that are proven to work instead.

“Admit five years of failure, and ask for $900 million more?” asked Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann. “What about supporting after-school programs that really get to the root of the problem?”

Mr. Walters also continues to lead a $10 million broadcast and print advertising campaign linking young people who use drugs to terrorism, despite lack of evidence that this message is helping reduce drug use. These controversial ads have been criticized for being politically motivated, using support for the war on terrorism to mask the growing public skepticism about the expensive, failed war on drugs.

The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading drug policy reform organization, is calling for an immediate halt to the taxpayer-funded drug and terrorism ad campaign.

Marsha Rosenbaum, head of the Safety First project at the Drug Policy Alliance, which promotes honest drug education for teens and parents, emphasized that when it comes to young people and drugs, their safety should be the top priority.

“These scare tactic ads, just like the egg in the frying pan, do nothing to help teens make safer decisions for themselves, or to encourage dialogue with their parents,” said Rosenbaum.

The new website – www.safety1st.org — stresses the value of abstinence, but also the need for fallback strategies when teenagers begin to experiment.

“Congress has a real opportunity right now to demand that money for drug education be invested in keeping our kids safe,” said Rosenbaum. “These failed, expensive television ads must stop.”

ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: Experts on honest drug education for teens and parents are available for interviews. Please call Shayna Samuels at 212-547-6916 for more information.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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