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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
a boomerang effect. At the end of 2002, the message focus of the anti-drug campaign was redefined with additional attention to the negative consequences of marijuana use. The effectiveness of that new campaign focus is not yet known. There are published results, based on a much earlier period of the anti-drug campaign sponsored by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which show positive effects (Block et al., 2002), and there is also evidence of success for a field experimental anti-drug campaign in Kentucky (Palmgreen et al., 2001). Thus, the appropriate conclusion is that the national ONDCP-sponsored campaign has not been successful, through mid-2002, not that the general approach is always unsuccessful.
If the anti-tobacco efforts are a positive model and the anti-drug efforts are not encouraging, wouldn’t it be possible to model a campaign against youth alcohol use on the first and avoid the mistakes of the second? This question requires a careful consideration of how the tobacco and drug campaigns were different from one another and how the behaviors they addressed are different from alcohol use.
The expenditures for advertising expenditures for the youth parts of both national campaigns were in the range of $60 to 100 million per year. But there are a number of important differences in the two campaigns. First, the styles of the two campaigns have been quite different. The anti-tobacco campaigns have focused on a variety of messages, but a particularly striking set focused on anti-industry arguments—the tobacco industry kills people and is trying to manipulate you. The anti-drug messages focused (through the end of 2002) on positive alternatives to drug use—“What’s your anti drug?”—and on the negative consequences of drug use.
Second, the American Legacy Foundation’s anti-tobacco advertising has adopted an edgy style, with youth apparently in control. The anti-drug advertising has had a more conventional style, with clear sponsorship by ONDCP and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Third, the tobacco messages were launched in the context of broad media coverage of tobacco issues as Congress and the states’ attorneys general struggled with the tobacco industry toward legislation and the eventual master settlement of 1997. In contrast, anti-drug general media coverage was likely declining during the period of the national anti-drug campaign directed toward youth.
Fourth, there were important changes in the environment surrounding youth tobacco use that were complementary to campaign efforts, including price changes related to tax increases, increasing public concern with second-hand smoke, and increased restrictions on where smoking was permitted. There also was substantial change in public norms about the acceptability of smoking. While these other changes do not completely account for the reduction in tobacco use among youth, they had some direct effects