Pubdate: February 5, 1999
Source: The Daily Star (Oneonta, NY)
Contact:  607-432-5847
Author: Walter F. Wouk


The Office of National Drug Control Policy recently began a five-year
$2 billion anti-drug ad campaign aimed at ages 9-19. The ads, public
service announcements produced by the Partnership for a Drug-Free
America, are fixated on marijuana use.

One of the PSAs points out, correctly, that most kids don't use
marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, only
about one in five 10th graders report they are current marijuana users
(that is, used marijuana within the past month.) Less than one in four
high school seniors is a current marijuana user.

But, most kids do use alcohol. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America
admits that alcohol is the most widely tried drug among teen-agers --
over 50 percent of 8th graders and eight out of 10 12th graders report
having tried alcohol.

A recent National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicated that 11
million individuals age 12 to 20 had used alcohol during the 30 days
prior to the interview. Of this group, 4.8 million, or more than 40
percent, engaged in binge drinking, including 2.0 million heavy drinkers.

According to the ONDCP, alcohol is a "gateway drug." For boys, alcohol
is the precursor to illegal drugs. For girls, tobacco smoking along
with alcohol is the precursor.

It's clear that alcohol poses a "clear and present danger" to the
health and well-being of our nation's youth, so it appears reasonable
to assume that the ONDCP's "Anti-drug Media Campaign's" primary focus
would be teenage alcohol abuse. Wrong!   According to the ONDCP,
"Campaign efforts should primarily target illicit drugs of first use
... most commonly marijuana."

At this point, it's important to point out that for each dollar the
government spends on running ads, media companies must match that
dollar with ads targeting either alcohol, tobacco, teen-age pregnancy,
drugs, illiteracy, mentoring or other issues. The alcohol industry
spends nearly $1 billion per year in television ads, so it's not
likely that the "media" will target alcohol as a drug of abuse.

If government officials were serious about curtailing teen-age drug
abuse, they would initiate a strident campaign against teen-age
alcohol use. At present they're content to guzzle their booze, point
the finger of condemnation at marijuana -- and pat themselves on the
back for a job well done.

Walter F. Wouk, Howes Cave 
Wouk is the president of the Capital Region Chapter of the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
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