Friday, November 10, 2006

US drug ads get real

Seth Stevenson of Slate Magazine looks at a new series of ads from the US Office of National Drug Control Policy that's quite a departure from the "drugs are evil", "drugs will ruin your brain", "drugs support the terrorists" campaigns of the past. He notes that the new TV spot titled "Pete's Couch" takes a patently realistic and utterly sensible approach at trying to steer kids away from weed. (The ads are available online, too.) (Google search turns up lots of references, including YouTube.) Seth writes...

This new spot, titled "Pete's Couch," doesn't offend me. It acknowledges that smoking weed on your buddy's sofa is the "safest thing in the world." (Which is true. I actually had a friend named Pete in high school, and we did get high on his couch. No turmoil ensued.) The ad's main contention is that it's important to get off that couch and out into the world, where you can do things like ice skate with other teens.

Interesting approach. Trying to scare kids with outlandish destructive side-effects hasn't worked. Perhaps telling them a workable truth -- that wasting your life doing nothing, as much fun as that may be at the time, is a silly thing to do -- is more respectful and honest, and could end up being believable and effective.


It kinda reminds me of how South Park treated the same issue.

Of course, we had Mr. Mackey lecturing the kids. "M'kay, kids, you shouldn't do drugs, m'kay, drugs are bad. You see, I was at the bottom of the barrel, I was a wreck. Why, I didn't even care about money. I was wasting my life... You boys need to listen up, m'kay, what I'm talking about might save your life some day... Drugs are bad. You shouldn't do drugs. If you do them, you're bad, because drugs are bad. It's a bad thing to do drugs, so don't be bad by doing drugs, m'kay, that'd be bad."

Or more directly, the sixth season episode "My Future Self n' Me". That one really struck me the first time I saw it. The boys' parents hire a company to serve up loser "future selves" to scare the children into staying away from drugs. The boys catch on, though, and are furious that they've been lied to. Here's how it ends...


RANDY
Oh... Well... Son, we've just been trying
to make sure you know how dangerous
drugs like pot are.

STAN
I've been told a lot of things about
pot, but I've come to find out a lot
of those things aren't true! So I don't
know what to believe!

RANDY
Well, Stan, the truth is marijuana probably
isn't gonna make you kill people, and
...it most likely isn't gonna fund terrorism,
but... Well son, pot makes you feel
fine with being bored and... It's when
you're bored that you should be learning
some new skill or discovering some new
science or... being creative. If you
smoke pot you may grow up to find out
that you aren't good at anything.

STAN
I really, really wish you just would
have told me that from the beginning.

SHARON
He's right. If we use lies and exaggerations
to keep kids off drugs, then they're
never gonna believe anything we tell
them
Hmm.. I wonder if the South Park thing influenced the development of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy thing.

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