CAMPAIGNS: BLF cannabis report raises health issues - Charity PR

Client: British Lung Foundation
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: BFL Report: 'A Smoking Gun? The Impact of Cannabis on
Respiratory Health'
Timescale: May - November 2002
Budget: £11,000 (including costs of report)

In November, the British Lung Foundation released a report, 'A Smoking Gun? The Impact of Cannabis on Respiratory Health', outlining the respiratory health risks associated with smoking cannabis. The report set out to identify existing scientific and medical research.

It was funded by a grant from the Department of Health, which approached the BLF after it raised concerns that the effects of cannabis on lung health had been missed from the Government's reclassification debate.

The organisation compiled existing research into the report, for review by consultants across the UK and internationally. One finding was that health dangers have increased substantially since the 1960s due to increased amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis, rendering studies from that decade obsolete.

Objectives

To promote further research into the effects of cannabis on the lungs and improve public information. To dispel myths about cannabis being safer than tobacco (a survey last year showed 79 per cent of children believed it was 'safe').

Strategy and Plan

A press release outlining the aims and key findings of the report was sent to national and regional press and broadcast media in July, the day before home secretary David Blunkett announced the downgrading of cannabis from a class B to a class C drug. A further press pack was sent out when the report launched on 11 November.

Measurement and Evaluation

The report had blanket coverage in the national print media, with articles in The Times, The Independent, Metro, the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and BBC Online.

Radio 4's Today programme included a live discussion with BLF chief executive Dame Helena Shovelton, with further radio coverage on Radio 1, BBC Radio 4 News, Radio 5 Live, IRN, LBC, Radio 2 and the BBC World Service.

Sky News ran two interviews, and the report featured on BBC1 Breakfast News, Channel 4 News, BBC TV 1pm News, BBC News 24, Ceefax and Teletext.

It attracted media attention in the US, South Africa, Australia and France.

Results

The Government is now considering the impact of cannabis on respiratory health, and public awareness has been raised.

The BLF has received many supportive calls from organisations dealing with drugs and young people, and from schools. It has received a second £11,000 grant from the DoH for the second stage of the cannabis project, which will take place later this year.

On 12 November the BLF website, which normally attracts 340 visitors per day, had 14,408 visitors. Over 21,000 people visited the site that week, compared with an average 2,000.

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