INTERNATIONAL: Drugs body invests £64m to halt abuse among teens

WASHINGTON: The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will invest nearly £64m over the next year to convince 14 to 16-year-olds not to smoke marijuana.

The ambitious effort seeks not just to deliver an anti-marijuana message, but to effect comprehensive change in a young teenager's environment, countering what officials call an increasingly pro-drug culture.

Schools, youth-oriented publications, parents, and even popular TV shows and movies are being recruited for the initiative.

ONDCP director Alan Levitt said: 'Turn on the TV or go to the movies, and you see all kinds of drug humour or actual drug use that trivialises or normalises the use of marijuana. Call up "marijuana" on the internet, and 75 per cent of the websites are about how to grow pot or how to fool a drug test.'

Influences such as these, Levitt claimed, coupled with a lax attitude by parents, have led to a dangerous environment of marijuana acceptance among young teenagers.

Recent surveys by the National Institute on Drug Addiction suggest that 60 per cent of teenagers who use drugs use marijuana exclusively and the same percentage of teenagers who enter drug rehab do so to treat a marijuana addiction.

Use among eighth-graders (14-year-olds) has doubled in the past decade.

In order to turn the tide, the ONDCP and its agency of record, Fleishman-Hillard, have launched the multi-front National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, publicly unveiled by US drug czar John Walters.

Much of the £64m price tag is devoted to advertising, but the ONDCP said media relations and grassroots PR initiatives lie at the heart of the effort.

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