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Good intentions gone wrong?

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7235.656 (Published 04 March 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:656
  1. Lawrence Wallack, director
  1. School of Community Health, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon

    The US “National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign”

    On 13 January 2000 the US online magazine salon.com reported “a hidden government effort to shoehorn antidrug messages into the most pervasive and powerful billboard of all— network television programming.” The story was headlined: “Prime-time Propaganda.” In a country where citizens have a healthy scepticism about government intrusion into people's lives, this news spread quickly through the national media. What were these messages and how had they been shoehorned onto prime time television?

    The story began in 1997, when the US Congress approved an initiative sponsored by the Clinton administration to address the increase in drug use among young people. The campaign aimed to steer children away from drug use and to get their parents and other influential figures involved in measures to combat drug use. This “National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign” had a budget of $1bn spread over five years, making it the largest public health media campaign ever launched in the United States. …

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