Antidrug Push Addresses Perception But Not Reality

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A federal advertising budget for an antidrug campaign that rivals the amount of money Nike spends on sneaker commercials may well make middle-class teenagers just say no. But it's unlikely to end the inner-city drug crisis. President Clinton, backed by bipartisan support, announced on Thursday a $200 million-a-year antidrug media campaign, launched with a TV ad depicting a teenager trashing her kitchen to illustrate the corrosive effect of heroin.

"While changing the perception of drugs as a 'cool' countercultural phenomenon is essential, there's also a need to address the social problems that lead people to use drugs," comments TIME correspondent William Dowell. "Of course this ad will influence the white middle class, but how will it affect an inner-city black kid who can make $250 a week in a regular job but can make $1,000 a week selling drugs? Or the ghetto dwellers who turn to drugs out of despair at ever being able to change their reality? Ad campaigns can be an effective part of an antidrug strategy, but law enforcement needs to be complemented by treatment programs and social programs to keep people off drugs." In other words, convincing America that drugs aren't cool may not be enough.