New research finds that a national campaign’s anti-drug TV ads failed to convince young children and teenagers to stay away from marijuana and actually might have ENCOURAGED some of them to try smoking pot.

Researcher Robert Hornik says that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign?s TV ads from 1999 to 2004 “either had no effects on kids or possibly had a boomerang effect.” The US Congress created the anti-drug campaign in the late 1990s and gave almost $1 billion to it through 2004. The taxpayer-funded campaign continues to create anti-drug advertising today.

The researchers surveyed over 8,000 children from 1999 to 2001 and followed up with many of them over the next several years. The children were nine to18 years old when they were first recruited for the study, the same ages as the group targeted by the campaign’s TV ads.

94% of the kids reported seeing two to three of the anti-drug ads per week. But seeing the ads didn’t reduce the likelihood that the children used marijuana. In fact, the ads might have even raised the risk that kids would be willing to try it.

Hornik says, “Our basic hypothesis is that the more kids saw these ads, the more they came to believe that lots of other kids were using marijuana, and the more they came to believe that other kids were using marijuana, the more they became more interested in using it themselves.”

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