The White House has launched a $145-million advertising campaign targeting parents and peers of young people that they hope will help combat substance abuse.
One of five new anti-drug and alcohol commercials shows a teenager standing on a dock, watching a friend drown. "If your friend were in trouble, you would help them. Wouldn't you?," the as says.
Another 30 second commercial, created for free by top New York advertising agencies, shows a teenager's descent into drugs by rewinding to the time when her mother could have discussed the problem with her.
The campaign is scheduled to begin on Sunday, when more than 80 million viewers are expected to watch the championship American football game, the Super Bowl, which is the most widely watched scheduled television broadcast in the United States.
The Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, John Walters, says the Super Bowl is the perfect time to begin the media campaign because parents and teenagers tend to watch the game together.
"By taking early action, you, parents, peers, community members, can stop a teen from using drugs and help them moving avoid consequences that put their future at risk. That is the message of this campaign," he said.
Although a 2002 academic study called into question the effectiveness of the government's anti-drug ads, Mr. Walters says he is confident that the media blitz will help the U.S. government's meet a goal to reduce adolescent and adult drug use by 10 percent in two years.
The White House drug office says more than two million young people have a diagnosable dependence on illegal drugs or alcohol, despite a recent two-year, 11 percent decline.
During a news conference, officials, including leaders of the not-for-profit Partnership for a Drug Free America, said after conducting extensive research, they decided to build on existing preventive efforts by targeting peers and parents.
After unveiling the ads, a college student and drug counselor, Rachi Govil, described how she reached out to help a troubled friend who had become involved with a peer group that abused drugs and alcohol.
"And so I stand here today to tell you my story and to also say that for all the kids out there who have friends who are using drugs, and who are worried about them, take the time and take the courage because you can make a difference, because I did," she said in the ad.
The television networks give a 50 percent discount for the public service commercials. Advertising during the Super Bowl normally costs $2.3 million for a 30 second spot. The ad campaign is separate from President Bush's initiative, announced last week during his State of the Union address, to increase drug testing in schools.