In successfully overturning a congressional attempt to divert funds from anti-drug ads for an effort focusing on alcoholic beverages, Director Barry McCaffrey offered the possibility of a second campaign.
The drug office will use about $300,000 to research and plan a media campaign aimed at underage drinking, and then look for other monies to create and run the ads.
"Alcohol is the leading drug of choice among American youth and we support the development of a media campaign targeted against underage drinking," Mr. McCaffrey said in a letter to several congressmen and senators. "To launch a serious underage-drinking campaign, however, we will need to engage in the same type of rigorous planning as we did with" the anti-drug campaign.
Mr. McCaffrey offered no suggestions on the source of funding. Aides said one reason for the research is to determine how much money would be necessary.
"Before we did an anti-drug campaign, we went through a planning process," said Charles Blanchard, chief counsel. "That's never been done for alcohol."
Mr. Blanchard said messages would likely be aimed at middle-school kids and their parents.
Creating an underage-drinking campaign could be considerably more complicated than the anti-drug campaign. The White House office was able to use creative from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and then just pay to air the spots, formerly used as public service announcements. There is no similar alcohol advertising ready, except for the "responsibility" campaigns done by the three major U.S. brewers.
The House Appropriations Committee, in a sometimes boisterous debate last week, agreed with Mr. McCaffrey's plan. The committee voted 32-23 to drop language a subcommittee had added requiring some of the anti-drug ad money be used for underage-drinking ads.
UNDERMINING DRUG EFFORTS
"It doesn't make any sense except to undermine the [anti-drug] campaign," said Rep. Anne Northrup (R., Ky.).
The Senate earlier had rejected a similar attempt.
Funding for next year's anti-drug ads remained unresolved, with the House voting to proceed with spending at current levels-$150 million annually-and the Senate