Drug Czar Does U-Turn on Booze

Memo Suggests Alcohol May Be Added to Ogilvy’s Anti-Drug Effort
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Reversing a position it has taken in recent weeks, the Office of National Drug Control Policy is now considering whether it should attack underage alcohol use as part of its $1 billion anti-drug campaign.
ONDCP previously criticized Congressional proposals that would require the addition of alcohol to its mission. Officials thought that changing course half-way through its anti-drug crusade would be a strategic error.
But the drug office is now locked in a tough appropriations battle in the Senate, where a proposed bill would slash funding for the campaign from $185 million to $145.5 million next year. The Senate has also included language that would withhold $49 million of the funds until Sept. 30, 2000, the last day of its fiscal year, making it difficult to buy media time in advance. It would also require ONDCP to only spend money on advertising, which could jeopardize its research efforts and public relations contract with Fleishman Hillard.
A House version of the bill would raise funding to $195 million.
“To launch a serious underage drinking media campaign we will need to engage in the same type of rigorous planning that we did with our anti-drug youth media campaign,” ONDCP director Barry McCaffrey said in a letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who also sponsored a failed amendment to include alcohol. “ONDCP supports–and, in fact, will soon initiate–such an effort, with the goal of dedicating some of the funds from our current media campaign for this purpose.”
An ONDCP official said, “The goal is to spend between one and two million dollars from the existing media campaign to plan an anti-alcohol effort.”
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America was surprised by the letter. “This is the first time we have heard of it,” said spokesman Stephen Dnistrian. “ONDCP and the director both publicly and privately have expressed their desire not to do this for all the right reasons.”
The campaign is overseen by Ogilvy & Mather in New York, which also opposes including alcohol in the campaign. The agency did not return calls by press time.