PORTLAND — The Oregon Health Authority has announced the launch of a youth marijuana use prevention campaign. The campaign’s goal is to prevent or delay the initiation of marijuana use among Oregon’s 12- to 20-year-old population.
After the legalization and ongoing rollout of recreational marijuana, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 4014 and SB 1597, which provide OHA with $3.97 million to develop, pilot and evaluate a youth marijuana use prevention campaign in a rural and an urban area of the state. Legislative intent guided OHA in choosing the Portland metro area (Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties) and Southern Oregon (Josephine and Jackson counties) as the locations for this pilot campaign.
OHA developed the campaign, named “Stay True to You,” using extensive audience research and focus groups. Twenty-eight focus groups were conducted in Portland, Bend, Medford and Pendleton featuring 260 youth and young adults between 14 and 20 years old. Participants from the African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, white, American Indian/Alaskan native and Latino communities were included. DHM Research (Davis, Hibbitts, & Midghall, Inc.), contracted by OHA to facilitate all focus groups, conducted groups in English and Spanish between October 2015 and March 2016.
“Young people in our focus groups related to the idea that being a teenager is hard,” said Kati Moseley, OHA policy specialist. “Young people recognize that marijuana has the potential to affect their present and their future. We used this insight to develop an approach that speaks to youth on many levels.” As a result of this research, the campaign includes:
- Thought-provoking testimonials from adults who had experience with marijuana as youth and young adults. In focus groups, one request was heard more than any other: participants wanted to hear from people who had used marijuana and could talk about their experiences. This campaign includes testimonials from people telling their real stories about using marijuana in the past.
- Messaging that informs the audience that younger kids and teens who see their older sisters, brothers and role models using marijuana may be more at risk of using it, too.
- Facts on brain development and marijuana’s effects on learning that are based on reviews of the current science by OHA’s Retail Marijuana Scientific Advisory Committee.
- A Q&A component for youth who have questions.
A sample of the campaign materials can be found at https://www.staytruetoyou.org/materials. The password is 12345.
“Our focus group research showed youth and young adults yearn for more information on the effects of marijuana use,” Moseley said. “Though research into marijuana isn’t as extensive as that on alcohol or tobacco, there is sufficient evidence that marijuana use can have a significant effect on developing brains.”
According to OHA’s 2016 report, Marijuana use, attitudes and health effects in Oregon, which can be found at https://public.health.oregon.gov/PreventionWellness/marijuana/Documents/oha-8509-marijuana-report.pdf, about half (51 percent) of Oregon adults had seen marijuana products or store advertising in their community in the past month, but fewer than one-third (29 percent) had seen information about the health effects of using marijuana.
OHA’s role in marijuana legalization is to educate the public about the health issues related to marijuana use; prevent youth marijuana use; and monitor marijuana use, attitudes and health effects.
The campaign will advertise across a variety of media, but the bulk of advertising will take place on digital and streaming video to most effectively reach the youth audience. Other campaign elements include mall and movie theater ads, a social media presence (#StayTrueOregon), a website (StayTrueToYou.org), radio advertising, and promotions and outreach to organizations around Portland and Southern Oregon where youth gather.
Secondary audiences include parents, teachers and school administrators. OHA will reach this secondary audience with a fall campaign in English and Spanish.
RMC Research will evaluate the effectiveness of this campaign twice, with a mid-point evaluation in November 2016 and a final evaluation in May 2017. OHA will provide two reports to the Legislature: one in January 2017, and the final report by June 30, 2017.