The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has launched an innovative, digital and social media-based public education campaign created by local teenagers and designed to prevent tweens and teens from using marijuana.
Under the theme of making “bigger choices” (#BiggerChoices) and using a variety of mediums commonly used by teens, the campaign includes a series of videos, including rap music videos, roundtable talks, and influencers to provide accurate information from trusted sources and peers about the dangers of using marijuana before the legal age of 21.
“This campaign is an effort on behalf of Public Health to create peer-to-peer communications inspired and created by teens. It was important to us to involve young people to the greatest extent possible,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “We’re reaching teens exactly where they are: on social media. Our end goal is to provide teens with the facts and resources they need to make the best decision for themselves.”
Currently, about one in six teens in Los Angeles County are considered frequent users of marijuana. Long-term health effects when using marijuana at a young age include impaired thinking, memory, and learning functions; brain development is impacted by marijuana use on the connections between the areas necessary for these functions. Researchers are still studying how long marijuana’s effects last and whether some of these changes may be permanent.
“As cannabis becomes more widely available in our communities, we have a duty to make sure that younger people understand the harmful effects it can have on their developing brains,” said Los Angeles County CEO Sachi Hamai. “And the way to spread the word is by connecting with them—peer to peer—in the digital spaces where they interact with each other.”
At today’s news conference, four Los Angeles area teenagers who participated in the campaign videos shared their personal stories and reasons why they believe it’s important to deliver the facts about marijuana to their peers around the “Bigger Choices” message. For instance,
- Elijah, 18, said he got involved in the campaign because he wants his peers to “think about their actions and ask themselves why they even want to consider smoking weed.”
- Lily, 17, is asking other teenagers to not give into peer pressure to experiment with weed and to think about their future. She also sees herself as an advocate for youth “having a voice on important issues in their communities.”
- Sofia, 17, believes teens are generally unaware of weed’s harmful effects and they should avoid it while in school to “give themselves better chances at succeeding in school and in life.”
- Angie, 16, said she believes her peers, once fully informed, will realize “it’s not worth it to use weed.”
The videos can be seen at www.LetsTalkCannabisLACounty.com. Another component of the campaign, which launched last month, is a video series featuring addiction specialist and local media celebrity, Dr. Drew Pinksy. These sessions, which include local teenagers, are currently available via Entercom radio stations, including KROQ. Those videos and other information can be found at: https://kroq.radio.com/teen-cannabis.
In addition, iHeart Media has partnered with Public Health to host teen roundtables led by iHeart teen celebrities Savannah and DJ Young One.
The public education campaign will run through November 2018 and is expected to generate more than 30 million impressions.