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AOL hosts federal antidrug push

The White House kicks off a new national antidrug media campaign, with AOL as an online partner.

The White House today launched a new national antidrug campaign, with America Online as an online partner.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) campaign, dubbed Project Know, is designed to "tell the truth" about the risks involved in drug use in order to curb it. Congress has approved $195 million for the first year of the media campaign.

AOL said it will double the contribution of federal funds for advertising by the ONDCP by creating an online antidrug resource center, hosting monthly chats, and developing other content designed to offer young people and parents extensive drug prevention information.

President Clinton, speaking at a campaign kick-off event today, said that "with this ad campaign, in which the public's investment is matched dollar for dollar by private partners, America is mounting a new and sweeping effort to change the attitude of an entire generation of young people.

"Every one of the rest of us can, and must, help parents to teach their children to turn away from drugs," Clinton continued. "The entertainment industry can shape attitudes, as anyone who has a teenager can tell you. The media should never glamorize drugs. I'm pleased that across the entertainment industry, a real effort is now being made to help, with the antidrug messages on the Wonderful World of Disney [and] antidrug chat groups on America Online...."

America Online has weathered a love-hate relationship with the public, given its history of network trouble, security breaches, and the like. Still, it has become the world's largest online service, making it a desirable target for advertisers that run the gamut from online retailers of all stripes to this latest public-service push by the government.

"AOL is proud to be a part of such a significant effort to help our country's young people, one that is being backed by ONDCP, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and the Advertising Council. AOL reaches millions of kids and their parents nationwide, and our pledge is to do everything we can to make an impact on the way kids think and feel about drugs," Bob Pittman, president and chief operating officer of AOL, said in a statement.

AOL also plans to host chats with drug prevention experts to reach its target audience of children ages 9 to 18, especially middle-school-aged children, along with parents, teachers, coaches, and others who influence youngsters.

Ads for Project Know also will appear on television and radio, in print, and in schools.

President Clinton said that the United States has 4 percent of the world's population but buys nearly 50 percent of the world's drugs.