SALEM, Ore. - An Oregon Health Authority education campaign aimed at youth and young adults raised awareness among its target audience of the risks associated with marijuana use, an independent evaluation has found.
"Stay True to You," OHA's youth marijuana use prevention campaign, was launched in July 2016 in two pilot communities--the Portland metro area (Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties) and Southern Oregon (Josephine and Jackson counties).
RMC Research Corp., contracted by OHA to evaluate the campaign, found that after one year, a statistically significant higher proportion of youth and young adults in the pilot areas correctly identified that only one in five Oregon high school juniors use marijuana.
The evaluation also showed that a significantly higher proportion of youth and young adults in the pilot areas correctly identified that possession of marijuana by persons under age 21 can result in a steep fine, community service or court-ordered drug treatment.
"We know that social norms and perceived risk of use are known predictors of substance use behavior," said Kati Moseley, OHA policy specialist at the OHA Public Health Division. "In the face of increased marijuana industry advertising, this campaign communicated those two crucial messages effectively to our audience."
The final evaluation is available on the Oregon Public Health Division website at http://healthoregon.org/marijuana under "Publications."
OHA launched the pilot campaign in the summer of 2016 in the midst of increased marijuana advertising and access to retail marijuana--recent changes that may promote underage marijuana use. Although the magnitude of marijuana advertising in Oregon is unknown, marijuana retail locations are more common than Starbucks in Oregon.
Youth and young adult attitudes--including intent to delay marijuana use until age 21--have held steady in this environment. The effects of the campaign on youth marijuana use are limited in the absence of coordinated education, support and services implemented in collaboration with counties, tribes, coordinated care organizations and schools in Oregon. Evidence shows media campaigns are most effective when started in the context of these community-wide supports for youth, parents and families.
OHA recommends adopting policies to track marijuana advertising; limit marijuana marketing and promotion; prohibit the sale of flavored products; and maintain local control to protect Oregon's youth and young adults from the potential negative health effects of marijuana use.
Background on Stay True to You campaign and evaluation
After the legalization and ongoing rollout of recreational marijuana, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 4014 and SB 1597, which provided OHA with $3.97 million to develop, pilot and evaluate a youth marijuana use prevention campaign in a rural and urban area of the state. Legislative intent guided OHA in choosing the Portland metro area and southern Oregon as the locations for the pilot campaign.
OHA developed the campaign using extensive audience research and focus groups. OHA conducted 28 focus groups in Portland, Bend, Medford and Pendleton featuring 260 youth and young adults ages 14 through 20. Participants from the African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, white, American Indian/Alaska native and Latino communities were included. DHM Research conducted groups in English and Spanish between October 2015 and March 2016.
OHA announced in July that the campaign would expand to the rest of the state.