OTTAWA – In the past, public health campaigns about the harmful effects of drugs produced one clear message: do not do it.
But now that the federal government has decided to legalize marijuana, Health Canada has developed new strategies to try to land on the screens of teenagers and in the places where they hang out.
"It is inevitable that communication and education will become more nuanced and subtle," said David Hammond, a professor in the school for public health at the University of Waterloo.
Hammond said the federal government has adopted a harm reduction approach for her training on cannabis. This means that instead of warning the public not to consume it, the messages indicate that there are circumstances where it should be avoided.
Health Canada says it has rolled out a number of campaigns for public education and has invested some money in the effort. A social media campaign has been under way since last spring and public safety started last autumn with a campaign about driving with hearing impaired cars.
There is also an advertising campaign on the health of cannabis, which was launched last March and aims to provide honest facts & # 39; to deliver teenagers. This campaign contains questions from the public and answers from cannabis experts and can be found on the cannabis website of the government. In July Health Canada launched an interactive engagement tour that focuses on young people and young adults and takes place at events such as fairs, music festivals and sporting events.
The department said the planned investment in cannabis for public education, awareness and surveillance is more than $ 100 million over six years. This includes $ 62.5 million over five years, proposed in last year's federal budget, to support civil society organizations and indigenous groups who educate their communities about the risks associated with cannabis use.
Hammond said it was too early to determine the effectiveness of these campaigns, but said it is clear that Health Canada is "trying". He suggested that the old, tried-and-tested black-and-white pamphlet would not be taken in teenagers' backpacks.
"You will see that some of these campaigns fall on their faces and some of them will do very well, but they will all contribute to the discussion and that is a good thing."
The biggest challenge that the government is facing, he says, is to make contact with teenagers. Teachers will have to figure out what to tell their students, doctors will determine what to tell their patients and parents will struggle with what to tell their children.
"We see an evolution in the type of messages and if you really want to make contact with consumers, do not say whether they should or should not do it and give them information that will determine their decision."
The Health Canada warning messages for cannabis act as a "pretty good template" for his general communication campaign, he said.
The health warnings say that cannabis smoke is harmful and that cannabis can increase the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia. Another warning does not say to use it in pregnancy or lactation. But a warning is indeed a discard and simply says "do not use it".
Marc Paris, director of Drug Free Kids Canada, said his organization has developed a pamphlet, mainly for parents, to help them talk about marijuana with their children. Health Canada helped with the project by making money available for translation, printing and distribution.
Paris said that so far 250,000 pamphlets have been distributed so far and there is a resurgence of requests that are approaching 17 October soon.
He said that many parents have been "keeping their heads in the sand for some time", refusing to realize the inevitable – that marijuana will soon be legal.
"The first thing we say to the parents is that talking to your children about drugs is not a single conversation, but an ongoing conversation." That means parents ask their children what they would say if someone offered them a joint at a party.
Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu said she would like to see more education before legalization takes place.
"If I'm a young person and I'm just busy with my life and I'm not really aware of politics, I'm not worried about legalizing marijuana, and everyone is already smoking, so I might not know the damage I may not understand that a test is being carried out for driving under the influence of drug addicts and how this may affect me, and I may not be aware of the changes that we can expect. "