The effects of publicity against heroin abuse

Date of publication: September 1, 1987


This paper describes a programme of research used to develop a campaign against heroin abuse in the UK and to evaluate its effects among young people and parents. The effects of the campaign in interaction with surrounding publicity and resultant family debates are discussed in some detail and an explanation given of how its success among young people was inferred from the complex set of findings. The effects among parents were less satisfactory. The way in which the research was used by government in decision making and in public debate and controversy are also described. The value of accessibility of data to the public is discussed. The main conclusions are that survey research methods can be applied to 'difficult' topics, that they can provide for public accountability in relation to public service campaigns and thereby support the extension of mass communication techniques into new areas. They also provide feedback on the government policies which is a valuable addition to the democratic process, if full public accessibility is assured. The importance of evaluating advertising effects taking account of the whole background of media coverage and communications is emphasised.

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