The state launched an aggressive radio and television drug prevention campaign yesterday aimed at inner-city youths who officials said are more likely to deal drugs than abuse them.
The ads developed by the Media Advertising Partnership for a Drug Free Maryland and the Governor's Commission for Drug and Alcohol Abuse are aimed at black youths, ages 6 to 15.
The messages are meant to go beyond teaching about the dangers of using drugs and are designed to help the youngsters become more resistant to all aspects of the drug world and more receptive of positive alternatives to drugs, according to James E. Burke, chairman of the Partnership for a Drug Free America.
The ads will be aired through late spring or early summer. They feature either black youths or their voices, delivering strong messages against drugs.
In one of the ads, a youth is seen carrying his school books and running frantically through alleys and backyards while taking the "long way home" to avoid drug dealers. The youth says the dealers are afraid of the police, but "they're not scared of me."
In another ad, two brothers walk and talk about whether an unseen youth who uses drugs is a friend or not. "Walter's dissin' [disrespecting] you and if you go [to meet him] I'm telling Ma," one boy says.
Steve Pasierb, of the governor's commission, said six local television stations and three radio stations have agreed to provide free air time for the ads. Mr. Pasierb said no local newspapers will carry the ads because "we don't feel enough kids read the paper."
Last year, more than $3.5 million in free air time and newspaper space was donated for an anti-drug campaign, and Mr. Pasierb estimated that about $5.5 million will be donated this year.
While the campaign is aimed at black youths, officials from both anti-drug organizations said suburban youths are more likely to abuse drugs.
Dr. Neil Solomon, chairman of the Governor's Commission, described the typical youthful drug user as a white, middle-class, high school senior who has a part-time job and lives in the suburbs.
"You probably think of an inner city, high-school dropout, probably someone of color. Well, the facts don't uphold that stereotype," Dr. Solomon said.
He said a recent national survey found that black eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders were consistently less likely than their white counterparts to report drug use during the prior year.
And, Dr. Solomon added, in America's cities, middle-class drug abusers are buying from minority sellers.