How to Create Cannabis Communications for Teens To Discourage Use

With the continued emergence of cannabis legalization, teens are continuing to get mixed messages about the safety of cannabis use. A recent National Institute on Drug Abuse study shows that teens’ perceptions of the risks of cannabis use have steadily declined over the past decade. This is concerning as there is mounting scientific evidence that regular use of cannabis that begins during teen years may lower a person’s IQ and interfere with other aspects of functioning and well-being. When we deliver messaging that is simple and scientifically grounded, we are able to show a teen how cannabis use may affect their development and their goals in life.

As the first state in the South to legalize cannabis use in homes, Virginia worked with Rescue to conduct research with over 400 teens across the state to develop their first-ever youth cannabis prevention campaign, "Unfazed." During this research, we found that a substantial portion of teens was highly receptive to messages about how underage cannabis use could disrupt brain development. Based on these findings, we developed “Brain Damage,” an ad that provides straightforward, scientific facts to demonstrate how underage cannabis use can affect the growing brain to prevent youth initiation of use.

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Another example comes from Vermont, where we developed the ad, "Frozen.” This ad is part of our campaign “OutLast,” which is designed to create a substance-free movement among Vermont teens who are influenced by the Skater peer crowd. Research showed that these teens recognized smoking cannabis may create isolation and take them away from their families. We also found teens appreciated specific scientific terminology because they felt it demonstrated subject matter expertise and seemed more trustworthy. Leveraging these insights, we developed the ad “Frozen” to demonstrate the social consequences teens may experience with cannabis use along with a scientific reason as to why. In this video, teens learn that using cannabis as a teenager can change their brain, getting them “stuck” where they are, and even isolating them from their families.

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If you’d like to learn more about our approach to creating cannabis education and youth prevention campaigns, please visit our website.

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