The Des Moines Register
Thursday, September 4, 1997, Page 3M

Branstad: Fighting drugs requires 'eternal vigilance'

Governor urges more public service announcements during October, which is Drug-Free Iowa Month.


    Gov. Terry Branstad on Wednesday blamed poor communication for a recent surge in teen-age drug use.
    "When it comes to drugs, silence is acceptance," Branstad said.  "That is the point:  It is eternal vigilance on this."
    A recent Iowa Department of Education Youth Survey showed a sharp increase in marijuana and tobacco use by high school seniors.  Use of alcohol remained stable, but at high levels.  The results were reported by The Des Moines Register in June.
    Wednesday, Branstad said that after years of successful anti-drug advertising, less attention has been paid to the drug problem recently.  Fewer television ads, an effective way of reaching teens, have been shown.
    So Branstad challenged the media to double their use of public service announcements about drugs during October, which is Drug-Free Iowa Month.
    "As alarming as these trends are," he said of high-school drug use, "even more disturbing is an increase in the use of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol by tenth-, eighth- and sixth-graders."

Public Service Ads
    Also at Wednesday's news conference, new anti-drug public service announcements for television and print were introduced by the Partnership for a Drug-Free Iowa.  They target young children and older adults.
    In light of recent findings that middle-school girls are using methamphetamines to lose weight, Branstad said, parents and educators need to tell youngsters that the drug is nothing to toy with.
    "This is one of the most dangerous, serious drugs we have," he said.  And because methamphetamine use appears to be starting at a very young age, programs that target middle-school students, like D.A.R.E., should try to tackle the problem early.
    Branstad said the number of meth labs in Iowa also contributed to teen use of the drug.  Already this year, 41 labs have been raided; last year, 31 labs were raided.

Governor's Experience
    The governor told a story of his own brush with the state's drug dealers, one that showed how rampant the problem has become.  While he was lieutenant governor, he rented out a house on his property to a man he thought sold fish for a living.  He was wrong.  Police arrested the neighbor, and he went to prison.
    "This guy was dealing drugs living right next door to the lieutenant governor," Branstad said.
    Tommy Thompson, vice president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free Iowa, said an article he read in The Des Moines Register before the news conference Wednesday morning made him feel like he was the boy trying to plug a hole in a leaking dike.   The story was about teen-age girls getting hooked on methamphetamine after using it as a weight-loss aid.
    "We will plug all the holes," Thompson said. "We will win this fight."

Youth Survey
wpe2B.jpg (671 bytes) Some results of the 1996 Iowa Department of Education Youth Survey.

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wpe2C.jpg (871 bytes) 12 percent of Iowa high school seniors say they are regular or heavy users of marijuana, up from 8 percent in 1993.

wpe30.jpg (9955 bytes)

wpe2C.jpg (871 bytes) 24 percent of Iowa's 12th graders report regular or heavy use of tobacco, up from 18 percent in 1993

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wpe2C.jpg (871 bytes) 39 percent of Iowa high school seniors say they are regular or heavy users of alcohol, unchanged from 1993... but a very high level.