The HSE welcomes the opportunity to appear before the joint committee and to provide this update on the national drugs awareness campaign under the national drug strategy on the dangers of physcoactive substances available through head shops. The note outlines the work that has been done to develop this phase of the national drugs awareness campaign. As members are aware, the HSE has responsibility for all health promotion campaigns to combat alcohol, drugs, obesity and so on and utilises the health social marketing approach in the development and execution of these campaigns.
With regard to the national drugs awareness campaign, we work closely with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs which has the lead co-ordinating role on the national drugs strategy interim 2009 to 2016. The previous national drugs awareness campaign focused on creating awareness of the facts to dispel the myths around cocaine use with the tagline "the party is over". The HSE began working in November 2009 to develop this present campaign to create awareness of the facts, dispel the myths in relation to recreational drugs available legally in Ireland through head shops and — or the internet. Research with the target audience, those in the age group, 15 to 40 years who purchase recreational drugs available through head shops and — or the Internet was carried out. Following consultation with relevant stakeholders and working with an advertising and media agency, a fully comprehensive, fully integrated communications campaign to address this issue was developed.
The campaign focus and target audience was informed also by relevant national and international policy and research, such as the national drugs strategy itself, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction annual report 2009, new drugs difficulties in hitting a moving target, the EMCDDA No. 9 2009 report and the latest drug trends in Europe, HRB compares the Irish situation with the European findings. The campaign will be mounted through the following media, display areas in pubs, clubs, wash-rooms and festival laminates, for example OXYGEN and Electric Picnic and the radio.
The target market, we know, are heavy listeners. The radio plan includes a focus on youth stations as well as regional stations to achieve national and regional coverage. In the cinema, use of the campaign in cinemas nationally will broaden the reach of this campaign. Using a combination of search and display, the campaign messages will be delivered on-line to the target audience and will drive to the site,www.drugs.ie being promoted and information sources, parent information leaflets, z-card information for the target audience. Local and regional spokespeople will support the campaign by acting as a resource and local and regional drug task forces will line up their local campaigns with the national campaign key messages.
The HSE was ready to mount this campaign, as outlined, but given the recent changes in legislation outlawing a number of previously legal substances and the proposed legislation being brought through the office of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, we need now to revisit and change some of the information and key messages, for example, one of our key taglines would have been “just because it is legal does not mean it is safe”. We must ensure the central message and information to support the campaign is factual, accurate and lands with the target audience, thereby increasing credibility. This work to take the new legislation into account is now under way. It has implications only for the content and key messages. All other aspects of the planning of the campaign will stand. We are planning to have the campaign ready to go live by the end of June.
I have outlined the details of the campaign and members will see which aspects require change. The campaign's aim is to create awareness of the facts to dispel the myths on recreational drugs available. It will now be available illegally in head shops and the Internet. Obviously the headline has been struck through, so that members will see that. The campaign objectives remain the same in terms of communicating the message that recreational drugs may have significant negative, mental and physical health effects. The audience remains the same, the primary audience is people aged between 15 years to 40 years who buy and use these drugs through head shops and the Internet. The secondary audience is equally important and that is parents and service providers. The objective is to create awareness of the risks of drugs available in Ireland, provide factual information on recreational drugs available in Ireland, information on the possible detrimental health effects, mentally and physically, of these drugs.
The key message is that legal does not mean safe; herbal does not mean safe. Herbal highs are not necessarily herbal, many are synthetic. The strength and side effects of recreational drugs available in Ireland through head shops and or the Internet can be even more unpredictable than their legal counterparts. There is increased risk to mental and physical health when recreational drugs available in Ireland through head shops — Internet are used with alcohol or any other drugs. The requirement in terms of the campaign is to have positive empowering messages, to conduct appropriate research to inform the campaign development, which we have done, to develop appropriate research methods to support the campaign evaluation process, to develop an integrated sustainable social marketing campaign with a capacity to run over several years, to develop an integrated media campaign response with supporting information resources to support the target audience and local initiatives. A further requirement is to promote the websitewww.drugs.ie as a source of information and referral and to use existing HSE help — information lines and to ensure all resources and communication signpost to the available services.
The campaign will be evaluated. Post campaign awareness and knowledge of target audience will be benchmarked against pre-campaign figures. We will quantify levels of campaign material distributed and requested by collating website statistics in terms of traffic to sites, search items, live helper. We will review the media coverage of the campaign and the stakeholder involvement. The plan also includes updating facts about the drugs booklet, parent information guide and promoting the website, www.drugs.ie. To give members an idea of what the www.drugs.ie website looks like, we have done a cover page at the bottom of the note.