NEW BILL TO BAN DRUG ADVERTISEMENTS Congress recently approved a new bill that might affect which advertisements students see when they step onto a bus to go to class. The new law, which goes into effect Sunday, will revoke all state and local grants allowing citizens to run bus advertisements in support of reforming current drug laws on buses, trains and subways. While a strong push for such a bill was evident in January of 2002, the U.S. House of Representatives just approved an action early last month. According to a Dec. 9, 2003 press release, many advertisements used to educate the public about drug policies or reforms will no longer be seen. The bill also grants the government $145 million to run anti-drug advertisements this year. The grant for the government has caused controversy. According to the press release, the controversy stems from court records showing that members of Congress created an anti-drug campaign in 1998, costing billions of dollars, in an attempt to influence voters to reject state medical-marijuana measures. Bill Piper, associate director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, is not in complete agreement with the bill. "The government can't spend taxpayer money promoting one side of the drug policy debate while prohibiting taxpayers from using their own money to promote the other side," he said. According to the press release, to reform the bill, the Drug Policy Alliance is asking Congress to remove an anti-free speech provision from the bill and to eliminate the taxpayer finance spending for the government's drug advertising. While recent advertisements seen on the Mass Transit District buses in Champaign-Urbana typically show restaurants or upcoming school events, buses will no longer be allowed to display any advertisements against current drug policies. However, Tom Costello, assistant managing director at MTD, said he does not believe the bill will affect area buses. "We have our own local standards," Costello said. "We want to have some level of tastefulness in advertisements." The MTD also does not permit alcohol or tobacco advertisements to run on their buses, Costello said. In President George W. Bush's State of the Union address last Wednesday, he remarked on reducing drug use, saying, "In my budget, I have proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce demand for illegal drugs." The president also said the purpose of the bill against drug advertisements is to help keep children away from drugs. According to a 2003 Monitoring the Future study, about 49.5 percent of college students admitted to using marijuana during their lifetime and 19.7 percent of college students said they have used it in the past 30 days. In younger children, 17.5 percent of eighth graders admitted to using marijuana during their lifetime. Also, about 16 percent of marijuana-related emergency department visits in 2002 involved patients between the ages of 6 and 17. Gary Cooper, freshman in LAS, said the ban on advertisements will probably affect very few college students. He also said he does not believe removing the advertisements will help the government's cause dramatically. "I don't think (removing the advertisements) will help too much," he said. "Kids are still going to take drugs with or without the advertisements around."