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Exporting Montana Meth

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Have you seen the one about the meth-addled teen who coolly removes her eyebrows with tweezers? How about the billboard with the blood-splattered porcelain and a razorblade, tagged: “No one thinks they’ll try to tear off their own skin. Meth will change that.”

Chances are you’ve noticed one of the Montana Meth Project’s graphic television commercials, billboards or radio spots warning Montanans about the dangers of trying methamphetamine “even once.”

Now the buzz around the ad campaign has gone national.

Last September, four of the project’s TV commercials appeared on AdCritic.com’s top 20 list. This week a New York Times article on the Montana Meth Project generated so much national interest in the project that the organization hired a public relations firm in Seattle to help field incoming media inquiries. On Tuesday, Gov. Brian Schweitzer was scheduled to introduce the man behind the Montana Meth Project, software billionaire and part-time Montanan Thomas M. Siebel, at a meeting of the Western Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Sen. Conrad Burns is so impressed by the campaign that he introduced a bill this month that would make $25 million in federal grants available to other states for similar anti-meth projects.

It’s been six months since the first ads hit the airwaves, and the buzz has been substantial, but so far there’s no hard evidence that the campaign is reducing meth use in Montana.

“Right now we don’t have evidence to say ‘this is what we’ve accomplished,’ but we know we’ve increased the awareness of methamphetamines and increased dialogue around this issue,” says Peg Shea, executive director of the Montana Meth Project.

Shea says the group plans to unveil a new round of hard-hitting ads in April.

“It will take, minimally, five years, I believe 10 years, to reduce the demand for meth in this state and put the suppliers out of business,” says Shea. “We need to make them believe there’s no way to make money in Montana because we don’t want to buy their drugs.”

Shea’s got a 2006 budget of $5.5 million to get that message across.

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