Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said Friday that Ottawa's pre-legalization cannabis health and safety campaigns are aimed mostly at youths, which could explain why adults such as her provincial and territorial counterparts haven't seen much of them.
"We're really targeting youth between the ages of 12 and 24, let's say," Petitpas Taylor told a press conference at the conclusion of a two-day health ministers' meeting at the Fort Garry Hotel.
"And where we get them is not watching TV. We have to use social media, the tools that they use."
Petitpas Taylor was speaking in response to comments made Thursday by Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, who said he was concerned about what the province considers a lack of appropriate outreach by the federal government ahead of legalization on Oct. 17.
"(From) a Manitoba health perspective, we've been looking for a more national, robust, clear campaign that particularly for young people, there are dangers for consuming cannabis as has been outlined by many different medical professionals," Goertzen said Thursday.
But after discussing the matter with Petitpas Taylor, he struck a more optimistic tone.
"Minister Petitpas Taylor and I had a fascinating discussion last night about Spotify and Snapchat, and all the things that you'd expect people of our generation to talk about," he said.Advertisement
"And certainly I think where we do agree is that is that there is more that can be done, there's more partnerships that can be had. Obviously, direct messaging to young people is important, but there's also (an) important message to parents and to influencers, and to others that are interacting with youth.
"I'm pleased to hear that there are more initiatives that are coming in the leadup to the legalization date, and I certainly hope that that will help to broaden the message."
Still, Goertzen said he was worried that the ongoing discourse about legalization could lead young people to conclude the drug is safe for them to use.
Petitpas Taylor said Ottawa has "has invested over $108 million in the area of public education and awareness," and touted Health Canada's partnership with Drug Free Kids Canada to help parents talk to their kids about using the drug.
According to a June 20 background document from Health Canada, the federal government's advertising and marketing campaigns include "an ongoing digital and social media campaign focused on reaching parents," launched in spring 2017, and a "Don't Drive High" advertising campaign "focused on reaching youth and young adults aged 16 to 24," launched in November 2017.
The government also launched a new social media campaign in March called "Your Cannabis Questions, Answered." Health Canada is also due unveil an "interactive engagement tour" on cannabis at music festivals, fairs and sporting events.
In addition to Drug Free Kids Canada, Ottawa has also partnered with several Canadian organizations to spread its messaging, including the Canadian Hockey League and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.