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Australia’s “Stoner Sloth” Campaign Backfires Under Relentless Scrutiny

Maureen Meehan

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An Australian anti-marijuana campaign attempting to warn teenagers against pot smoking hilariously backfired when the ads were uploaded and went viral, receiving several million YouTube views (watch below).

The ad depicted marijuana users as disturbingly oversized versions of a beloved South American mammal: the sloth. 

A compilation of three videos, the Stoner Sloth campaign was meant to scare teens away from pot with the slogan “you're worse on weed,” but instead it became an Internet sensation replete with loads of memes and satire videos.  

While the Australian government may have been pleased that the Stoner Sloth campaign is being widely disseminated, the anti-drug message succumbed to the Internet’s penchant for making fun of failed ad campaigns and for a universal love of sloths. What’s not to love? 

Furthermore, portraying pot smokers as sloths, says attn.com, is an “inoffensive comparison that stoners readily embraced.”

The Stoner Sloth ad also implies that academic performance is negatively impaired when stoned, although a recent study in the Drug and Alcohol Review argued that smoking sativas has been shown to improve focus in people with attention deficit disorders.  

Another short video of a teen party implies that pot causes one to become socially awkward. However, Psychology Today published a prestigious study that marijuana has been shown to reduce social anxiety. 

The party video drew additional criticism because the teenagers, except for the stoned sloth, are all holding red plastic cups that have become synonymous, even in Australia, with drinking alcohol. The cups, critics say, are sending the message that pot is bad but alcohol is fine.

This seems like an irresponsible message for the government to be promoting especially considering that 15 people die from alcohol-related illnesses in Australia every day, according to the Australia’s ABC.

And, as we know, no one has ever died from smoking too much pot.

The person who created the ads has not come forward yet, according to Mashable. But the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Center, has called on the ad agency responsible for Stoner Sloth to retract claims that its research was used in making the videos.

“They have used our name to cover this campaign… We are going to ask them to print a retraction…” the center’s director, Jan Copeland, told the Sydney Morning Herald

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