Our view: Torn on just how to react to South Dakota’s anti-meth campaign

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The campaign is based on a simple, highly controversial, slogan: “Meth: We’re on it.”

Mirroring the popular Kubler-Ross model of the stages of human grief, here are the stages of our reaction to “Meth: We’re on it.”

Stage 1: Denial.

This is a mistake, right? Nobody – nobody – in their right mind would have OK’d an anti-drug slogan that declares “we’re on it.” After all, this is the same state that unveiled a safe-driving campaign titled “Don’t jerk and drive.” That 2014 campaign urged residents to avoid quick steering maneuvers on icy roads, but jokes and unfortunate entendres prompted the campaign to be killed.

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Stage 2: Anger.

This campaign cost a shocking $449,000 to create and, after ad spots are purchased, will cost $1.4 million overall. The state went outside of its borders and spent the money with a Minnesota ad agency. Doesn’t South Dakota have any agencies that could have done this work? Was there no cheaper, or in-state, alternative?

Stage 3: Bargaining.

Perhaps the controversy is worth it. After all, “Meth: We’re on it” has become a nationwide conversation. Although many say South Dakota is a laughingstock as a result of the campaign, the publicity is increasing awareness of the problem.

Stage 4: Depression.

Meth isn’t easily going away, despite best efforts by police, states and others. South Dakota saw 3,366 people arrested last year on meth charges. Thirteen South Dakotans died last year because of meth. There were 4,300 grams of meth seized during 402 arrests in South Dakota in 2011; last year, there were 40,000 grams seized. Also, the number of South Dakota’s younger teens – children ages 12 to 17 – who reported using meth in the last year is double the national average.

Stage 5: Acceptance.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem counters the controversy with some good points.

“Hey, Twitter. The whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness,” she said on a social media post Monday. Later, she wrote “(Meth) is a problem and it needs to be addressed. Combating it needs to be a dinner table conversation. We need everyone on it.”

In the days after the campaign was unveiled, stories were published or televised on Fox News, USA Today, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Washington Post, CNN, CBS News, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times and others. It equals millions of free marketing dollars.

So perhaps it’s best to accept the campaign for its intent: To raise awareness about the meth problem in South Dakota. If that really is the goal, it’s safe to say the campaign has been a success. North Dakotans should take notice; according to The Associated Press, there was a 7% increase in drug arrests in North Dakota last year.

For spending a half a million dollars outside of the state’s borders, Noem deserves criticism. That kind of money shouldn’t easily cross state borders.

But as the nation chuckles at South Dakota, Noem just might have the last laugh.

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