Spiderman Joins U.S. Drug War

The comic book superhero Spiderman is teaming up with U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey in a government effort to keep drugs away from kids.

The Marvel Comics character joined McCaffrey, the director of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), at a Washington news conference Tuesday to announce a national anti-drug campaign in the schools.

"I've gotta tell you, I'm thrilled right down to my web-slinging toes this morning to take a day off from fighting the bad guys in New York and web my way down to Washington, DC, and personally deliver the very first copy of this very special special-edition Marvel Comics, ONDCP insert that is going to empower kids against drugs," a man dressed as Spiderman told reporters.

Starting this fall, schools across the U.S. will ask students to read a four-installment, anti-drug series featuring Spiderman, who will warn students about how they can "recognize and resist drug images in the media," an ODCP statement said.

The comic books, which will include anti-drug guides for teachers, will be inserted into copies of Boys Life, Girls Life, Muse, React, and Scholastic Classroom. The combined circulation of 11 million will reach about 65 percent of the nation's students age 9-14, the ONDCP said.

In addition, the ONDCP will work with Media One, America Online, Cable in the Classroom, The New York Times and other companies to launch a steady stream of advertisements and news stories to encourage a further decline in U.S. adolescent drug consumption, McCaffrey said.

Spiderman is part of the Clinton administration's five-year $1 billion "surround communications strategy" that will use the Internet, magazines, newspapers and school TV programs to bombard adolescents with warnings about the dangers of tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs, including alcohol and household solvents.

"Youth leadership is what shapes attitudes," McCaffrey said. "It's peer-to-peer communications setting the example. Adults can do a lot of good, we've got the substance and maturity, but at the end of the day young people set their own standards."

ONDCP says drug use by Americans age 12-17 has fallen 13 percent in the last 12 months and attributed that success in part to parents, teachers, adult youth counselors and coaches telling young Americans drug use is potentially dangerous.