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Carroll O’Connor Helps Launch National Campaign Against Drugs

Actor Carroll O’Connor believes that he has a solution to America’s drug problem: target drug dealers, not just drug users.

And arrest them for tax evasion, he says, not for drugs.

The former star of television’s “All in the Family” and “In the Heat of the Night” on Thursday helped kick off a national anti-drug campaign coordinated by the Partnership for a Drug-Free Southern California. The print, television, radio and outdoor advertising blitz is the work of about 15 advertising agencies.

Their hard-hitting and, in some cases, graphic messages are intended to discourage the growing use of methamphetamines and other illicit drugs. One gripping TV spot shows a man curled on a bathroom floor, shaking, and then slumping over a toilet, as if sick from a drug overdose.

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O’Connor also makes an emotional appeal to parents of drug users in one of the ads when he talks about his son, Hugh, who died last year in a drug-related suicide.

O’Connor is complaining that the burden to change has been placed on those who use drugs and not enough attention is being paid to putting drug dealers out of business.

“We have to reduce the number of people out there that people have to say no to--the pushers on the street who are selling to kids and who delivered [drugs] to my son’s apartment,” O’Connor said during the news conference. “Pushing and peddling drugs is easy because it’s hard for the police to catch them.”

Because drug dealers do not pay taxes on their illegal earnings, O’Connor said, it would be more effective to target drug dealers for tax evasion.

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O’Connor said he plans to lobby legislators in Washington for a law that would require the federal government to issue a tax identification card to all legitimate taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the Partnership for a Drug-Free Southern California hopes that targeting drug users and potential users with their ad campaign will stunt the growth of narcotics use, especially methamphetamine. Methamphetamine-related deaths increased 113% in Los Angeles and 238% in San Diego from 1991 to 1994, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

And the rate of teens who smoke marijuana has doubled since 1992, said Dr. Andrew Mecca, director of the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.

“Too many kids in our society are beginning to think that doing drugs is not dangerous,” said Richard Bonnette, president and CEO of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. “We’ve got to change that attitude.”

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