Ontario government paying for BuzzFeed quizzes as part of cannabis education campaign

As part of a road safety cannabis education campaign, the Ontario government has paid for quizzes to appear on BuzzFeed in an effort to “[capture] the attention of young drivers.”

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To date, two quizzes have been posted on the popular entertainment website. Each quiz indicates it’s a “paid post” and lists the brand publisher as the Government of Ontario, complete with the provincial government’s new logo.

The most recent one was posted on Wednesday and is called The Most Stressful “Would You Rather” Quiz For Marijuana Users. In it, users face questions such as, “Would you rather eat your weight in… sour cream and onion chips (or) peach candies?” and “Would you rather… walk into the wrong house (or) walk in on someone doing adult activities?”

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The second quiz was posted on July 29 and it’s called How many of these things have you done while high? In this quiz, readers are asked to click on a lengthy list of items, such as “Eaten a giant candy bar” (as a woman appears to eat a giant chocolate bar), “Listen to heavy metal” (as a raccoon holds a guitar) and “Fallen asleep without eating the meal you made” (as a woman appears to lay on the ground asleep in front of an open refrigerator).

The bottom of each of the quizzes includes a safety message.

“Being barely high is still too high to drive. If you’re going to get high, make sure you have a solid plan to get home safely,” the message said.

“Call a family member, use a ride-share service or public transportation, or stay over at your friend’s place. The risks are real.”

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There is also a Government of Ontario-produced, 15-second broadcast ad about being too high to drive included, too.

Global News contacted Premier Doug Ford’s office to ask about the quizzes and campaign. A spokesperson didn’t disclose how much it costs, but said it’s an “incredibly important priority” for the government to keep impaired drivers off Ontario roads after recreational cannabis consumption was legalized last year.

“Our campaign is focused on capturing the attention of young drivers who consume media in a very different way than other demographics,” spokesperson Ivana Yelich told Global News in a statement Thursday evening.

“Statistics show that younger drivers are the most likely to drive after consuming cannabis which is why we are speaking to them on the websites they visit. The quiz, hosted on one of the most popular websites among young people, drives users to our campaign designed to educate young people about the dangers of driving high.”

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When asked about the quizzes and campaign, Ontario NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh questioned why the costs weren’t publicly disclosed.

“If this is an attempt at engaging young people about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis, then the government should have no problem disclosing the cost of their ad and showing how it is effective,” she told Global News in a statement.

Jasmine Pickel, interim Ontario director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said she echoed Singh’s concern about not sharing the costs.

“It would be important for the government to prove and demonstrate to all taxpayers that this money that they’ve spent to develop these quizzes is actually providing value and that it’s actually effective. The quizzes seem a little strange,” she told Global News Thursday evening.

“The government should always be transparent about the cost of anything — whether that’s an advertisement or a program expenditure. There’s definitely a lack of transparency here if they’re refusing to give the costs.”

Pickel said “it’s not immediately apparent how these (quiz) questions are deterring youth from smoking and driving” and called for more information on the strategy. She also noted “there’s nothing wrong with the government running educational ads to inform our youth and keep them healthy.”

“But there is a problem if they’re not being transparent with how much they’re spending and if they’re not tracking the effectiveness of those ads,” Pickel said.

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