Sat, Jul 26, 2003 - Page 16 News List

Comic relief against drugs

A competition to publicize the goveranment's anti-drugs message has been a big hit

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lai Yi-chang's Body of Drugs was the winning entry in the anti-drug cartoon competition organized by the Chinese Cartoonists' Union.

PHOTO: GAVIN PHIPPS, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan's drug education and awareness programs got a new look earlier this week, when the results of the Chinese Cartoonists' Union's (CCU, 中華漫畫家協會) Youth Anti-Drug Cartoon Contest (青春搖頭拒絕毒品漫畫比賽) were announced.

Attracting over 800 entrants from across Taiwan, the contest's dozen winning works are set to become the new face of the government's anti-drug programs. Posters of the winning works will be hung in public places, as well as adorning anti-drug paraphernalia and booklets.

The idea was the brainchild of Yang Hsin-i (楊心怡), the CCU president and an editorial cartoonist with a prominent Chinese-language daily and the contest was organized by the union and received financial backing from the Department of Health's (行政院衛生署) National Bureau of Controlled Drugs (NBCD, 管制藥品管理局), as well as the Ministry of Education (教育部).

"The idea came from constantly seeing front page photographs of hundreds of youngsters picked up by police in raids at pubs and nightclubs," explained the Yang. "I mean, when there's over 500 people picked up from one nightclub alone then there's obviously something wrong with the governments' anti-drugs message. I figured it needed a fresh face."

Founded three years ago by a group of cartoonists, the CCU's aim is to promote understanding and augment the quality of editorial cartoons in Taiwan.

Since being founded in 2000 the union has not only been busy on the local scene (it now boasts 100 members) but it has also managed to attract the attention of foreign cartoonists. With very little promotion the CCU's inaugural Taiwan International Cartoon Contest (台灣國際漫畫大賽), which was held late last year, received works submitted by cartoonists from 50 countries including the US, France, Canada, Iran and China.

Unlike last year's competition, the recent Youth Anti-Drug Cartoon Contest was an amateur affair aimed at Taiwan's youth. Along with posting the information on its Web site, the CCU was aided in its efforts to attract contestants by the NBCD.

The government body contributed funds as well as endorsing the competition, in conjunction with the drug awareness programs that run in many of the nation's schools.

"We are always looking for new and inventive ways to get the anti-drug message across and cartoons are a great way to do this," said the NBCD's Li Chia-chi (李佳琪). "They're simple and colorful and, more importantly, children of all ages can understand the message in such a straightforward way."

Although the NBCD inter-school/college programs attracted large numbers of contestants, the CCU's popular Web site also played a big part. Updated regularly with the latest cartoons by a string of well-known local editorial cartoonists, the site is popular amongst students and aspiring cartoonists, such as 18 year-old Changhua native Wu Shuan-chen (吳璇真).

"I read about the contest on the Internet and figured why not enter? After all, it's a worthwhile cause," said the 18-year-old, whose work Exchange of Death, which depicts a chap sharing a joint with the Devil, gained her third place in the contest's senior high school category. "I've never taken drugs, so I did quite a bit of research concerning the cause and effects of drug use on the Web."

Considered an editorial cartoon competition -- a concept that very few adults have an inkling of, let alone school children -- rather than one that asked for artwork to be tendered, Yang and fellow CCU members were initially skeptical about the quality of works that would possibly be

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