A new D.C. government education campaign is telling city youth that using “synthetic marijuana” products will turn them into zombies, “Night of the Living Dead”-style.

The campaign, sponsored by the D.C. Department of Health, includes print and broadcast ads, billboards, transit ads, social media accounts and a Web site aimed at reducing use of substances often known as “spice” or “K2.”

In a statement, city health director Saul Levin said the substances, which have been sold in convenience and tobacco stores as well as on the Web, have “proven to cause serious and lasting health effects that jeopardize the body and developing mind.”

The city cites survey figures indicating that the average age of D.C.’s synthetic marijuana users is 13. Focus groups revealed that “synthetic marijuana is seen as an alternative to marijuana, as a result of its cheap cost and ability to go undetected in routine drug testing,” according to a health department release.

With the youthful clientele, the city’s marketers opted to associate themselves with runaway success of “The Walking Dead” TV series and the upcoming Hollywood zombie thriller “World War Z.”

The “get the facts” portion of the Web site sheds more light on the connection: “WHY IS FAKE WEED ASSOCIATED WITH ZOMBIES?” it asks. “Fake weed causes extreme anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, alienation/disassociation, psychotic episodes and hallucinations. This behavior has been labeled the ‘zombie’ effect.”

Driving the point home are some graphic depictions that range from haunting to hilarious, depending on your sensibility: “No one wants to take a zombie to the prom,” reads one sign. “Pass on the fake weed.” Another shows a smiling young man morphing into a decrepit, vacant-eyed monster.

The D.C. Council took action on proposals to ban synthetic marijuana and its relatives last year.