Tobacco and alcohol lessons should inform future illicit drug policies, says Swanswell

14 January 2013

Swanswell believes the lessons learned through tobacco and alcohol regulation and promotion should inform future policies around illicit drug use in the UK.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to a report by the House of Lords All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on drug policy reform, released today (14 January 2013).

It suggests the least harmful drugs - such as new legal highs - should be regulated and sold in shops, with labels detailing risks, and that strict regulatory controls could be introduced with an enhanced role for Trading Standards (reports BBC News).

The panel of peers also say that while the most dangerous substances should still be banned, those caught with small amounts of any drug should not be penalised.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Swanswell believes in evidence-based, clear and consistent approaches to the regulation of access to all drugs including alcohol and tobacco.

We’ve learned a lot in recent years about how clear and consistent public health messages, coupled with regulation to restrict promotion and access, can reduce harm – such as that experienced through changes to tobacco legislation and promotion.

We also know that allowing virtually unhindered promotion and access, such as is the situation with alcohol, increases use and harm, so it’s really important that we learn lessons from experiences with all substances and apply them in a clear and consistent way.

Our preferred option is that people don’t use substances harmfully in the first place, so more attention should be paid to un-mixing the muddled messages out there around drug use.

It’s imperative that clear and accessible information is available to help people fully understand the risks associated with all drugs, so they can make sensible, informed choices about their use

Finally, society needs to recognise and accept that many people are affected by problem drug and alcohol use; it’s not just those stereotypical images portrayed by the media, it can affect anyone.

‘If we remove the stigma of illicit drug use and have sensible conversations, we can support people through their recovery journey and help create a society free from problem alcohol and drug use.’

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