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Regional daily calls for legal highs to be banned

A regional daily has launched a campaign calling for so-called legal highs to be banned.

The North West Evening Mail launched the drive to highlight the dangers posed by legal highs and is calling on the government to introduce new legislation about them.

The paper’s campaign has been backed by MPs and senior police officials and a petition has been launched calling for psychoactive substances to be reclassified as illegal.

It has highlighted how both health experts and police officers have warned that a young person is expected to die in Barrow or South Cumbria before the end of the year if no action is taken on legal highs. 

Evening Mail deputy editor James Higgins told readers: “This is not because we are killjoys, it’s not because we don’t recognise there are other dangers out there.

“It is because these substances have killed both adults and children – and we do not want to be reporting on a death on our patch.”

He told HTFP: “Newspapers occupy a privileged position in the communities they serve in that they can shape opinion through education and campaigning.

“The use of legal highs in Barrow and south Cumbria is an issue of growing concern and we felt the time was right to call for government action.

“There is no simple way to ban them under existing legislation, due to the way in which they are produced and the degree to which their chemical compounds are manipulated so frequently.

“But we hope our campaign will at the very least raise awareness of what is a growing menace to society – ‘legal’ or not.”

The campaign was launched after five days of reports about legal highs by the paper.

It raises concerns about manufacturers evading the law by constantly tweaking chemical compounds in the legal highs, claiming 73 new drugs appeared in the UK as a result last year alone.

The campaign also pushes for an immediate education programme for secondary schools and colleges to teach youngsters about the dangers.

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock has backed the campaign and filed an amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour Bill, calling for tighter regulations around psychoactive substances.

He said: “I am taking measures in parliament to support the Evening Mail’s three-point manifesto that may lead to an outright ban on these substances that are currently legal – but also lethal.

“These new drugs are manufactured especially to mimic illegal drugs like ecstasy, but they are chemically different enough to get round the law.

“At least 40 deaths in the UK last year were linked to legal highs and we do not want to see another victim from our community – or anywhere else.”