Campaign to combat solvent abuse

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The Independent Online
A THREE-MONTH television and press advertising campaign to get parents to talk to their children about drug and solvent abuse, and to arm them with information about the issue, was launched by the Government yesterday.

The campaign, costing pounds 2.5m, tells parents that 'if you don't talk to your child about drugs then someone else will' and provides a freephone number (0800 555777) for booklets and leaflets.

It was launched as Dr Brian Mawhinney, the Minister for Health, said there was some evidence that drug and solvent abuse among young people was increasing.

According to one study, one in six 9- to 15-year-olds had been offered drugs, of whom half had tried them, he said. In 1991, more than 120 children died as a result of solvent abuse, 46 after sniffing solvents for the first time.

The campaign's message to parents was not to react with anger and fear, if they suspect their children are involved, but to talk rationally and seek help. It also intends to help children resist peer pressure to try drugs and solvents.

The campaign won a surprisingly warm reception from the Standing Conference on Drug Abuse, which said a free drugs helpline in England to complement one already provided in Scotland would have been welcomed, but that the campaign remained 'better than anything they have done before'. The Institute for the Study of Drug Dependency also backed it.

But Ian McCartney, a Labour health spokesman who set up the all-party group on solvent abuse, dismissed the campaign as 'a shallow publicity stunt' when cuts in last year's budget had removed 130 health education posts, closing support programmes for children suffering from drug and solvent abuse.