Ibiza holiday firms fail to tell tourists of sex and drugs dangers, scientists warn

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The Independent Online

Holiday companies which encourage 700,000 Britons to shed their clothes and inhibitions by visiting the holiday island of Ibiza are failing to warn them of the health dangers, scientists warned today.

Holiday companies which encourage 700,000 Britons to shed their clothes and inhibitions by visiting the holiday island of Ibiza are failing to warn them of the health dangers, scientists warned today.

Despite a dramatic increase in drug-taking and unprotected sex among young travellers to the Balearic island, advice in brochures, hotels and from holiday reps is "absent or ineffective", a study by Liverpool John Moores University found.

Enticed by the chance to "try sex in the surf... drink all your duty free on day one" (the promotional offer from Club 18-30, one of the most successful youth tour operators) British holidaymakers are using an array of drugs and having unsafe sex with several partners, the researchers said.

A disturbing 42.6 per cent of British visitors who used Ecstasy took it on five or more days a week on the island, while only 2.9 per cent used the drug that often at home. A quarter of the 846 15-35-year-olds interviewed had sex without a condom and 23.2 per cent, had more than one sexual partner.

Nearly 10 per cent had to see a doctor or go to hospital while on the Spanish island and only 37.5 per cent saw any health information. "Although holiday companies attract a sexually active market, safe sex messages are either absent or ineffective," said Professor Mark Bellis, author of the study which is published today in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

The levels of drug-taking - fed by a "holiday binge mentality" are made more disturbing because drug supplies abroad may be less reliable, argues Prof Bellis. "Different cocktails of unknown compounds with unexpected effects can be expected," his report states.

But unlike UK venues, Ibiza's clubs seldom make first aid staff available and charge exorbitant prices for water, which is free at UK clubs and prevents the dehydration which drugs can cause.

Ibiza's health and law-enforcement systems - designed for the indigenous population of 80,000 - are also unable to cope.

"If companies are going to promote the sort of holiday that attracts people for sex and substance use then they should be thinking about the health protection measures that go with them," said Prof Bellis. "Co-ordinated information campaigns to protect the young people are urgently needed."

Paul Betts, who set up the Action for Drugs Awareness helpline after his daughter Leah died taking Ecstasy, yesterday called the travel companies "unscrupulous". "They will latch on to any icon that is going to draw people in," he said.

But the Association of British Travel Agents said tourists should have "a degree of responsibility for their own safety". "A holiday brochure is not the place for delivering advice, and I don't think it would make one bit of difference anyway," said a spokeswoman

Club 18-30 said it offered customers a redeemable voucher for free condoms and a health booklet.

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