Leading article: The drugs remedy

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The Independent Online
Perhaps it was his stepdaughter's admission that she smoked 10 spliffs a day that did it. Or maybe he is simply more mature about such issues than his predecessors and colleagues. Either way, the remarks made by Tony Newton, the Leader of the House, launching the Government's new anti-drugs campaign yesterday, were sensible and welcome.

Mr Newton acknowledged that the screaming scare campaigns of the past did not work. Remember those twisted, tortured teenagers with greasy hair and grubby clothes, beneath the slogan "heroin screws you up"? It's a far cry from the trendy - if sweaty - clubbers who dance all night on Ecstasy. The old advertising campaigns bore so little relation to most young people's attitudes towards cannabis, crack, Ecstasy or amphetamines that it is no surprise they did not change anyone's behaviour.

The old campaigns weren't just out of touch, they were patronising. The one guaranteed way to make teenagers switch off is to talk down to them. More than anything, teenagers need accurate information about the risks involved in taking drugs, and they need information that they will trust. Yesterday's new pamphlet is aimed particularly at parents. By giving them the facts about symptoms and risks, it gives them the chance to educate their children, and ease their own anxieties.

The rhetoric about drugs from our politicians remains of the old school. The Prime Minister yesterday fulminated about the "evil menace" of drugs. We agree with him that we should not be soft on dangerous drugs. Middle- class, middle- aged people may well feel more righteous to attack drugs in that way. But it should be obvious now that the most effective way to combat drug abuse among teenagers is through information and education, counselling and advice.