Letter: Legalisation of cannabis: freedom of personal choice or exposure to risk?

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The Independent Online
Sir: The statistics on teenage drug use in your article 'Abuse by children at record level' (3 March) echo figures from recent YMCA research carried out in Hove, Sussex. But the Hove survey also shows the number of young people who are actively deciding not to take drugs.

In line with the figures you quoted, we found 78 per cent of the 14- to 25-year-olds interviewed had been offered drugs and 58 per cent had tried them. However, almost half (44 per cent) of those who had experimented said they would not do so again.

Those who had not experimented seem to have made a conscious decision not to - as drugs were often available. Many had been offered drugs and 53 per cent of those who had not tried drugs knew where to get them from. In fact, when asked if they were curious, only 6 per cent of these young people said they wanted to try drugs.

Surely this demonstrates that, despite the rapid growth in availability of illegal drugs and a vigorous 'marketing strategy' on the part of those who profit from sales, there are still many young people who are making up their own minds about what they do and do not want to put into their bodies? This is exactly the kind of self-confidence that we need to foster through drugs education programmes at an early age to cut widespread abuse.

Yours sincerely,

NICHOLAS NIGHTINGALE

National Secretary

YMCA England

London, E17

3 March

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