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Kids snub cigs for cannabis and coke

Cara Page, The Daily Record, 30th March 2006

TEENAGERS are more likely to smoke cannabis than cigarettes, it was claimed yesterday.

And nearly double the number of youths are using cocaine than ever before, according to a study.

The annual survey by Edinburgh sex-and-drugs advice group Crew 2000 said under-16s are most likely to take drugs at home or in a friend's house.

They found 67 per cent of those who took part in their questionnaire had taken cannabis while 52 per cent had used tobacco.

Crew 2000 manager John Arthur said: "Cannabis is so widely used now that people shouldn't really be surprised.

"Cannabis has been around in youth culture for more than 40 years and it's pretty much normalised in large sections of our society.

"I think the health messages around cigarettes have certainly got through to young people and it's not quite as cool to smoke."

Crew 2000 said 95 per cent of the 177 young people they quizzed had used alcohol or drugs in the last year.

Alcohol remained the most popular drug, taken by 92 per cent. But there was a dramatic rise in cocaine use, from 16.2 per cent last year to 28 per cent.

Crew 2000 believe cheaper cocaine and shortages of ecstasy last year have contributed to its soaring popularity.

John said: "What we've been seeing is a steady rise and it has given us cause for concern.

"Ecstasy not being so available was a contributing factor but cocaine is more readily available and its use far more widespread.

"It used to be contained to people who had more disposable income and, while it's not cheap, its price has come down.

"It's no longer thought of as exclusive and became normalised for a substantial wedge of our population."

More than half of all young drug users reported adverse effects including paranoia, feeling down, sleep problems and anxiety.

But John said: "We found that they continued to use substances and saw adverse effects as a part of the drug-taking experience.

"Just like people who suffer a hangover from drinking, it's part of the routine for drug users."

John added: "It is a small survey but it is useful in that it gives us a snapshot of what's going on.

"For us, legal and illegal drug taking is not a moral issue but a public health concern.

"We believe people who use drugs deserve the best possible information we can give them."

The Government yesterday vowed to curb drug use among children. A spokesman said: "Drugs can have a devastating impact on young people's lives, health and education.

"We are taking action to reduce access to drugs, educate young people of the risks and clarify the misconceptions around the law.

"Some £65million has been made available to local areas in 2005/06 for young people's substance misuse services.

"All schools receive guidance on drugs to help them make decisions about the right approaches for them. Good progress is being made in many areas but there remains work to do."

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