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Government failed to warn public of headshop dangers

6 July, 2010 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Commenting ahead of final stage of the debate on the Headshops Bill due to take place this evening, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has revealed that the Government has failed to warn the public of headshop dangers. He said there has been no “national awareness campaign on the threat posed by so-called legal highs to public health”. He said that in the absence of robust legislation to deal with the problem that such a national campaign was the very minimum the Government should have engaged in.

The Dublin South Central TD said, “The Government have talked a lot about their 'multi-pronged' approach to head shops but the most important prong has been missing.

“From the answers I have received to questions put to numerous Government departments it is very clear that there has been no national awareness campaign on the threat posed by so-called legal highs to public health. No radio ads, no bill boards, no real effort to widely communicate the warning that head shop highs are dangerous. The good work being done by local groups and bodies should be immediately supplemented with a national campaign.

“A page on a website does not constitute a national awareness campaign. Nor have the Government done anything to protect young people from head shops via the formal education system.

“We have been warning government of the dangers for four and a half years. The dangers of the substances really hit the headlines from October 2009 onwards. So there was almost a whole school year during which the Minister for Education could have but didn't introduce any measure focusing specifically on the emerging phenomenon of head shops. Instead during this period the government emasculated the drugs education supports available to schools through a series of devastating staff cuts.

“We appreciate that drafting legislation on a complex issue such as this is difficult and that it takes time. It took me months to draft my own Non-medicinal Psychoactive Substances Bill published last April. But an effective awareness campaign should have been sanctioned, developed and implemented almost overnight.

“The government's failure to do so allowed a wide demand for these substances to be created resulting in a category of people developing drug dependencies who may otherwise never have engaged in substance misuse.” ENDS

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