Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dishonest marketing and packaging of products a disgrace

The proliferation of ‘Head Shop’s in this state is causing huge concern for parents and people who work in the field of drugs. Products are being dishonestly marketed and packaged to be something they are not. A whole range of products for sale in these shops are in fact a clever substitute for cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis. The packaging entices young people to buy the products for personal use yet the small print says they are not for human consumption.

Products sold as bath salts have street names such as ‘Hurricane Charlie’ or ‘Snow’ but are in fact cocaine substitutes. Ecstasy tablets in capsule form are sold as plant food and cannabis substitutes are sold as ‘Herb’ and ‘Spice’. One of the real dangers is that nobody knows the effect of these products. Lads in China and Eastern Europe are constantly producing new versions of these products which are completely untested. In reality we do not know what is in them. If you purchase a product from a pharmacist you have confidence in what it is you are buying because of the strong regulatory systems in place. The chemical composition of most of these products is unknown. This potentially makes them as dangerous as the drugs being sold on the streets. The absolute minimum required is the putting in place of a regulatory framework to deal with this.

The legal sale of such products is also making it more difficult to win the battle for the hearts and minds of young people on the issue of drugs. When they can be bought so easily, so cheaply and are marketed in such a ‘cool’ way how are we to convince young people that taking drugs is harmful.

A casual observance of these shops shows a steady trickle of young people eager to make a purchase. You can get advice as to which party pills (Ecstasy) are the strongest and which will give you the best ‘buzz’. Most people have no idea what it is they are putting in their mouths.

This creates a real problem in the fight against drugs and means we have to re-double our efforts in educating young people. It is horrifying to think chemical products are being sold in such a dishonest way and that young people especially are being enticed to use them. Undoubtedly these so called ‘Head Shops’ must be subject to new and robust regulation. At a minimum we must put in place robust guidelines as to how these products are packaged, marketed and sold. The bigger and more important battle is to successfully educate people about the dangers of these products and drugs generally.

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