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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 17:43 GMT
Cannabis and drink? So what?
Sixth formers at Twyford school: Not shocked
Young people seem completely unsurprised by the reports that Prince Harry has been drinking to excess and using cannabis.

The response from teenagers themselves seems to be: "That's teenagers for you".

"It's hardly prime time news," said one.

But there was some concern that someone who is third in line to the throne might be setting a bad example.

Jonathan Hobson
Jonathan Hobson: "It's unfair - he didn't choose to be a prince"
At Twyford Church of England High School in Ealing, west London, sixth former Jonathan Hobson said the prince's drinking had not surprised him in the least.

"It's what a lot of 16 year olds do," he said.

"At that age he's doing GCSEs, he's got a lot of stress, and it's a way to go out and have a good time.

"I know a lot of 16 year olds that have done that."

Nor was he troubled by the use of cannabis.

Legalisation

"It's on the increase, they're thinking about legalising it - they're doing trial runs in Brixton - so it's something that, again, is not shocking any more."

He did think the prince had suffered unfair media attention because of who he was.

Anthony Rumble
Anthony Rumble: Knows people who drink under age
But Anthony Rumble had a different view of this.

"I know people personally who do drugs, who drink under age - I have done that myself, drinking under age - and it's not a surprising thing at all," he said.

"The problem is he is third in line to be the king and is it a good example to be setting?

"People will look up to him, people will see him as a role model, and is that something England wants to be setting as an example - their perhaps future king takes drugs at an early age?"

Parental support

His opinion - shared by the others - was that probably most teenagers would have tried cannabis, although they would not be regular users.

Prashant Mehta
Prashant Mehta: "Often people start drinking at Christmas parties"
"Cannabis is not something new to most 16 year olds," said Prashant Mehta - and Prince Harry was no different just because he was royal.

"The fact that he was caught and his dad dealt with it in a really nice manner, when other parents would just get the whip out ... and in a controlled way, shows that he's got the right sort of support that he needs to get out of this problem."

He did not find it surprising that teenagers seemed to be drinking more.

"Alco pops are made for teenagers - they're not made for the whisky drinkers. They are made to lure teenagers into alcohol.

"It's not prime time news."

Limits

And it was not necessarily a problem: Drinking became not an addiction but a social thing, he said.

Matthew Grant
Matthew Grant: Not shocked but disappointed
Matthew Grant said that when he was 16 he had known people who had drunk and tried drugs.

"I'm not going to say it's OK, but a lot of people do it. The danger is when they progress onto harder drugs."

But usually there came a point when people had tried it all.

"Then you know your limits and you know about them, and once you've done that you realise that you don't have to drink loads and you don't have to smoke loads to enjoy yourself.

"When people are 15 or 16 then they have matured and if they are drinking in a stable environment then it's OK."

Tolerance

The school's co-ordinator for personal, social and health education, Roz Tully, said its first response if it found a student was drunk or had been taking drugs would be to contact the parents.

Roz Tully
Roz Tully: Tolerant approach
The school did not operate a "zero tolerance" policy of instant expulsion.

"We try to keep them in school to try to help them get over whatever problem they have got," she said.

"That's a general policy in education."

Saying "don't do it" was unrealistic because teenagers would try things anyway - especially in an affluent area such as Ealing.

But a shift downwards in the age at which children were experimenting had emerged in children's English and drama work, she said.

A parents' evening was being held to alert them to the issues.

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