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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
'Frank' anti-drugs drive backed
Heroin addict
TV adverts will warn parents of Class A drug dangers
A 3 million campaign to tackle drug abuse has been launched with an appeal to "Talk to Frank".

The government says it is the first campaign aimed at parents and carers as well as teenagers.

Backed by the Home Office, Department of Health and education ministers, it will provide advice, information and support about all illegal substances, but will focus on Class A drugs.

While welcoming the new approach, anti-drug campaigners warned that the heavy emphasis on harder substances could be misinterpreted that cannabis "is a safe drug".

The days when we could simply tell people how to live their lives are long gone - that kind of campaign simply doesn't work
Hazel Blears
The Frank campaign features television and press adverts encouraging people to phone a new helpline or log on to a new website talktofrank.com for advice and information.

The aim is to reduce the use of Class A drugs and frequent use of any illicit substances by all young people under the age of 25, especially by the most vulnerable in society.

The campaign features a TV commercial where people hug each other - and inanimate objects - in a busy high street.

'Honest advice'

A voiceover then warns: "If this was the only effect of ecstasy, we would all be doing it.

"Find out why we're not. Talk to Frank"

40,000 registered heroin users in UK
39% of 15-year-olds have taken illegal drugs in past year
Class A drugs include heroin and crack cocaine

Another advert features a mother attempting to talk to her son about drugs - which prompts him to call in a military snatch squad to arrest her.

"Drugs are illegal, talking about them isn't," says the voiceover.

"This is the first time the government has tried to reach out to parents and carers as well as children to give them honest, credible, accessible information about drugs," said Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth.


"Our research shows the national drugs helpline has not been as accessible or well known as we would have liked and therefore it's not been able to reach the number of people that we need to reach.

"All parents know how difficult it is to talk about drugs with their children and Frank will help bridge that gap."

Health Minister Hazel Blears said: "The days when we could simply tell people how to live their lives are long gone. That kind of material, that kind of campaign simply doesn't work.

"Frank is going to be a source of advice and information in a non-judgemental way."

A Home Office spokesman said the initiative would provide "accurate, confidential and unbiased information" and help people get in touch with local agencies.

"Frank will focus on the most vulnerable young people and on helping parents to access information and advice to enable them to talk to their children."

Vivienne Evans, chief executive of Adfam, the drug and alcohol charity, said the Frank helpline and website "will be an excellent resource for adults looking for help and advice and how to tackle the subject with their kids".


But Lesley King-Lewis, chief executive of Action on Addition, and Peter Stoker, of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said they were concerned the campaign focused solely on Class A drugs.

"Due to the current reclassification of cannabis, many young people could easily assume that it is a safe drug," said Ms King-Lewis.

"We think that it is vital that equal importance is placed on raising awareness of the dangers of cannabis, particularly as the Frank helpline will be providing information on all illicit drugs."

Mr Stoker said the adverts suggested children should stay away from Class A drugs, "but don't worry too much about the rest".

"That's unfortunately how a lot of young people will see it."

Figures show one in three people will try an illicit drug in their lifetime and about a third of young people being treated for drug abuse are under 25.

Previous campaigns have failed to influence significant numbers of drug users.

There has been no apparent reduction in hard drug use since 1994.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
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