Pubdate: Tue, 09 Apr 2002
Source: Australian Associated Press (Australia Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Australian Associated Press
Author: Royal Abbott


MELBOURNE - Media reporting of the practice of chroming is dangerous 
because it encourages dangerous experimentation, a parliamentary committee 
was told today.

Victoria's Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee today began public hearings 
for its inquiry into the abuse of volatile substances.

Media reports in February, based on a discussion paper released by the 
committee, revealed that youth workers supervised chroming - inhaling paint 
thinner fumes from aerosol cans - by solvent abusers in one residential 
Melbourne facility.

The chroming affair cost the then Minister for Community Services Christine 
Campbell her portfolio.

Youth workers told the committee that press and broadcast reporting on the 
chroming controversy had advertised solvent abuse and created extra 
problems for welfare staff.

David Murray, from the Youth Substance Abuse Service (YSAS), told the 
committee that the reporting of chroming had undermined the assistance 
welfare staff could offer.

"We're not saying they shouldn't cover the issue, they need to be careful," 
he said.

Mr Murray and other youth workers said the furore over chroming had made 
welfare staff too afraid to try new ways of dealing with young at-risk 
people in their care.

In its submission YSAS illustrated the damage from publicising substance 
abuse with statistics on glue sniffing in the United States.

The first newspaper report in Denver, Colorado in 1959 led to a wave of 
glue-sniffing in that city and follow-up stories increased the problem.

The same pattern was repeated in New York, and has now shown up in New Zealand.

Sandra Meredith from Youth Affairs NZ told the committee media coverage of 
solvent abuse could increase the problem markedly.

"If a problem in a city is publicised, I can guarantee you that small rural 
communities (nearby) will soon have a problem," Ms Meredith said.

Victoria Police Superintendent Paul Ditchbury warned that telling school 
students about the dangers of substance abuse could encourage 
experimentation and information should be directed towards parents alone.

"We need to avoid creating a 'how-to' primer," Supt Ditchbury said.

He said police did not want possession of solvents criminalised but they 
did want the power to confiscate materials from users and changes to laws 
on public drunkenness to allow them to take into custody anyone found 
dangerously intoxicated by solvents.

Janet Jukes from the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria said the media could 
adapt the guidelines for reporting suicides to cover youth substance abuse.

The media agreed not to report details of suicides because it had been 
shown to encourage imitators.

The same principles could be adopted with regard to substance abuse, she said.
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