Pubdate: Wed, 11 Nov 1998
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Author: Ken Russell


THE REASONS behind our differing approaches to tobacco and heroin are really
not difficult to understand ("Compare action against tobacco", Letters, 9

Our historic policy with regard to heroin has been to attempt to imprison
users, subject them to a life of survival via property crime, and death as a
result of unknown purity levels. These are not effects of drugs, but effects
of prohibitionist law. The calls for various harm-minimisation strategies,
such as safe injecting rooms and heroin trials, are attempts to mitigate the
dangers to users instituted by our legal system. The goal is: save and
improve the lives of those who are addicted to heroin.

Our policy on tobacco, which has resulted in reduced use, revolves around
educating the public on the dangers of tobacco use. There is no attempt to
imprison tobacco users and the substance they smoke is regulated and of
reliable purity. Were tobacco to be dealt with as harshly as heroin it would
result in similar problems.

As an aside, safe injecting of opiates can and does take place every day in
hospitals. The dangers of heroin injection are largely a result of the laws
we have imposed. Safe injecting rooms were recently endorsed by the German

Let's not allow society's prejudices and fears regarding drugs to stop us
from saving lives!

KEN RUSSELL North Wollongong, NSW

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Checked-by: Rolf Ernst