Pubdate: 7 Jan 1999
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1999 Reuters Limited.


PARIS, Jan 7 (Reuters) - France should take a more pragmatic approach to
fighting drug abuse and take into account the fact that alcohol and tobacco
kill far more people than heroin or cocaine, an inter-ministerial committee
has told the government.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's office said on Thursday the committee's
recommendations, yet to be approved by the cabinet, were based on a policy
of "prevention, repression and treatment".

Le Monde newspaper, which published extracts from the report on Thursday,
said the committee urged the government to adopt a policy "which takes into
account all types of addictive behaviour, regardless of the legal status of
the product".

The paper said around 60,000 deaths were caused each year by smoking while
around 20,000 people died from diseases linked to alcohol. By comparison,
228 people died from heroin overdoses in 1997, it said.

The paper said the interministerial committee, which has helped draw up
anti-drugs programmes for successive governments since 1982, argued in
favour of concentrating police action on tackling drug dealers rather than
drug takers.

Some 70,000 people were arrested in France in 1997 for using illegal drugs
such as cannabis and heroin, while around 800 drug users were jailed for
this crime.

However, an official in Jospin's office said the government was not about
to legalise so-called soft drugs such as cannabis.

"There is certainly no question of putting two million people in prison,
but neither is there any question of legalisation," the official said. An
estimated two million people in France smoke cannabis.

The committee chairperson, Nicole Maestracci, is due to meet the director
of Jospin's office next week to discuss the government's anti-drug
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MAP posted-by: Mike Gogulski