Cumbria County Council Trading Standards and Cumbria Police joined forces to crack down on so-called ‘legal highs’ or novel psychoactive substances being supplied in Cumbria.
Acting on intelligence received and local concerns about the supply of ‘legal highs’ to young people, test purchases were carried out at two premises in Barrow-in-Furness and legal highs were sold to two underage volunteers.
Officers subsequently visited the premises to examine products being offered for sale, and to remind traders of their legal obligation to ensure that products they sell are safe. Some of the products deemed unsafe were seized by Trading Standards, or voluntarily surrendered by the traders, who will be issued with written warnings about their future conduct.
Where Trading Standards has evidence that products have been misdescribed, mislabelled or unsafe, they have power to take action under consumer protection and product safety legislation. It is also an offence to sell intoxicating substances to persons under 18 years old, if it is expected they would inhale them.
Councillor John McCreesh, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member responsible for Trading Standards, said: “The use of ‘legal highs’ can potentially have devastating consequences for individuals and their families, yet many are sold in shops on high streets or over the internet. All businesses have a duty of care to ensure that the products they sell are safe, and we will do all we can to protect the public from these dangerous substances by working alongside police and other agencies.”
Councillor Ian Stewart, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Public Health, commented: “The fact that a substance is sold as ‘legal’ does not mean it is safe. Many people wrongly assume that these substances are harmless because it is legal to buy them, however the effects are unpredictable, and the risks of taking these substances are increased if combined with alcohol or another drug. People may have no idea what they’re actually taking because the substance is not labelled.”
Community Safety Sergeant Jo Smith of South Cumbria Police said “Contrary to what some may believe, many of these substances being sold as legal highs are actually drugs covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act. Our clear warning is for people not to experiment by accepting offers of ‘legal high’ drugs. If you decide to experiment it could have terrible consequences for your health, life and family.
“Police are working with partners to tackle the issue that our young people are being supplied ‘legal highs’ within Cumbria. Not only will we target these premises but we will work with our schools in the area to raise awareness of these harmful substances.”
Anyone who has information about somebody selling ‘legal highs’ should contact the police on 101 or Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
For free and confidential advice on drugs, the national Talk to Frank service can be contacted on 0800 77 66 00.