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Drugs top list of parent worries

Parents are more worried about their children becoming victims of drug abuse than they are about them passing exams, getting a job, or breaking the law, new research published last week shows.

Ninety-two per cent of parents are concerned about drugs, compared to 79 per cent who worry about jobs, 74 per cent about law breaking, and 33 per cent about exam results.

The survey was conducted by the drugs education charity TACADE and Iceland Frozen Foods in November last year. Almost 2,000 people, including parents, teachers, youth workers, police, health and education professionals, as well as young people took part.

The research was published at the launch of a national campaign called "Get-a-Life: Drugs are for Losers". Supported by the Prime Minister, the campaign, which is being promoted by TACADE, Iceland, the Health Education Authority, and TV's Power Rangers, aims to reach every seven to 11-year-old child in the UK over the next three years.

Lord Henley, an education and employment minister, said: "Research shows that pupils at seven to 11 - who are only too aware of drugs from sources outside school - need to be given clear messages about the health dangers and the skills to resist drugs."

And Malcolm Walker, Iceland's chairman, said: "By the time children reach secondary school many have already experienced drugs - at the very least they have an opinion formed often by peer pressure and coloured by status and desire. Sensible information from schools and parents is often ignored.

"Frighteningly, half of our schoolchildren have experienced a drugs problem throughout the UK; that's more than 4 million children, and, alarmingly, younger and younger children are being exposed everyday."

Next year organisers intend to target 11 to 14-year-olds, and, in 1998, they will focus on school-leavers. They say they hope to target five and six-year-olds in a future campaign.

A pack, which could, with care, also be used with five to six-year-olds, has been sent to 20,000 primary schools in England. The campaign is to be launched in Scotland and Wales soon and all schools should have a pack by the end of the year.

The organisers also have plans for each Iceland store to adopt a primary school and to raise money together to fight drugs.

The pack contains details of the survey; an interactive comic featuring the Power Rangers and their mission to combat bad drugs; and a design-a-logo T-shirt competition. TACADE has also produced a Pounds 38 teaching pack in response to "a huge demand" from teachers.

Some teachers and parents will be unhappy about the Power Rangers' involvement. The GMTV and Sky One icons came to Britain last year and went straight to number one in the children's TV charts but some parents have refused to allow their children to watch the programmes because they consider them too violent.

However, David Yost, who plays Billy, the blue Power Ranger, said at the England launch: "In the US the Power Rangers have been credited with positively influencing thousands of American children away from the horrors of drug abuse in the role of teen ambassadors to DARE - Drug Abuse Resistance Education. "

After the launch, Faisal Wasswa, 11, a pupil at Wandle primary school in the south London borough of Wandsworth, said: "When you take drugs you feel like on top of the world. You feel good but actually you are bad, and doing something bad to the people close to you."

Faisal's school is one of a number in Wandsworth taking part in an anti-drugs programme linked to the national campaign.

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