Changing the law would send the wrong message to young people.

  • The proper task of the criminal justice system is not to send messages, and it tends to be unsuccessful when it does. Adolescents are prone to reject adult advice when delivered in an authoritarian and punitive fashion.
  • There are many activities that we consider to be immoral or undesirable that are not punishable by law. We have other ways of discouraging this behaviour, often more effective than, and not at all helped by, the interference of the criminal justice system.
  • The decline in rates of smoking, including among young people, shows the great success that regulation and public health promotion can have, without the threat of criminalisation.
  • The measures applied in the example of smoking, such as control of packaging and shop displays, are not available to us except under a legal, regulatory framework.
  • The current punitive system alienates users, preventing them from seeking help or advice, and sowing mistrust in authority. That is the unintended message we are sending to young people.

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