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S for S speaks on "2008-09 Survey of Drug Use among Students" (with videos)

     Following is the opening remarks (English translation) by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, at the press conference on "2008-09 Survey of Drug Use among Students" today (February 25)ĄG

     The purpose of today's press conference is to announce the results of the "2008-09 Survey of Drug Use among Students" and to introduce the Government's latest measures to combat youth drug abuse. The measures include the proposed $3 billion capital injection into the Beat Drugs Fund (BDF) announced by the Financial Secretary in his Budget yesterday.

     To begin, I wish to reiterate that the Government attaches great importance to youth drug abuse.  We are fully committed to combating the problem.  Should the Legislative Council approve the proposal, the new capital injection would substantially increase the capital base of the BDF to $3.35 billion.  This will enable the BDF to generate an enhanced level of income and more resources to sponsor anti-drug programmes organised by various quarters of the community.  This will bring our anti-drug campaign to a community-wide level.

     The Government will provide necessary resources for the campaign.  With a view to implementing recommendations made by the Task Force on Youth Drug Abuse led by the Secretary for Justice, the Government allocated additional resources amounting to $53 million in 2008-09 Financial Year.  There were also growths in resources in the 2009-10 Financial Year.  The Beat Drugs Fund also granted a total of $56 million to different sectors of the community and community organisations to organise more than 120 anti-drug related programmes in 2008 and 2009.  The Financial Secretary has already set aside $52 million additional funding in the new financial year for bureaus and departments to expedite and strengthen anti-drug work along the directions promulgated by the Chief Executive.

     The "2008-09 Survey of Drug Use among Students", conducted by a research organisation, is commissioned by the Narcotics Division of the Security Bureau every four years.  It aims to collect the latest trends on student drug abuse in Hong Kong, and seeks to identify the pattern of drug abuse and related characteristics for assessing the risks of student drug abuse.  This information will facilitate the Narcotics Division, concerned bureaus and departments to formulate anti-drug policies and measures that would better meet the actual needs.  The 2008-09 Survey is the seventh of its kind conducted by the Narcotics Division.  Now that the youth drug abuse problem has become very serious, the Survey can provide accurate and scientific data to help us continue to combat the youth drug abuse problem.

     The Survey was conducted during the 2008-09 school year.  For the first time since its first round more than 20 years ago, the Survey included primary four to six students as well as students of post-secondary programmes.  On an anonymous basis, the Survey collected questionnaires from about 158,000 students, covering all post-secondary institutions and about 100 primary and secondary schools, or about 20% of the total student population of Hong Kong.  The scale of the Survey is one of the largest compared to similar surveys in other places.

     The Survey affirms the trends revealed by the Narcotics Division's Central Registry of Drug Abuse in recent years.  It corroborates the increasing prevalence of youth drug abuse.  According to the Survey, 4.3% of secondary school students indicated that they had abused drugs, representing an increase of one percentage point from the Survey conducted four years ago.  Among the secondary school students aged 12 or below, 4.6% indicated that they had abused drugs.  This is far higher than that of four years ago, which was 2.4%.  The Survey confirms the trend on the lowering of the age of drug abusers.

     Apart from the observations above, we also notice a rising trend in the number of young people who abused psychotropic substances.  Among the primary school students who claimed to have abused drugs, 37.5% abused cough medicine and 30.7% abused inhalants.  As regards secondary school students, nearly half of the students who claimed to have abused drugs indicated that they abused ketamine (49.4%), followed by cannabis (35.6%).  The Survey also affirms the hidden nature of youth drug abuse: 36.2% of the secondary school students who claimed to have abused drugs indicated they took drugs in friends' homes, while 25% took drugs in their own homes.  Only about a quarter of them abused drugs in entertainment venues.  

     While the problem is seen to be more serious when compared to the last survey, the degree of Hong Kong's youth drug abuse problem has not reached a totally unbridled stage as witnessed in some advanced economies.  With the concerted effort of the different quarters of the community to fight the war against youth drug abuse, the use of innovative technology and introduction of measures to curb the youth drug abuse problem, particularly in schools, we are confident that Hong Kong can foster a drug free environment for the healthy development of young people.

     As early as in 2007, the Chief Executive was already aware of the seriousness of the youth drug abuse problem.  He therefore appointed the Secretary for Justice in October that year to lead a high-level interdepartmental task force to tackle the issue.  The task force published a report in November 2008 with more than 70 recommendations.  Last year, in view of the further lowering of the age of drug abusers and the hidden nature of youth drug abuse, the Chief Executive decided to personally lead relevant Principal Officials and set out five strategic directions to expedite and strengthen the implementation of the task force's recommendations.  The five directions are "community mobilisation", "community support", "drug testing", "treatment", and "law enforcement".  Among them, the Trial Scheme on School Drug Testing in Tai Po District and community mobilisation for combating drug abuse have been taken forward as a response to the increasing hidden nature of youth drug abuse.  

     The SAR Government is committed to combating youth drug abuse along the five strategic directions, including anti-drug publicity, preventive education, treatment and rehabilitation, promulgated by the Chief Executive.  Relevant bureaus and departments, including the Education Bureau, Department of Health and Social Welfare Department, will spare no effort in taking forward measures to minimise the risk of drug abuse by young people and help those who have unfortunately fallen victims of drugs to quit the habit.

     Besides anti-drug publicity and preventive education efforts, law enforcement agencies will continue to adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards illicit drugs and drug pushers.  They will relentlessly curb the supply of illicit drugs in Hong Kong and work with their counterparts in the Mainland as well as overseas to stop the flow of illicit drugs into Hong Kong.  The Police will strengthen the collection of intelligence on drug trafficking and drug taking, and enhance the Police School Liaison Scheme.  The Customs and Excise Department will enhance drug detection at boundary control points to combat cross-boundary drug trafficking.  For greater deterrent effect, the law enforcement agencies will also work closely with the Department of Justice in seeking the courts to pass heavier sentences in appropriate cases.

     As raised by the Chief Executive earlier today, the youth drug abuse problem has complicated root causes.  It is often caused by underlying personal, academic, family and other problems.  No party can effectively tackle this issue alone.  Anti-drug work is a long-term and enduring task.  The Government is committed to taking up a leadership role and take forward the five-prong anti-drug strategy bringing the campaign to a community-wide level.  

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, February 25, 2010
Issued at HKT 19:31


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