VANCOUVER CONSIDERS SAFE SMOKING SITES
In a Vancouver, British Columbia study, frequent crack use - defined
as weekly or greater - increased from 18 per cent in 1997 to 40 per
cent in 2000, according to a study of more than 1,400 injection drug
users between May 1996 and December 2000.
Since the mid 1990s, the number of cocaine-related deaths in Vancouver
has exceeded that of Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle.
On Sept. 21, Mayor Larry Campbell announced he would apply to the
federal Health Ministry to allow for a safe smoking site, similar to
programs in European cities.
Vancouver already has a safe injection pilot project, the first of its
kind in North America. Based on a harm reduction approach, the
three-year pilot project provides drug addicts with clean needles and
a safe place to use them, as well as medical services and referrals.
Critics say it is a burden on taxpayers and condones illegal drug use.
But supporters say in its first year it has saved lives, cleaned up
the streets and brought hundreds of people back into the health
system. About 600 people use the site daily and up to four referrals
are made for services like detox and methadone treatment.
Mr. Campbell wants a similar project for crack cocaine users. It would
provide an environment where crack users could access safe pipes and
safe mouthpieces, it would make the streets safer and slow the
transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis through mouthpieces.