CRACKDOWN ON DINNER PARTY DRUGS Casual Cocaine Use Angers New Met Chief The new head of Scotland Yard took a swipe at London's white collar and celebrity drug culture yesterday by threatening to arrest weekend consumers of cocaine at dinner parties and in clubs and bars. Sir Ian Blair, who took over as the UK's most senior police officer yesterday, said there were an increasing number of people who saw no harm in having the odd "wrap of charlie" at the weekend. But he promised to make an example of casual users in an attempt to show that no one is above the law. "I think there are a group of people in the capital who believe they are in some way taking harm-free cocaine," said Sir Ian. "I'm not interested in what harm it is doing to them personally. But the price of that cocaine is misery on the streets of London's estates and blood on the roads to Colombia and Afghanistan. "People think it is okay to use cocaine but I do not think it is okay. We will have to do something about it by making a few examples of people so that they understand." The new Metropolitan commissioner stressed his officers would still target the drug-dealing "Mr Bigs", and would use assets recovery law to confiscate their profits. But he issued a stern rebuke to middle-class and celebrity drug users that they could expect no leniency. He said it was "disappointing" that James Hewitt, one-time lover of Princess Diana, had received only a caution for cocaine possession. People were having dinner parties where they drink less wine and snort more cocaine. "The tests on the toilet seats of various clubs will tell you an awful lot of cocaine is going on in the centre of London and people think it is exempt from policing. There are no areas of the capital which are exempt from the law on drugs." Petra Maxwell, press officer for independent drugs information organisation, DrugScope, said the price of illegal drugs, including cocaine, had dropped dramatically in the past few years as the number of casual users rose. She said even recreational cocaine users should not underestimate the health risks, but it was debatable whether arresting them was the best use of police resources. British Crime Survey figures for 2002-03 showed 642,000 people in England and Wales admitted taking cocaine within the past year, and 275,000 said they had taken it in the last month. Ms Maxwell said a DrugScope survey last year found a gram of cocaine had fallen from UKP70 to UKP50 in London, and cost just UKP30 in Nottingham and Birmingham. "It's not cheap but many young people earning decent salaries would easily spend that on drinks on a night out in London," she said. "Cocaine is a harmful drug. It can cause heart problems and other illnesses and while it is psychologically rather than physically addictive, trying to come off can bring on anxiety attacks and associated symptoms. "However, you could argue that casual cocaine users are often people who can afford their drug habit and the only crime they are guilty of is drug-taking, and that the police might be better off concentrating on dealers and some other class A drug users of crack cocaine and heroin, who are associated with all sorts of crime."