A new law to ban potentially lethal so-called legal highs has today been welcomed by council chiefs who have waged war on the use of the substances in Blackpool.
Government plans to outlaw all new psychoactive drugs were outlined in The Queen’s Speech to Parliament this week.
It follows a clampdown by Blackpool Council, which threatened legal action against five shops in the resort that were selling the controversial substances.
Officers have kept a close eye on the traders – who have all stopped stocking legal highs – after the drugs were responsible for at least 15 cases where children were admitted to hospital.
In her speech at the state opening of Parliament, The Queen said: “New legislation will... ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs.”
A new Psychoactive Substances Bill would make it an offence to produce, supply, import or export legal highs – but possession will not be made illegal.
Offenders could be sentenced to up to seven years in jail.
A Number 10 spokesman said the law would give police and councils the power to take action against anyone selling legal highs, including seizing the drugs and searching “persons, premises and vehicles”.
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “As we’ve said before, our experience of legal highs is that they are having the same and, at times, a worse effect on people than some illegal drugs.
“Those selling them, whether knowingly or not, are often capitalising on the vulnerability of people with pre-existing addictions and the drugs are also finding their way into the hands of children.
“People are becoming addicted to these substances and that’s why we took action against a number of shops to ask them to stop selling them.
“This has proven effective so far but we won’t rest on our laurels and are aware that this could force the problem underground – an issue that must be monitored closely, particularly to ensure the protection of children.
“We welcome any new legislation that will help tackle the problem, believe it is long overdue and are interested to see more detailed proposals.”
Five unnamed shops were targeted by Blackpool Council in February to help stem the flow of children going to hospital after taking them.
Experts say users often mix different compounds and new varieties are constantly being manufactured, making it almost impossible to understand the effect they will have.