Newsbrief: Vancouver Ponders "Safe Smoking Materials" for Crack Users 3/21/03

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Vancouver, BC, health officials are evaluating a plan to make crack smoking safer by providing equipment to users that would reduce infections and burns, the National Post reported Monday. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is seeking advice on whether to provide free rubber tubing that would cover the mouthpieces of glass crack pipes. The tubing would be distributed in the city's Downtown Eastside, site of the hemisphere's largest ongoing open-air hard drug market.

"The reality is that people are still going to smoke drugs and inject drugs whether we're there with safe equipment or not," health authority spokeswoman Viviana Zanocco told the Post, "so our aim is to allow that to happen in as safe a situation as possible." The plan fits within the harm reduction goals announced as part of the city's "Four Pillars" (prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement) strategy, said Zanocco, explaining that the crack pipe plan "minimizes the risk of compound health problems that are related to addictions. It is incumbent on us as a health authority to ensure that harm reduction measures are introduced to make sure people are as safe as possible while using drugs."

The rubber tubing would reduce lip burns and infections caused by the heated glass pipes used by crack smokers. The burns and infections, if left untreated, can lead to more serious problems. "People don't get them looked at right away," said Zanocco. "They get worse and worse."

The health authority already sponsors one of the largest needle exchange programs in the hemisphere, having distributed 2.7 million clean needles last year, and is in the middle of setting up a supervised safe injection room for heroin and cocaine users in the Downtown Eastside.

In a refreshing change from US law enforcement practice, Vancouver police said they had no opinion on the idea. "It's not an enforcement issue, it's a health issue," spokeswoman Constable Sarah Bloor told the Post.

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Issue #279, 3/21/03 New York City Mayor Bloomberg Backs Needle Exchange, But Where's the Money? | Medical Marijuana Update: Bills Killed in Arkansas, Wyoming But Moving Forward in Maryland, Vermont, Bad Bill Introduced in Oregon | UN Says Colombian Coca Cultivation Down 30 Percent, Overall Production Down, Too -- Experts Say Not Really | Newsbrief: Marco Cappato in Jail for British Marijuana Civil Disobedience | Newsbrief: Mexican Governor Candidate Says Legalize Drugs | Newsbrief: Guardian Newspaper Calls on Britons to Promote Home Grows, Not Prosecute Them | Newsbrief: Vancouver Ponders "Safe Smoking Materials" for Crack Users | Newsbrief: Medical Marijuana Hits the Shelves in Dutch Pharmacies | Newsbrief: New Jersey Bans Racial Profiling | Newsbrief: NJ Weedman Sues Comcast, Asks $420,000 | Newsbrief: House Republicans Hold Off on Subpoena of Federal Judge | Newsbrief: Informant Nailed for Fake Ecstasy Scam | The Reformer's Calendar
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