PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 September, 2009, 12:00am

Ads are just part of broader drug campaign

The article by Sara Yin ('Nixed messages', September 7) includes comments that the government's anti-drug TV announcements in the public interest (APIs) are not hard hitting enough or do not directly target drug abusers.

The government adopts a multi-pronged approach to anti-drug publicity, targeting the public, young people, high-risk youths, parents and teachers.

There are different messages for different groups. This series of APIs was produced with young people very much in mind. The narcotics division organised several focus groups with young ex-drug abusers, students, parents, frontline social workers and teachers to gauge their views on an effective publicity approach. Draft storyboards were shown to students and young ex-abusers.

A survey to gauge public opinion on anti-drug publicity was also carried out.

The Action Committee Against Narcotics and its subcommittee on preventive education and publicity provided views from different stakeholders, including district organisations, parent-teacher associations, drug treatment centres and frontline social workers.

These APIs, then, are the product of considerable engagement with various stakeholders, including the target audience of young people. Social workers and ex-abusers have told us that the APIs need to be credible. APIs with fancy artwork, scare tactics, or fake stories are ineffective.

The new API series launched in June 2008 is based on real-life stories, with some featuring voice-overs by doctors. Some ex-drug abusers shared their past experiences, including an ex-trafficker who was fooled by his 'big brother'. This API has struck a chord with many abusers.

We understand from researchers, social workers and young ex-abusers that APIs alone cannot change the behaviour of young drug abusers; nor are they the primary tool to encourage abusers to quit. However, they have prompted many occasional drug abusers to seek help, especially when they develop symptoms or health problems highlighted by the APIs.

This has been reflected in an increase in the number of people seeking help at counselling centres for psychotropic substance abusers.

The current set of APIs has also raised community awareness about the harm of psychotropic substances such as ketamine. The production agency, Skyhigh Creative Partners, is a subsidiary of a non-governmental organisation, which regularly organises programmes for young people.

For this campaign, Skyhigh also engaged young people to provide ideas and suggestions and invited ex-drug abusers to provide real-life case stories for the APIs. APIs are just one element in the battle against young drug abuse.

Young people are one of our major target audiences in this battle. And that is why we have enlisted their help and views for this current campaign and will continue to do so in the future.

Sally Wong, Commissioner for Narcotics

Revised scheme strikes balance

I fully support the pilot drug- testing scheme in schools, because I believe it could lead to a reduction in the number of students who are addicted to drugs.

I also welcome the revisions to the scheme. They strike the right balance between protecting pupils' privacy and preventing drug abuse in schools.

Students will not be told of test dates and they will be randomly selected.

This means teenagers taking drugs will know that they could be found out at any time.

Ho Chu-ping, chairman of the Tai Po Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations, said social workers told them that many Tai Po students had been asking for help with their drug problems ('Changes keep police out of drug testing', September 4), so the scheme is necessary.

If a test proves positive, police will not now be informed of this and therefore, the privacy of the pupil concerned will be protected.

The scheme can tackle drug problems and respect the privacy of pupils.

Ip Hei-man, Kwun Tong

Voluntary tests confuse youth

I think the revisions to the drug testing scheme will make it ineffective.

Now that the tests are voluntary, some students will refuse to take them. With police no longer involved, how will it be possible to target the criminals who sell drugs?

Also, it is not really clear how the students will be treated if they test positive.

I think the revisions to the drug test will leave many pupils confused.

Hannah Shum, Ho Man Tin

HK hospitals relatively safe

The Hospital Authority is adopting a very defensive attitude towards its recent series of 'medical blunders'.

It was reported that there were 25 such incidents in a recent six- month period ('Public hospitals to apply lessons of high-risk industries', September 16). It should be noted that in most of these cases the patient neither died nor came to serious harm.

However, in the 2009 Australian Government Productivity Commission Report on Government Services, it was reported that there were 187 'sentinel events' (events leading to death or serious harm to the patient) in public hospitals in Australia during their most recent 12-month review period.

Considering the population of Australia against that of Hong Kong, as well as the relative seriousness of the medical mishaps, this data suggests that the Hospital Authority system here is relatively safe.

The absolute numbers of mishaps should also be considered in the context of the sheer size of the services being provided.

C. Haines, Sha Tin

Food allowance

Joseph Law, chairman of the Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, believes that it is fair to freeze the wages of domestic helpers but increase their food allowance ('Helpers' food allowance doubled', September 3). I think his views are questionable.

Given the global economic crisis, I can appreciate the wage freeze. I just do not understand why the food allowance has been doubled.

The allowance has not been raised for more than 20 years and now there is this massive increase. What is the point, given that, as Mr Law said, most employers 'did not pay the allowance'? Only around 10 to 20 per cent of employers are paying it. A contract is a contract and if it is not being paid, then that contract is being breached.

Instead of getting the allowance, many helpers eat with their employers. But for some, that can mean they get the leftovers. Surely there should be some way to ensure the helpers get their allowance.

Salvacion Arcenal, Repulse Bay

Masterful sale

I refer to the report ('HK$24.5m for one-bedroom flat sets record', September 15) about the sale of an apartment with 590 sq ft of usable space on Hanoi Road.

The flat is in The Masterpiece, a New World Development property. The Chinese community in Hong Kong must be laughing aloud at the buyer.

On the other hand, I would like to hire the person who made the successful sale. They must be the best salesperson around.

Lenny Harris, Deerfield Beach, Florida, US