Thursday, April 05, 2007

Rubbish drug story of the week

A story about a new craze of sniffing the fumes of burning wheelie bins and bus shelters has popped up on the BBC website. Now, solvent abuse is a real and serious problem but this story is ... well, judge for yourselves. According to the report:

Police believe the craze could be behind a spate of wheelie bin fires. Setting wheelie bins on fire and sniffing the fumes is the new "drug of choice" for youths, police in South Yorkshire have said.

Teenagers are thought to set the bins alight and then inhale the toxic plastic fumes to get a "high".

Police believe the craze could be behind bin fires in the Athersley and New Lodge areas of Barnsley.
According to Warren Hawksley, director of anti-solvent abuse charity Re-Solv, (who notes how the practice of inhaling burning plastic fumes is even more dangerous and risky than more conventional solvent abuse):
"in Scotland it was also known for people to burn bus shelters to get the same effect."

a new drug menace

And how have the police responded?. Apparently:
"South Yorkshire Police told BBC Radio Sheffield they were now looking at ways to lock up the bins to prevent the practice."
What, all of them? There must be a good 30 million or so across the country just waiting to be torched and inhaled. And I suppose you'd need to be careful that the lock-ups didn't have plastic doors . Locking up all the bus shelters presents a whole new range of logistical problems, and it seems unlikely that either bins or shelters can practicably be brought within the Misuse of Drugs Act. For starters, what classification do you make them?

Like so many knee jerk responses to the latest drug panics, this one seems entirely ridiculous, and I suspect that something has been lost in the translation from reality to web news. How, for example, are we supposed to believe that wheelie bin sniffing is the 'new drug of choice' for youths . It seems highly unlikely to ever catch on as a mainstream youth activity; try sneaking a bus shelter into a club in your pants and see what happens. If it happens at all then it will be a very occasional minority pursuit for the very bottom rung of solvent abusers who can't afford glue, aerosol or lighter fluid. These are people in need of help - I dont think a war on wheelie bins is likely to be the answer. A rubbish bit of reporting all round.

'avoid the brown wheelie bins'



Anonymous said...

great story Steve...the BBC website and news generally are often laughably innaccurate on the subject of drugs.

Right now I am too busy to take this on but I am reliably informed that if we can bring this to the BBC's attention - that their drug coverage is a standing joke - then they will take notice.

The problem is that there is no "Have Your say" button on this particular if anyone is registered on the BBC site they would have to Add it as a story "I want to talk about"...then let us all know so we can wade in and make mocking noises...then and only then does it get noticed.

If someone can take that on I promise to join in - and alert the drugs forum on Urban 75 who will all enjoy this sport.

And on a serious note - we do have to do something about this as the BBC is a trusted source of news on everything, including drugs - and it is currently peddling ill informed, undersourced tabloid nonsense on a regular basis.

(oh and your link to the bbc story is broken, for me at least)

Anonymous said...

I understand why it should provoke such a response but alternatively how about responding seriously to this story. TDPF demanding a war on wheelie bin sniffing! We could have a fully developed muti agency approach starting with education in nursery schools, the early identification of "at risk" children, a range of tiered interventions with targetted priority groups. A ten year strategy with dedicated funding streams increasing year on year with the aim of bring 80% of all wheelie bin sniffers into the treatment system. The increasing prevalence of wheelie bins on our streets shows that the problem is out of control. It used to be just a single dull grey wheelie, now houses may have three or four often in different colours! Its completely blatant. Its time to crack down now.

Steve Rolles said...

anon - thanks - i think its a good idea to bring this sort of lame coverage to the attention of the BBC 'people'. To be fair, mostly the BBC online news is excellent - all the more reason for alerting them to this silliness I suppose. Definitely worth posting the blog link and the appropriate BBC email to Urban 75. something along the lines of - we love the BBC, but this bin story is rubbish. cheers.

Ian - You're right about the war n bins. Its the only way. But what about the bus shelters eh? what are you going to do about that scourge of youth?

right Im off to torch a space-hopper. Its the latest thing apparently.

Anonymous said...

it's Anon here again...must get myself a blogger account

yes I love the War on Wheelie Bins...fabulous idea

Steve - I agree the BBC news and websites are generally's where I get most of my news

but do you find their drug story coverage pretty good too?

Maybe I'm being Mr Angry here but I find myself regularly seething at the simply wrong or simply "thin" drugs stories...where it seems for instance that they are just copy 'n pasting the Home Office/Police press release without any reality check quote from someone respectable like Transform who - along with a large chunk of the UK population - question the whole basis of Prohibition.

I guess I'd like to get to a stage where the BBC and others feel that a story is not balanced until there's a quote from Transform saying:

"yes but the seizure of even ten tonnes of cocaine will make no long term difference to the UK street market"

"yes but actually the figures for THC content over the years are a little less staggering than that"

"yes - and of course this is a serious issue that needs more research - but just maybe this teenager had psychotic killing tendencies before he started smoking skunk"

I wonder how we can get to a stage when your mobiles are smoking hot from editors desperate for a Transform reality-check quote - because if they don't put it in their readers laugh at them.

I guess that's the answer really..reader power

Steve Rolles said...

I think drug shock stories are are particularly easy for lazy journalists. Partly because they are rarely challenged. people do not want to point out that stories are unrepresentative, exagerated, hyped, based on poor analysis or just plain wrong - because they will so often be regarded as being 'pro-drug' or 'condning drug use'. its a reflection of the way the drug debate has been framed within the rhetoric of war - rather like critiquing the iraq war in the states was portrayed as unpatriotic.

Transform do what we can but we dont have the resources for a dedicated media response unit. If stories or examples of poor reporting are brought to our attention we will respond - that invlves the readers *points* letting us know.

I think its also worth congrartulating journalists when they do good reporting. Carrot and stick.

Anonymous said...

Thia story wasn't first published on April 1st, by any chance?
Mary L

Anonymous said...

Mary L; no, it was published on the 3rd.

Anonymous said...

I remember a reading similar story on the "wheelie bin epidemic" in one of the Scottish tabloids (probably either the Evening Times or Daily Record) a few years back.

The article included a list of tell tale signs for parents to look out for. Along with the usual "glazed eyes" and "mood swings" was this craker: "clothes and trainers covered in melted plastic".