A Bill to ban all legal highs has been launched by the Government in an attempt to crack down on the dangerous substances.
Legal highs, which are also called new psychoactive substances (NPS), are often sold online or on the high street.
The Government said there were 120 deaths involving NPS in England, Scotland and Wales in 2013.
Cat and mouse
Currently, individual legal highs are banned on a case-by-case basis, but the new legislation would introduce a blanket ban on all such substances.
A Home Office minister said the Bill would “put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them”.
Commander Simon Bray, speaking for the police on the issue, welcomed the move and said the Bill would make it easier for police to deal with NPS.
The Government said the Psychoactive Substances Bill would make it illegal to produce or supply any “substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect”.
The legislation, which is similar to a law in the Republic of Ireland, would carry a maximum seven-year prison sentence.
The Government made clear that alcohol, tobacco and caffeine will be excluded from the law.
Mike Penning, Home Office Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims said: “Young people who take these substances are taking exceptional risks with their health and those who profit from their sale have a complete disregard for the potential consequences. That’s why we are targeting the suppliers.”
He added that the Bill will “fundamentally change the way we tackle new psychoactive substances” and “give police and other law enforcement agencies greater powers to tackle the reckless trade in psychoactive substances”.
Commander Simon Bray also commented: “When people buy dangerous drugs they will generally have little idea how potent the drug is or what it may contain.
“Sadly we have seen too many people losing their lives or becoming seriously ill after taking so-called ‘legal highs’ under the impression that they are safe.”
He said the blanket ban “will make it simpler for law enforcement to deal with those drugs which are potentially unsafe but which may not yet be controlled”.