smoking young person 180x120Lincoln city centre could become the first place in the UK to ban legal highs after the council backed proposals to stop people form using them in public places.

The plans were first suggested last year and would come in to force on 1 April in the first ban of its kind in the UK - home of the highest number of young people using legal highs in Europe.

Sam Barstow from City of Lincoln Council said: "This is a part of a whole raft of measures that include further education, increasing our intelligence around legal highs and the issues that are associated with them."

The new rules are being suggested as a replacement of Designated Public Place Orders, which prevent alcohol consumption under certain circumstances. This will help limit the ability of suppliers to simply change a few chemicals in a substance once it is banned and rebrand it as a whole new product.

Find out more about legal highs in Dr Robert Ralphs and Dr Oliver Sutcliffe presentation from DAAT North - 'Legal highs and challenges for practitioners'

Mr Barstow continued: "The main difference between the existing powers and this new proposal is that it gives us the ability to tackle on-street alcohol consumption and the use of so-called legal highs.

"The Designated Public Place Order required police to be satisfied consumption of the alcohol would lead to anti-social behaviour, which led to difficulties in enforcement. The new order would be a complete ban on consuming both alcohol and legal highs in the city centre."

The latest figures from the Centre for Social Justice (CJS) show the number of police incidents involving legal highs have increased in many parts of England since 2010. It also claims the number of deaths associated with the use of legal highs increased from 12 in 2009 to 97 in 2012 in England.

The number of incidents soared across 16 police forces that responded to a freedom of information request by the think-tank. Of those asked, Lincolnshire police recorded the highest rate of police incidents involving legal highs in 2014 with 820.

"As well as posing worrying health risks, these figures suggest legal highs are placing an increasing burden on public services," said senior CSJ researcher Rupert Oldham-Reid.

"It is too easy for people to walk into high street shops and buy these drugs - many of them as dangerous as class A substances.

"If we want to start responding to the problems caused by 'legal highs' we need to clamp down on those making a living out of selling them."