Normative and structural measures

Control measures on legal drugs help to establish the normative foundations on which other prevention measures can be built. Societal norms that support tobacco and alcohol use and tolerate their influence on behaviour are well-known risk factors for a sympathetic attitude to and use of illicit drugs (Becoña, 2002). Contrary to popular belief, societal norms are influenced more by control policies than by mass media campaigns or educational approaches (Hawks et al., 2002; Canning et al., 2004). Eurostat (2002) compared tobacco control measures and smoking indicators in children/adolescents in EU Member States and found a relationship between the rigidity of tobacco control policies (advertising ban, age limits on purchasing, restrictions, etc.) and smoking habits. Smoking rates among adolescents were found to be higher in countries with relatively lenient policies (e.g. Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom) than in countries with stricter controls (e.g. France, Sweden and Norway). It is known that the impact of prevention interventions is limited if they are counteracted, or at least not supported, by societal norms and policies. EU and WHO initiatives (Aspect Consortium, 2004) in this field have gained ground, and Member States are now increasingly linking tobacco control policies with drug prevention.