SINGAPORE - Young people should not fall prey to misinformation that downplays the negative effects of drugs, said President Halimah Yacob.
These include "seductive" messages that tout cannabis as a soft drug suitable for recreational use, or trumpet its medicinal value.
"When our youth hear such information, I hope they do not blindly accept those claims and assertions, but question them instead," she said at the launch of a new campaign by the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana) on Saturday (June 30).
Called Rise Above - Overcoming The Influence, the campaign aims to get youth - as well as ex-offenders and their families - more involved in Singapore's fight against drugs.
"This is more important than ever given that more and more governments have moved to decriminalise and legalise drugs," said Sana president, Mrs Quek Bin Hwee.
The legalisation of drugs in places such as Canada and the United States has resulted in more liberal attitudes to drugs among youth here, she added.
Mrs Quek pointed to findings from the 2015/2016 Youths Perception Survey, conducted by the National Council Against Drugs, which found that 16 per cent of young people agreed with statements such as "It is all right to try drugs for a new experience", up from 11 per cent in 2013.
According to statistics from the Central Narcotics Bureau, 64 per cent of the 1,249 new abusers nabbed in 2017 were below 30.
As part of the campaign, Sana hopes to get 100 ex-offenders - up from 15 currently - onboard over the next two years to reach out to students as well as other ex-offenders to encourage them to overcome negative influences.
The association will also introduce a new programme, aimed at parents and caregivers of high-risk children, to strengthen family bonds to reduce the risk of substance abuse.
Employers also play an important role in the reintegration process, said Madam Halimah, adding that companies should accept former offenders who have turned over a new leaf.
"Keeping our country and children free from drugs requires all of us to play a part," she said.