ACTION must be taken now to completely ban legal highs.
That is the stark message from campaigners following a huge rise in the number of people misusing the new psychoactive substances across the region.
Figures show the number of incidents recorded by Hampshire Constabulary involving legal highs rose from 63 in 2012 to 403 last year.
The police force was one of 18 across the country that responded to a Freedom of Information request about the rise in legal high cases.
Only two other police forces outside Hampshire had a higher rate of incidents involving legal highs – Lincolnshire with 820 and 465 in South Yorkshire.
Ukip Councillor Paul Godier, who has campaigned on the issue and admitted to trying legal highs before, said: ‘It boils down to more people using legal highs.
‘I see groups of lads hanging around outside shops selling these legal highs all the time, I pass two or three of them daily.
‘We have got to stop debating this issue and ban them now.
‘The problem is legal highs are the new cool thing and people are not fussed by the effects.’
The figures were compiled by the Centre for Social Justice.
The lowest number of legal high incidents were recorded in Wiltshire, where there were 11 legal high cases in 2014.
Home secretary Theresa May has revealed a blanket ban could be enforced on the sale of legal highs – already in place in Ireland. Substances could be banned based on the impact it has on the brain.
Cllr Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘This is a very frustrating situation – all too often councils are left to pick up the pieces in broken communities from the effects of legal highs.
‘But the solution lies with central government to change the legislation to outlaw all legal highs, instead of individual ones.’