World

Colombian ad campaign targets Europe's cocaine users

Colombia's vice-president is taking a hard-hitting anti-drug message to Europe, complaining about cocaine-snorting celebrities who he says are financing the drug-fuelled civil conflict bleeding the South American nation.

Colombia's vice-president is taking a hard-hitting anti-drug message to Europe, complaining about cocaine-snorting celebrities who he says are financing the drug-fuelled civil conflict bleeding the South American nation.

Vice-President Francisco Santos spoke of supermodel Kate Moss, although she doesn't appear in the ads that he planned to unveil Wednesday in London along with 13 European anti-drug czars.

Santos called Moss a perfect example of liberal European attitudes toward drug use because she is enjoying a career comeback after a British tabloid last year published photos of her apparently snorting cocaine.

"To me it's baffling that somebody who helps cause so much pain in Colombia is doing better than ever and winning more contracts than ever," the vice-president told the Associated Press.

Moss's modeling agency in London, Storm, did not return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment about the comments.

Moss lost contracts after the photos were published, but her career resumed after she spent time at a clinic in Arizona. She apologized to "all the people I have let down" over the incident, but was never charged with any drug offence.

"Cocaine not only destroys you, it also destroys a country" is the theme of the advertising campaign designed to change attitudes among Europeans about their booming cocaine habit in the same way that "Just Say No" did in the United States.

Santos spoke of what cocaine consumption does to Colombia, where drug-financed armed groups murder hundreds of people each year and force thousands to abandon their homes. Gangs, rebel groups and right-wing militias all traffic in the drug.

"We need to tell Europeans that that line of coke they snort is tainted in blood," Santos said.

'Cocaine curse' campaign

One ad in the "cocaine curse" campaign depicts a pinstriped "coke head" — with an oversized nose — laying land mines in a coca field. Colombia now ranks first in the world in land-mine casualties, averaging four a day.

Colombia, the world's largest producer of cocaine, hopes European governments will fund placement of the ads on billboards, television and even bathrooms of trendy dance clubs.

It has also launched an English-language website to highlight its efforts in the U.S.-sponsored war on drugs, including aerial eradication of more than 600,000 hectares of coca, the base ingredient of cocaine, since 2002.

Colombia is also seeking more European aid for projects to help peasant farmers switch from coca to legal crops like tropical fruits, coffee and rubber.

According to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, cocaine use among young adults in Spain and Britain has doubled over the past decade, reaching levels similar to those in the United States, where five per cent of people have reported recent usage.

The centre, based in Lisbon, Portugal, says surveys in Denmark, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands and Austria also show a rise in cocaine use among young adults.

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