An “anti-cocaine spray” used by police in the UK to prevent people from sniffing in pubs has been criticized as a gimmick by drug safety experts.
The spray, called Blokit, supposedly covers surfaces such as bars, toilet cisterns, pool tables and changing tables with an invisible film that spoils the cocaine powder when people try to queue.
Durham Police officers use the spray at 24 pubs in Darlington, north-east England, where drug sniffer dogs have found evidence of the use of cocaine, one of the most common drugs in Great Britain.
Manufacturers of the spray said it was used in 600 licensed establishments across the country. It has also been used on surfaces in movie theaters, colleges and libraries. They claim it has significantly reduced drug use in problematic pubs.
But drug experts have questioned the spray’s effectiveness in stopping drug use in the places. Many cocaine users in pubs snort drugs directly from keys, the corners of debit cards, or simply cut lines on their cell phones.
“Is anyone really sniffing a cistern when they could just use a smartphone?” Said Guy Jones, senior scientist at drug testing organization The Loop. âKeys are so widely known as a cocaine dosing tool that they have become a unit of slang measurement. Unless I follow people around the booth, I don’t see what one can expect from pub owners about people who use such a popular drug.
The spray is one of a long line of tactics used by police and pub owners – without success – to try to keep people from snorting drugs in public places.
Other strategies include coating surfaces with petroleum jelly or WD40 lubricant – a policy recommended by the police but not recommended later for health reasons – and the eradication of flat surfaces in pub toilets, including roller cisterns and cover the hand dryers with gravel.
Some bars and clubs have assigned specialist toilet bouncers to deter the toilet from sniffing, while others have tried the “cocaine torch “, which used UV light to detect powder in people’s nostrils, but turned out to be useless.
Adam Waugh, who works for Psycare UK, a drug harm reduction charity, said: âThis is the latest in a long line of gadgets that have been suggested by police to reduce cocaine use in pubs and bars. The problem is, none of these initiatives reduce harmful drug use, at best, they shift it. In fact, they risk distracting from policies that can save lives. “
Darlington City Council paid Millwood Manufacturing Â£ 650 for 60 bottles of Blokit, which its makers say is a non-toxic blend of resins and surfactants. Pub owners also receive posters stating âBlokit anti-deterrent spray used in these premisesâ.
Millwood, who specializes in making detergents, told Durham Police Department that in pubs where the spray is used there has been “an 80% reduction in drug use on their premises since its introduction” .
Asked how Millwood knew his product reduced drug use in pubs by 80%, Paul Ward, technical director of Millwood told VICE World News that the figure was anecdotal based on comments from owners who said the Use of the spray had led to a number of known coca users stop drinking in their pubs.
Ward said he asked Essex Police last week to be interested in the use of the spray, and that large UK brewery chain Mitchells and Butlers tested the spray last year in 10 pubs “in problems “, and still uses it in some of its sites. Mitchells and Butlers declined to comment on Blokit’s use due to its “security policy.”
The spray is popular with pub owners because, according to Ward, they often have to prove to the police that they are doing something about drug use. âThe police sometimes dab the ads with cocaine wipes and if they are positive they send a letter asking the pub owners what they are going to do about it,â he said.
But Jones said that many of the cocaine wipes used to detect whether the drug has been used in places can detect such small amounts that it may not present an accurate picture. âA contaminated object, like a phone or a fingernail, could contain enough cocaine to give a positive test result. A single person could contaminate every surface they touch with enough cocaine to be detected, even if they have never used cocaine there. “
The spray has also been tested by a cleaning company at cinemas in Wales, as well as at public libraries and toilets in Runcorn and Widnes in Cheshire. Halton Borough Council, who used the spray for three months at Runcorn and Widnes in 2019, said he stopped using the spray after realizing there was no cocaine problem, although he still uses the spray at Widnes Market “on an ad hoc basis.”
A Durham Police spokesperson said: “If the product is successful in reducing drug use in Darlington locations, we will look to expand it further in the Durham Constabulary region.”