Swiss voters back £14m-a-year health scheme to give addicts free heroin
Heroin users have been taken off the streets and crime by addicts has fallen 60 per cent since the scheme began
The free provision of heroin to addicts won the overwhelming support of Swiss voters yesterday.
Projections based on early results indicated that 69 per cent of voters approved the programme, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, in a poll called under the country's system of direct democracy.
Crime by heroin addicts has fallen 60 per cent since the initiative to allow health clinics to administer controlled doses of the drug began 14 years ago, according to the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.
The support for the plan came in a referendum called by opponents of a government policy that treats hardened drug users as patients rather than criminals. Critics, including conservatives who called for the referendum, object to the annual cost of 26 million Swiss francs (£14 million), covered by the health insurance that all citizens pay and the Government covers for those who cannot afford it
While the Swiss have a more tolerant attitute towards drugs than most European countries, a parallel referendum to legalise small-scale cannabis growing and use was soundly rejected by a margin of about two to one.
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