TORFAEN AM, Lynne Neagle, has successfully persuaded the Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee to undertake a full inquiry into legal highs.

Ms Neagle has previously raised her concerns over the growing prevalence of these substances, also known as new psychoactive substances.

Locally she has been working with Gwent Police, DrugAid, the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Public Health Wales, and the Torfaen Pupil Referral Unit, through joint meetings.

These aim to share knowledge, identify trends, and help co-ordinate messaging between the various agencies whose work has been impacted by the increasing popularity of these substances.

Prior to the formal start of the inquiry in October, the Assembly’s Health Committee will embark on an extensive consultation and evidence gathering exercise.

As well as a general call for evidence and formal evidence gathering sessions in the Assembly, a public survey is planned, and committee members are expected to use visits and focus groups to help inform their findings.

The areas the inquiry is expected to investigate include public awareness raising, and public services, the effectiveness of data collection and reporting, and the level and effectiveness of coordination between agencies and tiers of government.

Welcoming the committee’s decision, Ms Neagle said: “We know legal highs are having a major impact on the people and communities we represent and it’s very clear from the work I’ve done locally on this issue that part of the problem lies in the fact there’s so little knowledge or research to fall back on.”

In March, Torfaen MP Paul Murphy called on the UK Government and Welsh Assembly to work to tackle legal highs.

In the House of Commons, Mr Murphy called for more powers for local communities to close shops selling the substances.

During the debate, Mr Murphy said: “It cannot be right that these dangerous products are still being sold to people and that local authorities are powerless.”