SPOT-CHECK tests at a Newport nightclub found 42 per cent of people with traces of drugs on their hands.

The results show the widespread availability of drugs in society as some of those who gave a positive test could have picked up traces from places such as door handles and money.

Police carried out random tests with a machine that can detect minute traces of illegal substances on the palm of the hand.

Of the 800 people queuing at Zanzibar on Stow Hill on Friday night, about 90 people were pulled at random to undertake a swab test on their hands. Of these, 38 people gave positive readings and were taken to the manager's office for questioning by police. No one refused the test.

On Friday night the £40,000 machine, called Ion Track, was set to detect class A drugs such as heroin, cocaine, ecstacy and speed. Crime and disorder officer PC Debbie White said: "It shows if you have handled drugs and if you have handled a lot the effect can last for a few days.

"A low reading can mean you have handled drugs or you have had your hand somewhere where drugs have been used or handled money which has been in contact with drugs."

Before the trial on Friday, police went into Zanzibar on May 20 and swabbed all the staff, who all tested negative, and the premises itself. Evidence of cocaine, rather than any other drug, was found in the toilets. Zanzibar manager Neville Leese said: "I wanted a health check on my club. It is always useful to check to see how big a problem it is because the club scene brings this sort of thing to it.

"Any attempt to try to control it adds to the credence of the club and sends out a message to the public that we are not going to stand for it." In addition to the 38 people who gave positive tests on Friday's clampdown four people were searched, two who left the queue before gaining entry to the club and and two whose swabs gave a particularly high reading.

Police confirmed no action was taken against the people questioned as no evidence of drugs was found on them but said the exercise was useful for gathering intelligence in the fight against drugs.

l Ion-track has previously been used at the under 17s nightclub Zenon in Cwmbran. More than 170 teenagers at Club Zenon were screened by police. They questioned 24 youths who gave positive readings - but said the levels were so low they were satisfied they had not taken drugs. No drugs were found and no arrests were made.