The legal-high issue that has ignited the country is prompting the Wairarapa District Health Board (WDHB) to look at the wider issue of drugs in the community.
At a board meeting on Tuesday Peter Gush, service manager for Regional Public Health (RPH), which has a focus on tobacco control and health promotion programmes, outlined its goals, sparking discussion about what is being done about drugs, legal and illegal.
Board member and Carterton Mayor Ron Mark said the effects of drugs like cannabis, were not being addressed.
He said there were national campaigns on issues like alcohol, road safety and domestic violence but no public health campaign about the effects of smoking marijuana. He said it affected children's brain development and he had heard of a father blowing marijuana smoke into a baby's face to calm it.
"We see a huge focus on public health on transport whether it's the seatbelt make it click ... there's a huge focus on alcohol, drink and drive you're an idiot, save a mate you're a legend. Those are well covered.
"But the one that is glaringly obvious, which is hitting us really hard, and we are starting to see it with psychoactive drugs, is drug use.
"Where are the priorities for these public campaigns?"
A national campaign was needed and would help achieve RPH's goals, he said.
He said the anti-tobacco movement had a huge impact because it was a high-level, Government-led campaign.
"The response you get out of a community is often commensurate with the level of importance that the community sees placed on it by the higher authorities."
Board member Rick Long said smoking cannabis seemed to be acceptable even though it was illegal.
Even a government advertisement seemed to say it was OK, he said. "There's an advert out saying if you smoke marijuana don't drive, but you're not supposed to smoke marijuana in the first place."
RPH's clinical head of department, Dr Jill McKenzie, said the Government was reviewing its national drug policy, which aimed to minimise drug harm along with health providers.
RPH made a submission on the policy and included a suggestion to raise the number of treatment referrals for people with drink-driving convictions. Fewer than 5 per cent of those convicted of drink-driving are currently referred to treatment.
WDHB member Rob Irwin said the board needed to look at the how big a problem it was.
Helen Pocknall, executive director nursing and midwifery, said there was already data showing the effects of drugs, alcohol and smoking.
"We do know with mental health, that 50 per cent of patients with mental health illnesses have an addiction."
She said nurses and midwives went to homes where drug taking happened and there were programmes in schools.
CareNZ, which is contracted to Wairarapa DHB to provide drug and alcohol counselling, has noticed an impact on its services since the Psychoactive Substances Bill was introduced.
Kathryn Leafe, chief executive of CareNZ, said: "Over the last 12 months we have seen a small but potentially significant increase in the number of clients who have used legal highs."
WDHB chairman Derek Milne said the board would take the idea for a national campaign to other health boards and the Health Promotion Agency.
"This is a major issue ... we as a DHB are very concerned about it."
He said the goals to reduce harm might not be realistically achieved without looking at all lifestyle factors, specifically drug use and alcohol.