Key Points:

A party pill advocacy group has put together a regulatory code as an alternative to banning party pills.

The Social Tonics Association of New Zealand (Stanz) has handed the code to Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton, calling for regulations about the purity of pills, the amount of benzylpiperazine (BZP) they contain and sales and advertising.

The code was put together after a December report from the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, which said the pills should be put under the same C classification as cannabis.

Stanz chairman Matt Bowden said the conditions his organisation was suggesting as a way of regulating party pills included:

* Tablets must contain no more than 200mg of BZP and a package no more than 600mg.

* BZP raw material must be 99 per cent pure.

* Sales would be limited to premises where entry is restricted to people aged 18 and over and to licensed premises other than convenience stores and supermarkets.

* Sales of BZP products would be banned within 250m of a school, recreational centre or playground.

* Restricting advertising to places where restricted substances are sold and where entry is available only to persons 18 and over, provided such advertising is not be visible from the street.

* Compulsory health warnings on packaging highlighting the importance of drinking plenty of water when taking pills, not mixing them with alcohol and not exceeding the maximum recommended dose.

Mr Bowden said the Government should at least try this approach before banning BZP and related substances. Protecting the public was the issue.

"Prohibition has never worked, not in any country and not at any time, and will not work in New Zealand either. It will simply deliver the market to the gangs, and to hard drugs like P," he said.

"BZP was designed as a stimulant which - unlike P - is not addictive and does not provoke violent or criminal behaviour. A lot of the commentary from opponents has failed to grasp this essential fact: BZP is the safe alternative to P."

Mr Bowden said more than 24 million party pills had been sold in New Zealand since 2000. Many were bought by repeat buyers and the vast majority had a positive experience from them.

He said the expert advisory committee had said in its report that there were no guarantees that banning BZP would reduce use and there was a chance it might exacerbate the problems.

"Party pills are already safer than most of the alternatives, including alcohol. Tighter regulation of the sort that Stanz is proposing will make them safer still."

Mr Bowden said Stanz had also prepared a code of good manufacturing practice, a document based on the code of practice for medicinal products which incorporated matters such as quality control, testing and analysis of all batches, and training.

- NZPA