Updated:The Press has won its campaign to ban the danger drug mephedrone.

The announcement by Home Secretary Alan Johnson to outlaw the so-called “legal high” was made only hours after The Press handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street to get the drug banned.

Mephedrone, also known as m-cat and meow meow, will become a class B drug in the next few weeks, meaning the maximum sentence for possession will be five years, while supplying it could lead to a 14-year jail sentence. This should force the closure of the numerous websites which offer the drug for sale under the pretext of selling it as a plant fertiliser.

Importing the drug to Britain has been outlawed with immediate effect.

The handover of our 700-name dossier was backed by Selby MP John Grogan and Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill.

The Press’s role in highlighting the potentially devastating effects of the drug was praised by Mr Grogan, who said: “The Press was one of the first media outlets to report the dangers of this drug, and it’s fitting that the petition was handed over on the very same day the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) called for the substance to be banned.

“The Press has led the way in their reporting of this drug and spotting the danger of the substance and its prevalence.

“I am pleased that the efforts of The Press, the hundreds of people who signed their petition and many others has prompted resolution.”

Mr Goodwill said: “It is fantastic news that Government advisors have finally taken action, although I do not know why so many deaths had to happen before something was done. I hope if something similar occurs in the future more immediate action will be taken.”

The move to criminalise the substance, which has been linked to a number of deaths, including that of Lois Waters, 24, from Norton, was welcomed by Coun Carol Runciman, executive member for children and young people’s services at City of York Council.

She said: “I’m pleased the Government has acted quickly to ban mephedrone and that The Press’s campaign has been effective.

“However, I know it’s likely mephedrone will still be available, and I would warn young people that it’s a dangerous drug and their friends and family to be on the alert for any signs they are taking the drug, such as paranoia and anxiety.”

Paul Johnson, North Yorkshire Police’s drugs co-ordinator, also welcomed the imminent ban, saying: “Obviously the ACMD has deliberated and decided it needs to be midway within the class of severity.

“It (the imminent ban) gives us powers of arrest to deal with the dealers and appropriately respond to possession and use. Hopefully, it will end the belief that because something is legal it’s harmless. We don’t want to wait to find out about the damaged lives.

“The only safe drug is the drug you don’t take.”

Speaking at the Home Office after talks with Professor Les Iversen, the chairman of the ACMD, the Home Secretary said he had accepted the group’s advice. The ban will cover not just mephedrone, but all similar substances in a group called cathinones, Mr Johnson said. It is likely to come into force by the end of April.

He said: “The Government is determined to crack down on these so-called legal highs, and we must all play a part in ensuring children and young people know about their dangers.”

At the forefront of efforts to ban this wrecker of young lives

THE crusade to outlaw the danger drug mephedrone was spearheaded by The Press. We launched our campaign, The Menace Of Mephedrone, in January following the collapse of a 17-year-old student who had taken the drug at Woldgate College in Pocklington.

Since then, hundreds of people have backed our campaign, including the families of Scunthorpe teenagers Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, and 24-year-old Lois Waters, of Norton, all of whom died after taking it.

Our campaign has also won backing from politicians of all parties, teachers, health workers, police and drugs workers.

Serious questions were raised about whether ministers would have time before the election to pass a ban after the departure of Dr Polly Taylor, the drug advisory council’s veterinary expert.

She quit yesterday morning, criticising ministers’ failure to properly consider scientific evidence before taking decisions.