Choose Your Future aims to empower young people to consider their choices by educating them on the dangers of drug use.
It focuses on seven consequences of a drug conviction standing in the way of a young person being able to live a fulfilling life, such as restricting travel to some countries or not being able to make memories with friends, and is part of the Home Office-led initiative Project Adder (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery).
Sussex Police said the campaign, working alongside East Sussex County Council and health services, will also engage with parents and carers and help people recover from addictions.
Schools and colleges are being asked to share campaign material including postcards and posters highlighting the consequences of drug use.
Neighbourhood youth officer Graeme Donaldson said: “We never miss an opportunity in Hastings to have a conversation with a young person around drugs or any other topic.“This can be at school, in a park or at a community centre. We try and encourage young people to have aspirations and try to empower them to make good decisions.
“I don’t believe lecturing young people works - but inspiring them does.”
This activity will initially launch in Hastings, before extending across Sussex in early 2022.
Detective Superintendent Till Sanderson said: “Today marks the launch of the Choose Your Future drug prevention campaign, where our aim is to raise awareness of the personal implications and consequences of drug-related activity among young people in Hastings, as well as signposting to support services they can find further help and advice.
“It’s important to highlight these consequences to young people as this education provides them with an opportunity to know what they may be putting at risk which we hope will empower them to make the right choices.”
Cllr Carl Maynard, East Sussex County Council lead member for adult social care and health, said: “Drug deaths, high rates of drug use, and the anti-social and criminal behaviour it brings to Hastings are not things that can be addressed by one organisation alone.
“Project Adder is giving us the opportunity to build on our partnership working and put in place measures that will address all the issues related to drugs use, providing support for people to recover from drug addiction.”
Project Adder was launched earlier this year to tackle drug-related harm and reduce drug-related deaths in five key areas across the UK.
As one of those five areas, Hastings will benefit from a share of the £148 million investment in the scheme, which will run until March 2023.
Police said in the months since its launch, officers working under Project Adder in Hastings have completed 387 drug seizures, taken 272 weapons off the streets including 127 knives, and seized £29,312 in cash.
There have also been 27 organised crime groups disrupted and in November alone, police shut down four county line networks - one per week in the area.
County lines is the name given to drug dealing where organised crime gangs use phone lines to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas.
Police said they exploit vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction issues, by recruiting them to distribute the drugs.
As a result of the disruption to those four county lines, six people were arrested and charged with drugs offences.
Also in November, three Neighbourhood Enforcement Teams carried out a warrant at an address which was being used for drug dealing in the Broomgrove area of Hastings.
Police said officers arrested five suspects on suspicion of drugs offences and seized around 300 wraps of Class A drugs, approximately £1,000 cash and a knife. They were all released on conditional bail while enquiries continue.
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has urged schools and colleges in East Sussex to support the Choose Your Future drug consequences campaign.
She said: “If we hope to have any meaningful impact on young people, we need to guide and support them to make their own positive choices, rather than telling them what not to do.
“The enforcement element of Project Adder has already seen Sussex Police conduct nearly 400 drugs seizures and take almost 300 weapons off the streets, with major drug gangs successfully disrupted and thousands of pounds seized.
“The criminal justice consequences of drug dealing will be a powerful feature of the Choose Your Future campaign alongside the corrosive health and negative career impact of dealing in or taking drugs.
“I’m hugely encouraged by the co-operation between police, health and local authorities in Hastings to provide positive options for young people, as well as help for those with drug dependencies.”