FCO to educate holidaymakers about local laws to help reduce consular pressure

Britons planning to go on holiday could have their medicine confiscated or even end up in jail if they bring certain medications with them, warns a new campaign by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Even over-the-counter drugs may be restricted in some countries, with Sudafed and Vicks banned in Japan.

Public sector specialist Kindred has been brought in to work with the government department on its annual Travel Aware campaign, after winning the account earlier this year.

It is charged with creating campaigns that contribute to lowering the number of Britons who require consular assistance overseas.

The current focus of the campaign is to encourage people to check the rules on medicines in countries they are planning to visit.

This will contribute to the FCO’s objective of reducing the number of consular cases abroad, according to Sharon Bange, managing partner at Kindred.

Key messages of the new campaign, being conducted over the coming weeks, are that the laws on medicines in other countries might not be what people expect and that they should check these via a dedicated government website.

Travellers are also warned that breaching laws and customs in a foreign country can have serious consequences and that if they find themselves in trouble abroad, the Government cannot provide legal advice or get them out of prison.

Susan Crown, head of consular comms and engagement at the FCO, said: "We want to help people avoid instances where they could get into difficulties and so we're reminding them about the risks of travelling with banned or restricted medication."

She added: "Through our latest campaign, we’re encouraging everyone to visit our travel advice pages and check the medication rules in the destination they are travelling to this summer. Even non-prescription drugs that are widely used in the UK could be restricted in some countries."

Diazepam, Tramadol, codeine and a number of other commonly prescribed medicines are ‘controlled drugs’.

This means that holidaymakers should always check the restrictions over their use, as failing to comply may result in arrest, a fine or imprisonment in many countries, including Greece and the UAE, according to the FCO.

Countries such as Costa Rica and China also require visitors to bring a doctor’s note with any prescription medicines.

The new warnings have been prompted by figures showing a rise in people travelling further afield to destinations such as Sri Lanka and the UAE amid low levels of awareness of the laws in such places.

Currently, just one third (33 per cent) of people get advice on taking prescribed medication abroad before they travel.

In contrast, 75 per cent check the weather at their destination, and more than half (59 per cent) plan their holiday wardrobe.

An embargoed press release issued by Kindred last week generated widespread coverage in mainstream media and was covered by The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, The Independent and BBC online, as well as BBC radio and various major regional newspapers.

The agency is also pitching features to consumer and lifestyle media and it has produced a ‘scrapbook’ film for the FCO’s social media channels and those of its partners, such as the Association of British Travel Agents, to highlight how other countries have different laws and customs.

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