SINGAPORE - Troubled teenagers have become targets for drug traffickers who would get them hooked on drugs before turning them into "runners" to peddle illegal substances to other teens, said lawyers.
Lawyers told The Straits Times they have seen more of such cases in recent years.
Some traffickers would even offer drugs free to these teenagers just to get them addicted. They would approach young people at places like pubs and game arcades in places including Geylang, Bugis and Tanjong Pagar.
To tackle the problem, new laws were introduced in May to specifically target those who recruit young or vulnerable persons to commit drug offences.
Offenders who get young people under the age of 21 to traffic Class A drugs - which include heroin and methamphetamine or "Ice" - could be punished with a minimum jail term of 10 years and 10 strokes of the cane.
The new laws were passed even though there has been a dip in the number of youth drug abusers arrested.
Last year, 190 drug abusers under the age of 20 were arrested, down from 260 in 2011. But the number is still higher than the 163 caught in 2010.
Explaining the need to beef up the laws, a Central Narcotics Bureau spokesman said: "Impressionable young or vulnerable persons may be exploited by drug traffickers into getting involved in drug activities in the belief that such young or vulnerable abusers or traffickers can either get away with the offence or would likely face reduced penalties if convicted."