SINGAPORE: A modern barber shop might not be the most obvious ally for Singapore authorities looking to bring its anti-drug message to the community, but that's what DeepCuts Barber's does.
Founder Faiz Ismail has been involved with the Dadah Itu Haram anti-drug campaign since the start of 2018, distributing collaterals at his shop and participating in a commercial showing that there's life for people walking out of their drug past.
More than that though, DeepCuts Barber's is a "man cave" that is meant to get those who come for a haircut to relax, and maybe even open up and share the struggles they may be facing - drug-related or otherwise.
"We use pastel colours, put on music like jazz, blues ... it's like a classic barber shop lah, but run by a young man with an old soul," the 27-year-old shared at the sidelines of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) Workplan seminar on Friday (May 24).
For those with a history of drug offences, they may be more comfortable - and less defensive - speaking to a peer such as their barber, he explained.
For instance, a regular client that he has been seeing for the past two years would share how it was tough for him to find a job, and how his parents would check that he goes for regular drug tests, Mr Faiz recounted.
"While others might see him in a certain way (as a former drug offender), I see him as a regular guy having a haircut," he said.
It helps that he understands what these drug offenders are going through, as he experienced some of these challenges when he was younger.
Ultimately, this is Mr Faiz's way to give back to the Malay-Muslim community, which make up the bulk of his customer base, particularly the young people.
"I hope to be a positive impact on the youth," he shared. "I started from nothing (to where I am today) ... it's important they have someone to look up to."
"PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE"
CNB is also partnering polytechnic students to bring preventive drug education to more people.
The Seal No to Drugs augmented reality-based app, developed in collaboration with eight final-year students from Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Interactive and Digital Media, lets players experience the physiological effects of drug abuse, such as hallucinations, and the loss of balance and coordination.
"This immersive gameplay experience helps improve youths' perceptiveness and sensing of the drug abuse problem, and it is hoped that this will encourage them to stay away from drugs," CNB said, adding the app will be available on iOS and Android devices by June this year.
The young are a demographic authorities are focused on, given that more of them are getting caught abusing drugs. According to CNB's statistics, of the 1,366 new drug abusers arrested in 2018, about two-thirds (64 per cent) were younger than 30.
"Prevention is better than cure," Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said in his speech at the event on Friday, adding that preventive drug education is the first line of defence against drugs in Singapore.