Published since 1884 by the Society for the Study of Addiction.
Editor-in-Chief, Robert West

We welcome suggestions and contributions from our readers. Send your material to John Witton, News and Notes Editor, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF. Fax +44 (0)20 7848 5966;
e-mail john.witton@kcl.ac.uk

WTO Rules in Favour of Australia's Plain Packaging Law

Posted 04-Jul-18

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled on 28 June that Australia’s Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 contributed to improving public health by reducing the use of and exposure to tobacco products. The WTO panel rejected the arguments from the claimants, Cuba, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic, that alternative measures could be equally effective. The ruling also rejected arguments from the claimants that Australia’s law unjustifiably infringed tobacco trademarks and violated intellectual property rights. The WTO ruling is expected to be appealed and a ruling would normally be expected within 90 days. But Bloomberg News observes that the WTO has not met any 90-day deadline since 2014 and suggests that the complexity of the case and a shortage of panelists in the WTO appellate-body system means the deadline is likely to be extended.

Sources:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-28/wto-tobacco-ruling-opens-door-to-new-plain-packaging-laws

https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news18_e/435_441_458_467r_e.htm

New World Drug Report Highlights Rises in Opium and Cocaine Cultivation

Posted 04-Jul-18

Writing in the preface of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s World Drug Report 2018, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov says “We are facing a potential supply-driven expansion of drug markets, with production of opium and manufacture of cocaine at the highest levels ever recorded.” The UNODC report also shows that the largest quantities of pharmaceutical opioids were seized in African countries, with a number of these countries reporting widespread misuse of the opioid painkiller tramadol. Yury Fedotov also comments that “Drug treatment and health services continue to fall short: the number of people suffering from drug use disorders who are receiving treatment has remained low, just one in six.”

Source:

https://www.unodc.org/wdr2018/index.html

WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products Comes into Force

Posted 04-Jul-18

The Secretariat of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) has announced that, with the ratification of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the necessary number of Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (the Protocol) has been reached for the legally binding instrument to enter into force. According to the WHO FCTC, “the Protocol contains a full range of measures to combat illicit trade distributed in three categories: preventing illicit trade, promoting law enforcement and providing the legal basis for international cooperation.”

Source:

http://www.who.int/fctc/mediacentre/press-release/protocol-entering-into-force/en/

Tougher Cannabis Penalties Planned for South Australia

Posted 04-Jul-18

ABC News reports that South Australia’s attorney general (AG), Vickie Chapman, has announced plans for an increase in penalties for cannabis possession in the state. South Australia (SA) partly decriminalized cannabis possession with its “prohibition with civil penalties” scheme in 1987 and since then the most common penalty for possessing less than 25 grams of cannabis has been an A$125 fine, according to ABC News. Under the SA government’s new plans, the maximum fine for cannabis possession would be increased to A$2,000 and a new maximum prison sentence of two years would be introduced, the same as for possession of other drugs such as ecstasy or heroin. According to AG Chapman, the move had been prompted by a murder in the state in 2012 by a teenager who had used alcohol, ecstasy and cannabis. AG Chapman said the crime had made “everyone to sit up and reappraise the significance of cannabis and the dangers of using the drug.” Increasing cannabis penalties had been part of the ruling Liberal Party’s election manifesto, which said that the move would meet “community expectations and recommendations of the South Australian Coroner who regularly sees the deleterious effects of cannabis use in cases coming before the court.”

Sources:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-02/sa-government-to-quadruple-cannabis-fines/9930344

https://strongplan.com.au/policy/keeping-penalties-in-line-with-community-expectations/

More Executions for Drug Offences in China

Posted 04-Jul-18

According to Amnesty International’s Death Sentences and Executions 2017 report, the organization believes that in 2017 “China was the world’s top executioner, implementing more death sentences than the rest of the world combined.” While the use of the death penalty is classified as a state secret in China, Amnesty International monitors the use of the death penalty and judicial verdicts uploaded on the online database maintained by the Supreme People’s Court. China Daily reported that ten people were executed for non-violent drug offences on 23 June in the city of Lufeng in Guangdong province. The executions were swiftly carried out following a hearing open to the public where the offenders appealed against their earlier convictions and death sentences. The Supreme People’s Court approved the executions and, according to China Daily, said that one of the executed men, Fan Shuixian, “earned 1.1 million yuan (US$172,000) from selling the ephedrine he extracted, and later mixed 16.4 kilograms of methamphetamine, commonly known as ice, with his ephedrine.”

Sources:

https://www.amnesty.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/amnesty-report-death-penalty-2018.pdf

http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201806/25/WS5b304928a3103349141de81e.html

FDA Approves Cannabis-based Medicine

Posted 04-Jul-18

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved GW Pharmaceuticals Plc’s Epidiolex for the treatment of two rare forms of childhood epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Epidiolex is the first cannabis plant-derived medicine to be approved in the US and is expected to be launched in the US in autumn 2018. According to The Guardian, Epidiolex should be available for prescription in Britain and the rest of Europe by mid-2019 if the European Medicines Agency approves it early next year.

Sources:

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm611046.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jun/25/uk-epilepsy-drug-set-to-be-first-cannabis-based-medicine-on-us-market

Tokyo Prepares for 2020 Olympic Games with New Anti-Smoking Law

Posted 04-Jul-18

Reuters reports that a new city law passed by the city of Tokyo on 27 June bans smoking in any bar or restaurant with hired employees. According to Reuters, the new Tokyo city law is more stringent than the legislation to tackle second-hand smoke currently passing through Japan’s national parliament. The Tokyo law will take effect several months before the Olympics open.

Source:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-smokingban-tokyo/tokyo-passes-tough-anti-smoking-law-ahead-of-2020-olympics-idUSKBN1JN1LP

San Francisco Bans E-cigarette Flavourings

Posted 04-Jul-18

San Francisco voters approved a ban on flavoured liquids used in e-cigarettes in a ballot in June. San Francisco is the first US city to ban the liquids and the city was unwilling to wait for the Food and Drug Administration to take federal action, according to The Washington Examiner. Supporters of the ban claim that flavoured e-liquids can lead young people to take up e-cigarette use with the latest US National Youth Tobacco Survey finding that e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high-school students, with 2.1 million of them using e-cigarettes in the last year. A similar ban is under consideration in the New York state legislature.

Sources:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/healthcare/san-francisco-first-city-to-ban-e-cigarette-flavors

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0607-youth-tobacco-use.html

San Francisco Voters Support Flavoured Tobacco Products Ban

Posted 15-Jun-18

CNN News reports that San Francisco voters approved Proposition E that bans the sale of flavoured tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavoured vaping liquids, on 5 June.  A ban on flavoured tobacco products was passed by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in June 2016, but opponents of the measure gathered enough signatures to qualify a ballot referendum on the issue. According to CNN News, filings with the San Francisco Ethics commission recorded that the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds contributed US$12 million to the campaign against the measure, while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed more than US$3 million in support of it. The American Lung Association was among the organisations supporting a ban and stated "San Francisco's youth are routinely bombarded with advertising for flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes every time they walk into a neighborhood convenience store. It's clear that these products with candy themes and colorful packaging are geared towards teens."

Source:

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/06/health/san-francisco-flavored-cigarettes-proposition-e/index.html

NIH Halts Alcohol Industry Funded Study

Posted 18-Jun-18

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on 15 June that it plans to end funding for a study of moderate alcohol consumption and cardiovascular health following concerns first raised by The New York Times and Wired, and also voiced by a number of academics and politicians, over the alcoholic beverage industry’s role in the study. The decision followed an investigation by the NIH’s Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) of how the funding for the study was raised, whether NIH employees sought those funds in ways that violated NIH policies and whether the study was still worth pursuing.  According to the NIH, the decision to end its funding was based “on concerns about the study design that cast doubt on its ultimate credibility.  This includes whether the study would effectively address other significant consequences of moderate alcohol intake, such as cancer.” The ACD also noted that there were “significant process irregularities” in the funding process for the study which “undermined the integrity of the research process.” A further report from the NIH Office of Management Assessment concluded that a small number of National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism employees had violated NIH policies in soliciting gift funding and “circumvented standard operating procedures” when obtaining funds for the study.

Source:

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-end-funding-moderate-alcohol-cardiovascular-health-trial

Opioid Prescriptions Falling in US

Posted 15-Jun-18

A progress report from the American Medical Association Opioid Task Force records that the number of opioid prescriptions in the US fell by 22 percent from 2013 to 2017. The report “urges physicians to continue to make judicious prescribing decisions to ensure comprehensive, compassionate pain care and to talk with their patients about safe storage and disposal of all unused and unwanted medications.”   The report also says that physicians have increased access to naloxone and that prescriptions for naloxone more than doubled in 2017.

Source:

https://www.end-opioid-epidemic.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/AMA-2018-Opioid-Report-FINAL.pdf

Women Feel Empowered by Alcohol Ban in Indian State

Posted 15-Jun-18

Alcohol prohibition was introduced in Bihar, India’s third most populous state, on 1 April 2016. Introducing the ban, Bihar's Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, said the ban was a response to action by women's groups in the state. “Women in the state started an anti‐liquor campaign,” said Kumar when he announced the ban, and added, “Increasing liquor consumption was a major cause for domestic violence, particularly against women, and had contributed to a rise in crimes.” The Indian Express reports that women in the state say that the ban has led to a decline in the incidence of domestic violence, and has improved family finances.  The Indian Express observes that prohibition was among a series of political actions undertaken to increase the Chief Minister’s support by women.

Sources:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/12018930/Alcohol-ban-third-largest-Indian-state-of-Bihar-to-begin-next-year.html

http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/prohibition-in-bihar-why-nitish-kumar-says-no-to-liquor-5197752/

Global Progress on Tobacco Reduction Uneven

Posted 15-Jun-18

Writing in the foreword of the second edition of the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Global Report on Trends in the Prevalence of Tobacco Smoking, Svetlana Axelrod, Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, says that at the global level countries are on track to achieve a 22 percent reduction in tobacco use by 2025. However, this reduction is less than the global reduction target of 30 percent agreed under the Noncommunicable Diseases Global Action Plan 2013-2020.  The Americas is the only region set to meet the 30 percent reduction target although the US is not on track to meet the target due to litigation on plain packaging and lags in taxation, according Vinayak Prasad of the WHO’s tobacco control unit and reported by Reuters. Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO’s Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases Department, said that industrialized countries were making faster progress on tobacco reduction than developing countries.  “One of the major factors impeding low- and middle-income countries certainly is countries face resistance by a tobacco industry who wishes to replace clients who die by freely marketing their products and keeping prices affordable for young people,” Bettcher said in a press briefing.

Sources:

http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272694/9789241514170-eng.pdf?ua=1

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-smoking/smoking-down-but-tobacco-use-still-a-major-cause-of-death-disease-who-idUSKCN1IV2W2

Coca-Cola Launches Its First Alcoholic Drink in Japan

Posted 15-Jun-18

International Business Times reports that Coca-Cola has launched three lemon flavoured alcopops in Japan. The drinks are modelled on Japan’s Chu-Hi drinks. Jorge Garduño, Coca-Cola's Japan president, said “We haven’t experimented in the low alcohol category before, but it’s an example of how we continue to explore opportunities outside our core areas.” Chu-Hi, an abbreviation for shochu highball, has been marketed as an alternative to beer in Japan, and has been particularly popular with female drinkers. Chu-Hi is usually a mix of local shochu alcohol, usually distilled from rice, barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, or brown sugar, and a range of fruit flavours. The Coca-Cola products range from 3 percent to 8 percent alcohol.

Source:

http://www.ibtimes.com/coca-cola-launching-chu-hi-its-first-alcoholic-drink-130-years-japan-2660526

EMCDAA Briefing on Cannabis and Driving

Posted 15-Jun-18

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has published a policy briefing, Cannabis and Driving: Questions and Answers for Policymaking. The briefing provides an overview of current knowledge and the latest developments and is based on the evidence presented at the Third International Symposium on Drug-impaired Driving, which took place on 23 October 2017 in Lisbon.

Source:

http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/joint-publications/cannabis-and-driving

FDA Acts on Juul E-cigarettes

Posted 15-Jun-18

According the The Economist Juul e-cigarettes make up 60 percent of e-cigarette sales in the US and have become a youth fashion. A Juul e-cigarette is a device that looks like a flash drive, is small enough to hide in one hand and comes in a variety of flavours, including ‘Classic Tobacco’ and ‘Crème Brûlée’. In April the Federal Drug Agency (FDA) said that it had issued warning letters to 40 retailers that it says violated the law preventing sales of vaping devices to anyone under 21. The FDA also demanded that Juul Labs submit company documents about the marketing and research, particularly concerning youth appeal, behind its products. The agency’s commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said “We don’t yet fully understand why these products are so popular among youth,” adding “but it’s imperative that we figure it out, and fast. These documents may help us get there.”   

Sources:

https://www.economist.com/united-states/2018/05/26/juuling-is-popular-perhaps-too-much-so?utm_content=social-ygkx8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=SocialMedia&utm_campaign=SocialPilot

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/24/health/fda-e-cigarettes-minors-juul.html

Heavy Death Toll in Bangladesh's War on Drugs

Posted 15-Jun-18

In May 2018  the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, declared a “War on Drugs” in response to the growth of methamphetamine use in the country. By the end of the month 13,000 people had been arrested and more than 130 people had been killed, according to local media reports and nongovernmental organizations. Government claims that those killed had died in gunfights with security forces have been countered by allegations from the families of victims who say these were extrajudicial killings. Human Rights Watch has called on the Bangladesh government to order an independent investigation into the deaths.  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said on 6 June, “I am gravely concerned that such a large number of people have been killed, and that the Government reaction has been to assure the public that none of these individuals were ‘innocent’ but that mistakes can occur in an anti-narcotics drive,” adding “Such statements are dangerous and indicative of a total disregard for the rule of law. Every person has the right to life. People do not lose their human rights because they use or sell drugs. The presumption of innocence and the right to due process must be at the forefront of any efforts to tackle crimes.”

Source :

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/06/06/bangladesh-suspend-deadly-war-drugs

Record Opium Harvest in Afghanistan

Posted 15-Jun-18

The latest United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s  Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017 found that  opium cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record high in 2017, with an estimated 328,000 hectares of opium cultivation, compared with 201,000 hectares in 2016. The report also observes that the harvest led to a rapid increase in the illegal economy in the country and estimates that the opiate economy was worth between US$4.1 to 6.6 billion in 2017, or 20 to 32 percent of GDP, exceeding by far the value of Afghanistan's licit exports of goods and services in 2016.

Source:

https://www.unodc.org/documents/crop-monitoring/Afghanistan/Opium-survey-peace-security-web.pdf

Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing Introduced in Scotland

Posted 04-May-18

Alcoholic products will now cost a minimum of 50p per unit in Scotland after legislation, passed in 2012 but then faced with a number of legal challenges, came into effect on 1 May.  High-strength white cider and cheap own-brand vodka and whisky are expected to have the largest rise in prices.  The Holyrood reports that the Scottish Government’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “It’s no secret that Scotland has a troubled relationship with alcohol. There are, on average, 22 alcohol-specific deaths every week in Scotland, and 697 hospital admissions and behind every one of these statistics is a person, a family, and a community badly affected by alcohol misuse. Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum unit pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.” The legislation will expire after the sixth year of implementation unless the Scottish Parliament votes for it to continue. A review clause in the legislation requires Scottish Ministers to present a report to the Scottish Parliament on the impact of minimum unit pricing after five years of operation. 

Sources:

https://www.holyrood.com/articles/news/alcohol-minimum-unit-pricing-comes-effect-scotland

http://www.healthscotland.scot/health-topics/alcohol/evaluation-of-minimum-unit-pricing/mup-evaluation-overview?platform=hootsuite

FDA Advisory Committee Supports Cannabis-based Medicine

Posted 04-May-18

CNN reports that in April a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel recommended FDA approval of a cannabis-derived prescription medicine, Epidiolex.  Epidiolex is a childhood epilepsy drug developed by GW Pharmaceuticals and contains cannabidiol (CBD). It is used to treat severe seizures in patients aged 2 years and older caused by rare forms of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome (DS) and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.  The panel wrote that “The risk-benefit profile established by the data in the application appears to support approval of cannabidiol.” If approved by the FDA, Epidiolex would be the first medicine derived from the cannabis plant to be approved by the FDA.

Source:

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/19/health/fda-committee-marijuana-drug-epilepsy-bn/index.html

The Hague Bans Public Smoking of Cannabis

Posted 04-May-18

The Guardian reports that The Hague has become the first Dutch city to ban the smoking of cannabis around its city centre, central railway station and major shopping areas. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said the “many complaints” from residents and visitors about the strong smell of cannabis, and the noise from its users, had prompted the ban.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/16/the-hague-bans-marijuana-smoking-in-city-centre

https://www.citylab.com/life/2018/04/the-hague-bans-public-cannabis-consumption/558335/

INCB Calls for More Treatment and Prevention

Posted 04-May-18

The  2017 annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), released in March,  seeks to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The INCB draws attention to the “protection of the rights of people impacted by drug use disorders and emphasize[s] the importance of non-discriminatory access to treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration services” and urges governments to provide more treatment for people with drug use disorders. “As parties to the international drug control treaties, Governments are required to provide treatment services to people affected by addiction,” the report states. Insight Crime observes that the INCB report is an indication of a move away from its advocacy of traditional counternarcotics policies. The INCB argues that spending on drug dependence treatment “is much less expensive than criminal justice interventions” and can generate savings on healthcare costs and the justice system. The report also looks at both the therapeutic use of cannabinoids and the opioid epidemic and castigates countries that have introduced cannabis legalization. The report also calls for Afghanistan, with help from the international community, to make more effort in addressing the illicit drug economy in the country.

Sources:

https://www.incb.org/documents/Publications/AnnualReports/AR2017/LAUNCH/Pressrelease_2017.pdf

https://www.incb.org/documents/Publications/AnnualReports/AR2017/Annual_Report/E_2017_AR_ebook.pdf

https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/un-drug-control-board-emphasizes-prevention-treatment-in-new-report/

Report on Cannabis Legalization in Uruguay

Posted 04-May-18

A report from the Brookings Institution and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) think tank, Uruguay’s Cannabis Law: Pioneering a New Paradigm, describes the progress of Uruguay’s cannabis legalization. The report observes that Uruguay has established a “robust regulatory and administrative program.” To improve Uruguay’s legalization programme the report suggests that the country should improve access to financial institutions for cannabis-related businesses and widen the points of cannabis sales beyond the current pharmacy distribution network.

Source:

https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/gs_032118_uruguaye28099s-cannabis-law_final.pdf

New Tobacco Atlas

Posted 04-May-18

The Sixth edition of The Tobacco Atlas, co-authored by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and Vital Strategies, provides details of the scale of the global tobacco epidemic and outlines successes in tobacco control policies. The report estimates that tobacco use caused over 7.1 million deaths worldwide in 2016, while the combined profits of the world's biggest tobacco companies exceeded US $62.27 billion in 2015.  The sixth edition of the atlas has new chapters on regulating novel products such as e-cigarettes, partnerships, tobacco industry tactics and countering these tactics.

Source:

https://tobaccoatlas.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/TobaccoAtlas_6thEdition_LoRes_Rev0318.pdf

Global Fund Suspends Partnership with Heineken

Posted 04-May-18

In January 2018 the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Heineken announced their agreement to enter into a partnership to tackle infectious diseases in Africa. According to a press release Heineken would “lend its expertise…to support the Global Fund in better reaching specific demographic groups that are most at risk of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.” The announcement prompted worldwide protest.  The NCD Alliance, which describes itself as a worldwide network of over 2000 organizations from more than 170 countries working together to combat non-communicable diseases, together with IOGT International and the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, wrote an open letter “to respectfully urge [them] to immediately end this partnership.” NCD and other critics of the partnership pointed out that alcohol is a major risk factor for tuberculosis and HIV and that entering into a partnership with the alcohol industry presented a  conflict of interest.  Representatives of Global Fund donor governments Norway and Sweden also voiced their opposition to the plans. On 29 March the Global Fund suspended its partnership with Heineken. The suspension was based on reports of Heineken’s use of female beer promoters in Southeast Asia and, more recently West Africa, in ways that exposed them to “sexual exploitation and health risks.”

Sources:

https://ncdalliance.org/sites/default/files/201802_Global%20Fund%20Heineken%20Joint%20letter_signed_web.pdf

https://ncdalliance.org/news-events/news/meeting-is-first-step-towards-ending-global-fund%E2%80%99s-ill-advised-heineken-partnership-though-concerns-remain

https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/news/2018-03-29-global-fund-suspends-partnership-with-heineken

Academic Freedom under Threat in Brazil

Posted 13-Apr-18

One of the early researchers into the potential medical benefits of cannabis, Elisaldo Luiz de Araujo Carlini, emeritus professor of pharmacology at the Federal University of São Paulo and director of the Brazilian Centre for Information on Psychotropic Drugs, came under investigation by Brazilian authorities for an alleged “drug apology” in February. According to Nature, Brazilian authorities questioned Professor Carlini in relation to a cannabis symposium he had organised in 2017 and his invitation to Geraldo Antonio Baptista, the founder of Brazil’s first Rastafarian church and a convicted drug trafficker, to speak at the conference.  Baptista was imprisoned in 2013 and sentenced to 14 years in prison for a drug trafficking offence, but Professor Carlini said that he had requested that Baptista be given temporary leave from prison to attend the symposium.  The Times Higher Education Supplement reports that State Prosecutor Rosemary Azevedo da Silva, who requested opening the case against Professor Carlini, said that the researcher’s invitation to Baptista suggested “indignation” and provided “strong evidence of apology to crime.” While Professor Carlini has not been charged with any offence, the investigation prompted   more than 50 Brazilian scientific societies to sign a petition in support of Professor Carlini. Critics of the investigation say that it threatens academic freedom at a time when funding for scientific research in Brazil has been severely cut. The BBC reports that Professor Carlini said, “I have always been against the condemnation of cannabis as a dangerous drug. It has increasingly been acknowledged as a good medicine and its positive effects have widely been described by the scientific community, specially in multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.  I feel like I have to talk about what I believe, and I have never spoken a single word in support or against cannabis recreational use [so] what was my crime? I can go to jail because of that.” 

Sources:

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02842-0

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/top-brazilian-researcher-faces-marijuana-apologist-claims

http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-43176883?ocid=socialflow_facebook

Austrian MPs Cancel Planned Smoking Ban

Posted 13-Apr-18

MPs in Austria voted in March to cancel a planned smoking ban in bars and restaurants. A blanket ban of separately ventilated smoking sections in bars and restaurants was agreed by the previous government and due to come into force on 1 May. More than 540,000 Austrians signed a petition supporting the ban. Opposition MPs criticized the parliamentary vote. According to The Telegraph Pamela Rendi-Wagner, a former health minister from the centre-Left Social Democrats (SPÖ), said that the government was “betraying the health of our children,” adding “no country has taken a backwards step on protecting non-smokers until today. It shows an ignorance that is second to none.”  The MPs also voted to raise the minimum age for buying cigarettes from 16 to 18 and introduced fines of up to €1,000 (US$1,241; £870) for smoking in a car if anyone under the age of 19 is present.

Sources:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/22/austrian-mps-vote-drop-smoking-ban/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/austria-smoking-ban-mps-restaurants-bars-tobacco-lung-cancer-a8269516.html

Parliament of Victoria Publishes Drug Law Inquiry Report

Posted 13-Apr-18

The Parliament of Victoria in Australia has published an extensive 680-page report into the state’s drug laws and their effectiveness.   The Parliament’s Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee was also asked to investigate best practice in this area from around the world, which led to visits to Europe and South and North America by committee members. The Chairman, Geoff Howard, writes in his foreword that the report “comprehensively explored the key areas of prevention, law enforcement, treatment and harm reduction, and acknowledges the need for a more effective drug response framework, one that prioritises health and community safety.” Drawing on 230 submissions and supported by over 2000 references, the report makes 50 recommendations for reform to Victoria’s drug laws and policies to move the state away from its current criminal law focus on illicit drug use.

Sources:

https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/images/stories/committees/lrrcsc/Drugs_/Report/LRRCSC_58-03_Full_Report_Text.pdf

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/inquiry-into-drug-laws-in-victoria-recommends-exploring-legal-cannabis/news-story/eb33e1d64b2ccc1c656e254d37fa73c2

NIAAA and Alcohol Industry Funding of Research

Posted 13-Apr-18

Using emails and travel vouchers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, as well as interviews with former US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) staff, a New York Times article traces how senior staff at NIAAA conducted a campaign to obtain funding from the US alcoholic beverage industry for a US$100 million study of the health effects of moderate alcohol consumption which is now underway.  The New York Times observes that this fund-raising for research may have violated US National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy which “prohibits employees, either directly or through another party, from requesting or suggesting donations to the NIH or to any of its components, of funds or other resources intended to support activities.” According to The New York Times the alcohol industry donations to the research project are being channelled through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), a nongovernmental body that raises funding for NIH research and manages the partnerships between NIH researchers and private donors. The alcohol industry donors were expected to be kept at “arm’s length” through this mechanism and not to play any role in the research or to communicate with the scientists, said Julie Wolf-Rodda, Director of Development for FNIH. However, the NIH Director, Francis Collins, said that “there may have been some inappropriate discussions that went on between people working at NIH unbeknown to me and the beverage industry” before the NIH signed a memorandum of understanding with the FNIH. The Washington Post reports that Collins has set up an inquiry by a group of advisers to determine whether “any improprieties were committed” when the study was being set up.

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/health/nih-alcohol-study-liquor-industry.html

https://policymanual.nih.gov/1135

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/nih-will-examine-ethics-of-its-study-on-the-health-effects-of-a-daily-glass-of-wine/2018/03/20/db8f2806-2c78-11e8-b0b0-f706877db618_story.html?utm_term=.ebe37a59a8df

Australian Parliamentary Report on E-cigarettes Published

Posted 13-Apr-18

The Australian Parliament’s House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport published a report on e-cigarettes in March. The committee examined whether e-cigarettes could assist in reducing the number of smokers in Australia, the health effects of e-cigarettes, legislative and regulatory responses to e-cigarettes and the appropriate regulatory framework for e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers in Australia. While the report concludes that there is not a sufficient justification for Australia to legalise nicotine E-cigarettes, the chairman of the inquiry, together with two of the seven other members of the committee, dissented from the report’s conclusion. Writing in his foreword, the Committee’s chairman, Trent Zimmerman, said “If long term smokers who have been unable to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes switch to E-cigarettes, thousands of lives could be saved.”  But the Deputy Chair of the committee, Steve Georganas, when presenting the majority committee report to parliament, said "Until science experts say there is no impact on health we should be very cautious in this area."  The committee recommended that the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council fund an independent and comprehensive review of the health effects of e-cigarettes, which should be updated every two years.

Sources:

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/reportrep/024115/toc_pdf/ReportontheInquiryintotheUseandMarketingofElectronicCigarettesandPersonalVaporisersinAustralia.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/mps-split-on-health-of-ecigarettes/news-story/e5c5bd9457825736d30c61305c130a75