CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT: CALL FOR PAPERS Lisbon Addictions 2015. The first European Conference on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies will be held in Lisbon on 23-25 September 2015. Organised by SICAD, the journal Addiction, the EMCDDA and ISAJE, it will provide a unique networking opportunity for researchers, practitioners and policy experts across countries and disciplines to discuss latest findings on the prevention, treatment and control of addiction. To stay updated on the latest developments subscribe to the conference newsletter http://eepurl.com/5fZaP
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;
The Guardian reports that MPs have voted in favour of introducing plain packaging for cigarettes in England. Three hundred sixty-seven MPs voted in favour of plain packaging with 113 against it in a free vote. There was no debate before the vote because it is not primary legislation. Powers to introduce plain packaging were included in the Children and Families Act 2014 and only needed approval from parliament before being introduced. The plain packets will be introduced in 2016. Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of ASG, said "The government, and MPs from all parties, are to be congratulated for resisting the bully-boy tactics and misinformation of the tobacco industry and for implementing the most important public health reform of this parliament."
The Indian Express reports that the Delhi government has banned all products containing chewable tobacco, such as gutka, pan masala and flavoured/scented tobacco. Gutka is a preparation containing crushed betel nut, tobacco, catechu, paraffin, slaked lime and sweet or savoury flavourings. Gutka had been banned in Delhi and other Indian states in 2012 under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003, with penalties ranging from a fine of 1,000 rupees to three months imprisonment. Retailers had circumvented the ban by selling the betel and tobacco separately. The existing ban on gutka was enforced by the Delhi Food Department but the latest ban will be driven by the Health Department. The Health Department plans to form citizens’ monitoring committees in each constituency in Delhi to help educate about the ban and harms of chewable tobacco and also inform the Health Department of any violations of the ban.
Bloomberg Business reports that the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) media campaign designed to help smokers quit will continue to use the “Tips From Former Smokers” series. This series features real people who have been damaged by smoking and will feature former e-cigarette users for the first time. One radio and print ad features a 35-year-old named Kristy, "who tried using e-cigarettes to quit smoking cigarettes but ended up using both products instead," according to the CDC. Kristy’s lung collapsed, and she was diagnosed with pulmonary disease before she quit. There is concern that e-cigarette marketing reaches adolescents and could reverse public health efforts to portray smoking as unsophisticated. Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said television ads for e-cigarettes are "introducing the glamor and sex appeal to adolescents today that have never been exposed to cigarette advertising on TV."
The Irish Times reports that the Stop Out-of-Control Drinking campaign, established to develop a strategy to reduce alcohol abuse in Ireland, has been criticised for alcohol industry involvement and receiving its funding from Diageo. Fergus Finlay, chair of the campaign and chief executive of Barnado’s, said Diageo’s funding of about €1 million had allowed the campaign to be started. The campaign is inviting submissions from the public and holding workshops to develop ideas, and is expected to report early in the summer. St Patrick’s Mental Health Services GP and health commentator Dr Ciara Kelly and psychologist Krystian Fikert of the MyMind mental health centre resigned from the board in light of Diageo’s involvement. Diageo Ireland country director David Smith stepped down from the board after the controversy about the campaign’s independence if he remained on it. Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he welcomed Smith’s decision to leave the board: "I don’t think it’s appropriate that the drinks industry should be actively involved in campaigns around public health for the obvious reason." A statement from the campaign said it welcomed Diageo’s decision to continue to fund the campaign.
DrugScope, the UK's leading independent centre of expertise on drugs and drug use, closed on 31 March because of its ‘worsening financial situation’. DrugScope was founded in 2000 as a merger between two longstanding organisations, the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence (ISDD) and the Standing Conference on Drug Abuse (SCODA). ISDD housed the world’s largest library on the non-medical use of drugs, had a wide publications programme providing non-judgmental information based on available evidence, conducted innovative research and published Druglink, a magazine that was essential reading for the UK drug field. SCODA represented drug and alcohol services and provided an important voice to policy development in the UK. DrugScope combined ISDD and SCODA’s work and also campaigned for evidence-based treatment, promoted good practice and challenged discrimination and stigma in the field. Edwin Richards, chair of DrugScope’s board of trustees, said “The focus going forward is on ensuring that the mission is carried on by other means.”
A report from the Drug Policy Alliance shows that cannabis-related arrests have almost stopped following legalization in Colorado. The total number of charges for cannabis possession, distribution and cultivation fell from about 39,000 in 2010 to just over 2,000 in 2014. However after legalization, blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be charged with public use of cannabis as well as more likely to be charged with illegal cultivation or possession of more than an ounce. "Despite the unsurprising racial disparities, these massive drops in arrests have been enormously beneficial to people of color," said Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance.
The News Tribune reports that a bill passing through its legislature would mean the state of Washington would join a growing number of US states prohibiting powdered alcohol. The company Lipsmark LLC won approval from the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to market powdered alcohol. The company plans to make its product, called Palcohol, available in several different flavours during the summer of 2015. Each 29-gram packet of Palcohol will contain up to 16 grams of alcohol. The company’s website says that powdered alcohol would meet the needs of those such as hikers and airlines who can find the bulk and weight of alcoholic drinks a problem. The website also claims that Palcohol could also be used as a nutrient source for livestock, and as an energy source or antiseptic. "This is not a crafted bourbon, or a scotch, or a tequila or something that's special," said Washington legislator Jeff Holy. "Powdered alcohol is simply for the purpose of intoxication, period. You're not crafting the finer liquors." The Victorian government in Australia is also calling on other state governments to join it in banning powdered alcohol.
The possession of ecstasy, magic mushrooms and around 100 other drugs was legal in Ireland for one day in March. The Republic’s court of appeal said part of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, which allows certain substances to be controlled, was unconstitutional. The Guardian reports that the court found that the act was being added to via ministerial order and without consulting the Oireachtas (both houses of the Irish parliament) and deemed this unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the Irish police said that those in possession of drugs would still be arrested. Ireland’s Minister for Health Leo Varadkar introduced new legislation. "We had no way of knowing what the Court would decide," he said. "But we prepared for this possibility. Legislation was prepared and approved in advance by Cabinet. The emergency legislation I am introducing will re-instate the status quo ante and re-control all drugs that were controlled prior to this judgment."
French MPs have made amendments to health-reflecting measures proposed by Health Minister Marisol Touraine in September 2014 and, as of 20 May 2016, all tobacco packaging will be standardised in France. The Riviera Times also reports that there will be action taken against smoking in cars with children, ‘vaping’ bans in some public places and prohibition of the flavouring of electronic cigarettes.
China withdrew its proposal to add ketamine to Schedule I of the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting in March. Substances in Schedule I can be used for medical purposes only under direct governmental supervision, and in very limited situations. Critics of the Chinese proposal said such control was very inappropriate for an essential medicine and lobbied their governments. The CND decided to postpone its decision on scheduling ketamine to a future date to allow more information to be gathered.
Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have set up a $US4 million anti-tobacco trade litigation fund. Michael Bloomberg said, "This new fund is going to help countries who are sued by the tobacco industry fight back in court and win." "This is not about trade," Bloomberg added, ‘No one is a stronger supporter of capitalism and trade than I am. This is about sovereignty and whether a country has the right to set its own public health policies." The fund will be administered by the US-based Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids and the initial investment is expected to attract more donors.
SkyNews reports that Ireland has become the first European Union member state to pass a law introducing mandatory plain packaging for tobacco products. The legislation had cross-party support and passed without a vote. Under the new rules all forms of branding, including logos and colours, will be banned and all products will have a uniform packaging with graphic health warnings. “We are creating legislation which will be historic and will be of real importance to the area of public health,” the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly told parliament. Full implementation of the rules will not be effective until May 2017, when all existing packaging must be removed from sale. Tobacco companies opposed the move and threatened Ireland with legal action. “We in this house will not be intimidated by such action. We will pass such laws as we believe to be correct,” Reilly said.
Casualties of War, a report by the UK-based advocacy group Health Poverty Action (HPA), warns that global drug policies are affecting the development of many low income countries by pressuring governments to enforce prohibitionist drug policies. The report says that these policies prevent low-income farmers from accessing basic services and isolate them from transport links, making it harder for them to switch to growing legal crops. In The Guardian, the report’s author, Catherine Martin, says “Having an international system of prohibition allows richer countries to pressure poorer countries into setting up more restrictive drug laws of their own, including militarising prohibition and drug law enforcement.” The report seeks to be a call to action for the development sector to join HIV/AIDS networks and drug policy organisations and call for policy reform, especially to ensure greater access to harm reduction measures for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
BBC News reports that Washington, D.C. has legalised the possession of small amounts of cannabis, a move agreed by 70% of the voters in a referendum in November 2014. Residents and visitors to the city over the age of 21 can possess up to 56g of cannabis, and may grow up to six plants at home. Alaska has also legalised the private consumption of cannabis, allowing the possession of up to 28g of cannabis and the growing of up to six plants. Legislation to create a Marijuana Control Board to regulate cannabis sales similar to how alcohol is controlled has been introduced in Alaska.
Insight Crime reports that farmers on Mexico’s Pacific Coast are increasing poppy cultivation to meet the increasing demand for heroin in the United States. A kilo of the opium paste used to produce heroin fetches $1,500 in the region, almost double the value in 2012. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokesman Rusty Payne said that the Mexican drug cartels are “interested in the bottom line and when they see the skyrocketing demand for heroin in the US, they're going to adjust accordingly." Payne said the cartels have moved from producing low-grade black tar heroin and trafficking the higher quality Colombian varieties to now producing brown heroin and higher-grade white heroin as well. Payne also observed that Mexico seems to be overtaking Colombia as the main producer of heroin for the US market.
Figures collated by the Smoking Toolkit Study that provides quarterly updates on smoking trends in England show a recent decline in e-cigarette use. The Guardian reports that rates among smokers and ex-smokers rose steadily until the end of 2013, when around 22% of smokers and ex-smokers were using e-cigarettes. But this proportion levelled out throughout 2014 before dropping to 19% during the final quarter of last year. Early signs suggest the decline has continued into 2015. The fall was described as “statistically significant” by Professor Robert West, who collates the figures for the Toolkit. “Numbers who use them [e-cigarettes] while continuing to smoke are going down,” West said. “We’ve only been tracking it [vaping] for just over a year, so it’s a short time period, but we are not seeing growth in the number of long-term ex-smokers or ‘never’ smokers using e-cigarettes. That is not to say it [vaping rates] might not change, but at this stage it looks like it’s staying the same.”
The Telegraph reports that Colorado, USA made $44 million in taxes from the first year of sales of cannabis. This total is less than the $70 million estimated at the start of the new cannabis regime. Fees levied on the cannabis industry and taxes on medical sales of the drug brought the total collected to $76 million. Pat Steadman, a Colorado state senator (Democrat), said, "Everyone who thinks Colorado’s rolling in the dough because of marijuana? That’s not true." Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University economist, said, “Being able to claim some non-trivial tax revenue is important to the legalisation movement,"
Smoking in cars with children will be banned in England from October 2015 after a final vote of MPs in parliament, with 342 MPs voting in favour compared with just 74 against. Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said, "The passing of regulations to make smoking in cars carrying under 18s illegal is a significant victory for protecting children's health from second-hand smoke.”
A judge awarded a combined $100 million to the plaintiffs in over 400 lawsuits filed in Florida by smokers or their families, seeking damages for injuries caused by smoking. The Express Tribune reports that the settled cases are part of the Engle cases, a Florida class-action lawsuit filed against the cigarette companies in 1994. “We are very pleased that after many years of litigation, the parties were able to reach agreement. This settlement will provide immediate compensation to our clients, many of whom are very elderly,” said attorney Robert Nelson, who helped negotiate the deal.
Time reports that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) published a critical report on e-cigarettes in January. Dr. Ron Chapman, the then head of CDPH, said in a statement about his report, “There is a lot of misinformation about e-cigarettes. That is why, as the state’s health officer, I am advising Californians to avoid the use of e-cigarettes and keep them away from children of all ages.” The California state legislature is considering a ban on e-cigarettes in public places, as well as new measures against selling them to minors.
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