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The Guardian reports that the newly appointed Chief Executive of the UK Civil Service, Mr John Manzoni, has close financial links with one of Britain's major drink companies. When initially asked about Manzoni's £100,000-a-year job at SABMiller, the UK Cabinet Office released a statement saying that the government was satisfied it was not a conflict of interest and that he would establish a blind trust for his shares. However, an open letter was sent to the Cabinet Secreatry by leading medical professionals and charities protesting that the appointment was incompatible with UK public health goals. One of the organisers of the letter, Katherine Brown, direction of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said she found the situation an example of the revolving door between business and the government. "In this instance they haven't even bothered with a smokescreen," she said. "Having the chief executive of the UK civil service receive private funds fron an industry whose impact and activites are so highly contested is seriously problematic. This presents a major risk of conflict of interest and exposes public policy to interference by big business financial goals." Subsequent to the outcry, it was announced that Mr Manzoni would waive his £100,000 part-time salary but some regard this as little more than a sop and the question remains as to whether someone so close to an industry whose practices are inimical to public health policies is appropriate for a senior role in government.
The sixth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was held in Moscow in October. Among the decisions approved by the Parties was the Article 6 guidelines devoted to tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco; measures aimed at restricting tobacco industry interference, including a request to the Convention Secretariat to continue providing technical support to the Parties and to engage with international organizations on the matters of tobacco companies’ influence; a decision on electronic nicotine (and non-nicotine) delivery systems (ENDS) which acknowledges the need for regulations along the lines of policies concerning other tobacco products, including banning or restricting promotion, advertising and sponsorship of ENDS. The session also adopted the Moscow Declaration. Noting that the heaviest burden of tobacco related diseases is borne by the most vulnerable population groups, the Declaration calls on the parties to strengthen international collaboration on tobacco control and attain a voluntary global target of 30% prevalence reduction by 2025.
The Huffington Post reports that Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield called for "flexible" interpretations of international drug control treaties at the United Nations in New York City on October 9. Brownfield said one pillar of the new U.S. approach on drug policy is to "accept flexible interpretation" of U.N. drug treaties, adding "How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?" Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, commented: "To now have the United States government emerging as a defender and even champion of flexibility in interpreting the conventions, that represents a major step forward." John Walsh of the Washington Office on Latin America observed that while Brownfield's statements represent an improvement on past American policy, they are no more than an attempt at damage control. "The U.S. wants to tamp down the impact that its changes on cannabis are having so that it doesn't become a broader discussion about modernizing the international treaties," said Walsh.
The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) published new advertising rules for e-cigarettes in the UK, which came into effect on November 14. The new rules add to those already in place, with an emphasis on the protection of young people and ads that must avoid containing anything that promotes the use of a tobacco product or that shows the use of a tobacco product in a positive light. Unless manufacturers obtain an authorisation for their product from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, ads for e-cigarettes cannot convey health benefits or claim that they are ‘safer’ or ‘healthier’ than smoking tobacco. The rules were subject to public consultation and will apply across media. During the consultation CAP says it took into account the range of views that exist about e-cigarettes and their potential to re-normalise smoking, as well as the case being made for their public health benefits.
Ecuador has begun releasing thousands of convicted cocaine smugglers as a result of the country’s new criminal law, which took effect on August 10th. The new law retroactively applies heavily reduced jail sentences to those already convicted of attempting to transport relatively small amounts of drugs out of the country. According to GlobalPost around 500 “drug mules” have already been released and at least another 2,000 are expected to follow. The sentence reduction is not automatic and can only happen after a court hearing, which the prisoner has to request. “There is a policy of seeing mules as victims of the drug trade,” Jorge Paladines, national coordinator of the Public Defender’s Office, told GlobalPost. Paladines continued, “I don’t like using the term ‘sentence reduction,’ because was their sentence fair to start with? This is really about sentence proportionality.”
French Health Minister Marisol Touraine has announced plans to introduce standardised cigarette packaging in early 2016. The announcement came after the French Ministry of Health presented its anti-smoking plan. The Riviera Times reports that branding will be subject to strict controls and that Touraine said “The brand name will be present on the packaging, but it will be limited to one position of specified size and always in the same location on the packet.” Other anti-smoking measures being considered include the prohibition of electronic cigarettes in certain public places, smoking in cars whilst children under 12 are present and smoking in public spaces designed for children.
InsightCrime reports that Chile is the first country in Latin America to cultivate cannabis for strictly medical purposes. On October 29, the municipality of La Florida in capital city Santiago planted 850 cannabis seeds to grow the plant for medical purposes. The pilot project, which is sponsored by the local mayor's office, a university, and the non-profit organization Fundacion Daya, plans to produce cannabis for 200 cancer patients starting in May 2015. According to InsightCrime, Chilean authorities told the BBC that the country is also the first in Latin America to allow the importation of medicines containing cannabis, after a breast cancer patient obtained permission to import her cannabis-based medication from Europe in August.
The International Society of Addiction Journal Editors (ISAJE) Griffith Edwards Award has been established to recognize achievements in addiction science in accordance with Griffith Edwards’ interests. The 2014 prize has been awarded to Professor Ronaldo Laranjeira, Head of Department of Clinical Psychiatry, Federal University, Sao Paolo, Brazil and General Coordinator for the National Institute of Public Policy for Alcohol and Other Drugs and Director of the Alcohol and Drug Research Unit. In the award citation the jury state that Professor Laranjeira “has had an impact as clinician, educator, articulator, promoter and implementer of public policy in the area of alcohol and drugs, not just in Brazil but also internationally.”
The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has launched a new organisational policy on the legalisation of medical cannabis. In the position statement, the PHAA recommends that “Australian governments, collaboratively with members of the affected communities (including families and carers) and public health, medical and law enforcement experts, initiate careful policy work on how to introduce a compassionate, palliation-focussed, medicinal cannabis regime within their respective jurisdictions.”
In the 46thSpecial Session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Guatemala City, Member States adopted the resolution "Reflections and Guidelines to Formulate and Follow Up on Comprehensive Policies to Address the World Drug Problem in the Americas." While the resolution recognises the importance of the UN conventions it also recognises the need for Member States to consider "regularly reviewing the drug policies adopted, ensuring that they are comprehensive and focused on the well-being of the individual, in order to address their national challenges and assess their impact and effectiveness."
Insight Crime reports that Mexico’s army has located and destroyed 1,639 coca plants in Chiapas state near the Guatemalan border. "We have information that this is the first plantation that has been located at a national level of this type of plant," said Sergio Ernesto Martinez Rescalvo, the commander of the 36th Military Zone. Insight Crime remarks that if the army’s claims are accurate, then the discovery could indicate a possible strategic shift on the part of Mexican traffickers who could be exploring home coca production as a viable option.
Reuters reports that a bill originally intended to introduce a complete tobacco advertising ban in China has been weakened after lobbying by China's state tobacco monopoly. The draft bill extends China’s current law which prohibits tobacco advertising on radio, film, television, newspapers and magazines, and in public areas such as theatres and sports arenas. China's parliament, the National People's Congress, agreed to extend the ban to public transport venues, electronic publications, libraries and parks but promotional activities such as cigarette product launches, and tobacco sponsorship for sporting events and schools are exempted from the planned restrictions. China's tobacco monopoly has previously blocked other measures such as the introduction of graphic warnings on cigarette packages.
BBC News reports that the Chief Minister of Kerala, Oomnen Chandy, said the Congress-led state government plans to make the state "liquor free" with a series of proposed measures in the coming months. Kerala has India's highest per capita alcohol consumption. The first phase of the ban will involve the closing of 730 bars serving alcohol and the introduction of more alcohol-free days in the state. Only luxury hotels will be allowed to serve alcohol from next year and 10% of the 338 liquor shops owned by a state-run monopoly will be shut every year. "The state should be prepared to accept total prohibition within this period [of 10 years]," the Chief Minister said.
Amnesty International has drawn attention to the execution in Saudi Arabia of four members of the same extended family after they were convicted of “receiving large quantities of hashish”. The four executed men, Hadi al-Mutlaq, Awad al-Mutlaq, Mufrih al-Yami and Ali al-Yami, were arrested and detained by the interior ministry's General Directorate of Investigations on several occasions after their alleged offence in 2007, Amnesty said, and they were reportedly tortured during interrogation in order to extract false confessions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published the Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014. The report provides country profiles for alcohol consumption in the 194 WHO Member States together with assessments of the impact on public health and policy responses. ‘More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,’ said Dr. Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, who added ‘The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol.’
Catalonia's public health agency has proposed new measures to regulate cannabis clubs in the region. Catalonia's cannabis clubs have around 165,000 members. According to The Guardian the proposed new measures will limit membership to Spanish residents and members will have to be 21 years of age or older and belong to the club for at least 15 days before being given access to cannabis. Clubs will be made to register their plants and undergo an annual inspection. The proposal also said that the maximum quantity of cannabis that members will be allowed to access each month has yet to be determined but is expected to be somewhere between 60 to 100 grams a month (2-3.5 ounces). The proposed regulations were welcomed by the Catalonia Federation of Cannabis Associations and a spokesman said that many of the clubs already follow similar regulations.
The European Commission has funded a 2–year project called “European-wide, Monitoring, Analysis and knowledge Dissemination on Novel/Emerging Psychoactives" or EU-MADNESS for short. The objective of the project is to develop integrated monitoring and profiling of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) in Europe and inform education and prevention workers about the types of NPS emerging, their associated characteristics and potential harms.
The Foundation Youth Smoking Prevention (Rookpreventie Jeugd) is suing the Dutch government because of its relationship with the tobacco industry according to AD.nl and reported in nltimes.nl. The Foundation accuses the government of not complying with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, despite signing the treaty, by allowing the tobacco industry to have an influence on its smoking policy.
The Telegraph reports that Queensland is to become the first state in Australia to subject electronic cigarette users to the same laws as those for people who smoke traditional cigarettes. From 2015 restrictions on regular cigarettes, such as not smoking in public areas, will also apply to electronic cigarettes. The new laws will prevent electronic cigarettes being sold to children, ban their use in indoor or outdoor public places and ensure no promotion or advertisement of the products in retail outlets.
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27 - 28 November 2014, Brussels, Belgium.
4 - 7 December 2014, Aventura, Florida, USA.
10 December 2014, London, UK.
5 - 8 February 2015, Los Angeles, California, USA.
3 - 7 March 2015, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
4 - 6 March 2015, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia.
9 - 10 March 2015, Miami, Florida, USA.
16 - 18 March 2015, Budapest, Hungary.
28 March - 1 April 2015, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
10 - 11 April 2015, Asheville, North Carolina, USA.
17 - 20 April 2015, Barcelona, Spain.
23 - 26 April 2015, Austin, Texas, USA.
8 - 9 May 2015, Hong Kong SAR, China.
16 - 20 May 2015, Toronto, Canada.
17 - 20 May 2015, Arlington, Virginia, USA.
20 - 22 May 2015, Melbourne, Australia.
29 - 30 May 2015, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
1 - 5 June 2015, Munich, Germany.
13 - 18 June 2015, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
17 - 19 June 2015, Lisbon, Portugal.
18 - 19 June 2015, Scotland, UK.
6 - 9 August 2015, Toronto, Canada.
22 - 25 August 2015, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
23 - 25 September 2015, Lisbon, Portugal.
5 - 8 October 2015, Dundee, Scotland, UK.
7 - 9 October 2015, Melbourne, Australia.