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In October the New York City Council voted to ban people younger than 21 from buying or being sold cigarettes. The Guardian reports the city council voted overwhelmingly in October to raise the age from 18 to 21 for cigarettes, certain tobacco products and e-cigarettes. The federal age requirement for buying cigarettes is 18, which some states previously raised to 19. Another measure sets a minimum price of $10.50 per pack for tobacco cigarettes and there will be an increased law enforcement focus on illegal tobacco sales. The moves were prompted by statistics showing the youth smoking rate has remained steady at 8.5% since 2007. "We have to do more and that's what we're doing today," said Christine Quinn, the Council Speaker. "We have a real chance of leading the country and the world." The minimum age bill will take effect 180 days after enactment. "We know that tobacco dependence can begin very soon after a young person first tries smoking so it's critical that we stop young people from smoking before they ever start," the then Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. With this vote, New York is by far the biggest city to bar cigarette sales to 19 and 20-year-olds. Similar legislation is expected to come to a vote in Hawaii.
Uruguay’s drug czar, Julio Calzada, has been reported as saying Uruguay is pressing ahead with its plans to sell legal cannabis for $1 per gram. A law already approved by Uruguay's lower house of Congress and expected to pass in the Senate would make Uruguay the first country in the world to tax and regulate the legal production, distribution and sale of cannabis, according to a report in The Guardian. Calzada said that cannabis sales should start in the second half of 2014 and that one gram would be enough "for one marijuana cigarette or two or three slimmer cigarettes." He said the idea was not to make money but to address minor crime and take the cannabis market away from illegal dealers. "The illegal market is very risky and of poor quality," Calzada said. The state was going to offer "a safe place to buy a quality product and on top of that, it's going to sell it at the same price." In August, Calzada had estimated the price would be about $2.50 per gram. Sales would be restricted to locals, who would be able to buy up to 40g per month. While smoking cannabis is legal in Uruguay, growing, carrying, buying or selling it has been punishable by prison terms.
The Scotsman reports that the British Medical Association’s Board of Science has written to the two major Glasgow football clubs, Celtic and Rangers, raising its fears over the impact of allowing e-cigarettes to be sold and used on their grounds through partnership agreements with the company E-Lites. In the BMA’s letter, Dr Andrew Thomson, a GP in Angus, said sport was a health activity and clubs such as Celtic and Rangers “should be leading by example to encourage healthy living rather than advertising a smoking product, which contains the addictive substance nicotine.” Dr Thomson said the BMA wanted e-cigarettes to be included in the ban on smoking in public places and encouraged organisations to prohibit their use. The BMA letter was welcomed by ASH Scotland and Chief Executive Sheila Duffy said: “There is a real concern that seeing people behaving as if they are smoking by using electronic cigarettes could normalise smoking. Tobacco companies are increasingly buying up e-cigarette businesses and could play on this.” Charlie Hamshaw-Thomas, director of E-Lites, said: “The BMA are ‘experts’ without evidence playing puppet to the pharmaceutical industry’s agenda.” Celtic and Rangers said they noted the content of the BMA’s letter, but made no further comment.
The UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, is being sued in a case funded by the Kenyan government after the ban on the import, sale and possession of khat was introduced in 2013. Documents lodged at the High Court on behalf of a khat trader in London, and financed by the Kenyan government, claim the ban breaches the human rights of khat users. The case also suggests that Ms May did not take sufficient account of a recommendation by the government’s own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that khat should remain legal. The suit requests a judicial review of the Home Office ban. According to The Independent, the ban led to protests in Kenya, where khat is an important source of export income and provides a livelihood for thousands of farmers. Kenya had exported about £15m of khat to the UK every year and the industry supports half a million people. In response to the ban, Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, said the government would provide about £40,000 to fund the lawsuit and the local government in Meru, where Khat is cultivated, will provide a further £15,000. In the lawsuit, it is argued that chewing khat is a long-established social, cultural and ethnic custom within the Kenyan and Somali communities.
The EMCDDA’s new quick guide makes practical information on prevention quality standards available outside the European Union. A condensed version of EMCDDA Manual 7, it includes a description of the eight stages involved in the drug prevention cycle along with a self-reflection checklist that can be used when planning and implementing prevention activities. It has been designed for practitioners and those working in the field.
The Guardian reports that the Iranian justice minister has said that a prisoner convicted for drug offences who survived execution by hanging will not be hanged again. The Daily Telegraph reported that according to official state media, a doctor declared the man dead after the 12-minute hanging, but when the prisoner’s family went to collect his body the following day he was found to still be breathing. The prisoner, Alireza M, was taken to hospital to recover. Initially a judge reportedly said he would be executed again “once medical staff confirm his health condition is good enough.” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for Middle East and North Africa, said “This is simply ghastly. It betrays a basic lack of humanity that sadly underpins much of Iran’s justice system,” and called for the second execution to be stopped. “The horrific prospect of this man facing a second hanging, after having gone through the whole ordeal already once, merely underlines the cruelty and inhumanity of the death penalty," he added. Iran is believed to have executed at least 508 people in 2013, including 221 executions that have not been officially confirmed. The majority of those executed were convicted of drug offences.
The Irish Examiner reports that, as part of budget 2014, Finance Minister Michael Noonan will tell shop owners they face a tenfold licence fee rise from next year to sell cigarettes and tobacco. The rate, which will see the annual cost rise from €50 to €500, is expected to bring in at least €5m in extra funding ring-fenced for the health service. Most outlets will be told they must pay the €500 fee, with slightly lower rates for smaller stores. Independent senator and consultant oncologist John Crown told the Irish Examiner the policy will encourage retailers to “stop being dealers in death.” “I think it’s great,” said Prof Crown. “Any extra provision for health is to be welcomed, and I’m delighted that’s where the money is coming from.”
The Bihar government in India has decided to make tobacco tax-free in the state, a move in conflict with the Indian government’s anti-tobacco campaign. One India News reports that the decision was taken after tobacco farmers reportedly met Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and complained to him that tobacco production was their only source of income but their product was seized and they were fined. Kumar subsequently took the decision to make tobacco tax-free. The opposition BJP party said the chief minister was not only encouraging tobacco consumption but also putting people's lives at risk. The BJP, with which Nitish Kumar's government terminated an alliance in June, said the move was made to get popularity ahead of the polls.
California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill to reduce the penalty for offenders caught for simple drug possession. Senate Bill 649 would have given judges and prosecutors the option of making drug possession charges misdemeanours instead of felonies. If convicted, instead of prison or jail, those individuals would have been sent to substance-abuse treatment centres, and sentenced to probation or ordered to perform community service. The Huffington Post reports that the measure had passed both legislative houses, and many were hopeful it would help reduce California's overcrowded prison system. In California's judicial system, methamphetamine, LSD and certain other drugs are known as "wobblers," meaning that possession of those substances can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanour. The bill would have extended this "wobbler" approach to possession of heroin, cocaine and most other drugs, which currently can only be charged as felonies. Polls showed support among Californians for reducing sentences for nonviolent, low-level offenders, like those caught with small amounts of illegal drugs. In his veto statement, Brown wrote that the bill was premature because the state is about "to examine in detail California's criminal justice system, including the current sentencing structure." “We will do so with the full participation of all necessary parties, including law enforcement, courts and treatment providers,” he wrote. “That will be the appropriate time to evaluate our existing drug laws.”
BBC News Scotland reports that Scotland has become the first country in Europe to prescribe a new drug, Nalmefene, which reduces cravings for alcohol. Nalmefene has been given approval by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), which approves drugs for use on the National Health Service. It is designed for people who are heavy drinkers but not the most severely-dependent alcoholics. The SMC said it should only be prescribed alongside psychological support.
The four winners of the 2013 EMCDDA scientific paper prize have been announced. The winners include ‘The effectiveness of opioid maintenance treatment in prison settings: a systematic review’, by Dagmar Hedrich, Paula Alves, Michael Farrell, Heino Stover, Lars Moller and Soraya Mayet, published in Addiction, 2012, 107: 501–517. Four other papers published in Addiction were on the shortlist of 13 papers. The prize sets out to distinguish high-quality research in the field of illicit drugs. Four groups are invited to nominate papers: European research societies; EMCDDA Scientific Committee members; the national focal points of the Reitox network; and European drug research peer-reviewed journals. In 2013 the International Society of Addiction Journal Editors (ISAJE) sent the request for nominations to its members and provided a member of the jury.
The Observer reports that a new magazine called Illegal, with a cover price of 30 krone, is being sold on street corners in Copenhagen by drug users. Each magazine seller will keep 20 krone to fund drug buying, according to the publishers of the magazine. Michael Lodberg Olsen, a social entrepreneur, is using his own funds to finance the magazine. Olsen said the idea was to give addicts some dignity and an alternative source of income to prostitution and crime. Olsen, who has also set up a mobile drug injecting room in Copenhagen, said "As a civil society we cannot decide to decriminalise drug users," adding "But we can make them a little less criminal, bring a war, which has failed, into focus, and create more dignity for them.” The 56-page magazine is produced by volunteers. Olsen also said "We hope to sell 10,000 copies of each edition in the future, and then we will come to London."
Sources: The Guardian, Vice
The Herald reports that Rangers Football Club in Scotland has announced a partnership with E-Lites electronic cigarettes. Rangers Chief Executive Craig Mather commented: “We welcome E-Lites to our portfolio of platinum partners and sponsors. E-Lites is the biggest name in electronic cigarettes and provides an alternative to smoking for our supporters in designated areas in the stadium.” E-Lites will be on sale to over-18s in the Rangers megastore, the club’s Ibrox Stadium and selected hospitality areas. In Wales Merthyr Town Football Club is to rename its ground the Cigg-e Stadium after its sponsor, the electronic cigarette firm. BBC News reports that the club has signed a three-year deal with the company, after trying to find a sponsor for the club’s ground Penydarren Park since fans took over following liquidation three years ago. International Business Times reports that the major tobacco companies have announced they are allocating large budgets to TV campaigns promoting "smoking deterrent products" such as e-cigarettes, in Britain. British American Tobacco, has said it will increase its advertising spend after it became the first tobacco company to launch an e-cigarette in Britain in July. Speaking about e-cigarettes WHO representative Angela Patt warned: "The tobacco industry is projecting it as a 'safe' and 'healthy' substitute for cigarettes, but there is no research evidence on the health impact of their long term usage." She told a conference on public health in New Delhi: "Tobacco companies are targeting youth and women by adding the notion of glamour, luxury and freedom to the e-cigarette. Countries must frame regulatory guidelines to advise consumers not to use it."
Sources: The Herald, BBC News, International Business Times
The Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit, developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, provides information on overdose prevention, treatment and recovery for first responders, prescribers, and patients. The toolkit emphasizes the importance of access to nalaoxone. Daniel Raymond, Policy Director of the Harm Reduction Coalition observed “This toolkit marks growing federal support and leadership for expanding use and availability of naloxone as a central component of a comprehensive overdose prevention strategy.”
Sources: SAMHSA, harmreduction.org
The European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing (EUCAM) reports that a campaign against Arthur’s Day, an event in September that celebrates the founder of Guinness Brewing is gathering strength. Arthur’s Day is designated as an annual music event and was first organized by Diageo in 2009. The Royal College of Physicians has called the event irresponsible. Additionally important and popular Irish musicians like Christy Moore and The Waterboys have expressed agreement with this charge and Christy Moore has written a new song on the subject. A Social Media campaign entitled 'Boycott Arthur's Day' has started which calls on Irish Citizens to 'Say NO to Diageo's booze fest. Reject the Stereotype'. Dr Stephen Stewart, a doctor from the liver disease centre in the Mater Hospital commented “I really have to congratulate Diageo. They have done a great job in drawing people into the pub on Arthur’s Day and increased the problem we have with alcohol.” Dr Stewart also argued that Arthur’s Day is not about music, as Diageo maintains, saying, “this is a festival around drinking, the advert focuses around people raising pints of Guinness – it’s not about music”.
The International Drug Policy Consortium reports that on 17th September 2013, the European Commission proposed to strengthen the European Union’s ability to respond to ‘legal highs’. Under the rules proposed by the Commission, harmful psychoactive substances will be withdrawn quickly from the market, without jeopardising their various legitimate industrial and commercial uses. The proposals follow warnings from the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Abuse and Europol about the scale of the problem and a 2011 report which found that the EU’s current mechanism for tackling new psychoactive substances needed improvement. "'Legal highs are a growing problem in Europe and it is young people who are most at risk. With a borderless internal market, we need common EU rules to tackle this problem," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "Today we are proposing strong EU legislation on new psychoactive substances so that the EU can provide a faster and more effective response, including the ability to immediately remove harmful substances from the market on a temporary basis."
The Guardian reports that menthol and other flavoured cigarettes are to be banned and health warnings covering 65% of cigarette packs will be introduced under new European rules. However, plain packaging for cigarettes and tobacco was not among the measures approved. The European parliament put new limits on advertising for electronic cigarettes but rejected proposals for them to be regarded as medicinal products. There is to be no ban on packs of slim cigarettes. These decisions were for the European parliament's first reading of a draft tobacco directive that could become law in 2014. MEPs voted to put health warnings on 65% of each cigarette pack, as opposed to the proposed 75%. At present, warnings should cover at least 30% of the front and 40% of the back of cigarette packs, with a border surrounding them. Once agreed, all 28 European Union countries will have to make the measures law. The UK government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said it intends to make e-cigarettes medicinal products but the European parliament’s decision could alter those plans. An MHRA spokesman said: "The UK government's position is that the public health priority of reducing the harms of smoking can best be achieved by the regulation of nicotine containing products (NCPs), including electronic cigarettes, under the medicines framework and supports the European commission's tobacco products directive."
Source: The Guardian
BBC News reports that the FBI has announced the arrest of the suspected operator of the Silk Road - the online marketplace for drugs and other illegal items. The suspect was charged with conspiracy to traffic narcotics, as well as computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, according to court filings. The FBI said it has also seized approximately $3.6m (£2.2m) worth of bitcoins, a virtual currency. The Silk Road is now offline - those trying to access it are presented with a notice saying the site has been seized. Users had previously been able to access the service through Tor, a facility that routes traffic through many separate encrypted layers of the net to hide data identifiers. Court papers filed in the Southern District of New York had generated sales of more than $1.2bn via the Silk Road.
BBC News reports that the Obama administration, in an announcement on 29 August, said it is deferring its right to sue to stop the states of Colorado and Washington from legalizing recreational use of cannabis. The announcement comes nearly a year after voters in the two states voted to legalize possession and use of small amounts of cannabis in November 2012. The Justice Department said it would refocus cannabis enforcement nationwide by bringing criminal charges only in eight defined areas, such as distribution to minors, and not prosecuting users, growers and related businesses. "For states such as Colorado and Washington... the department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes," the Justice Department said. Advocates of cannabis legalization welcomed the announcement as a major step toward ending cannabis prohibition. However, the Justice Department said it was "deferring its right to challenge legalization laws at this time" but said it could challenge the eventual regulatory schemes in the states if the states show they are unable to control the drug.
The Victoria Coalition Government in Australia is providing $200,000 to the organisation Anex to run the Community Overdose Prevention and Education (COPE) project initiative over the next two years. Anex is an independent, not-for-profit health organisation dedicated to reducing the harms associated with drug use. Making the announcement, Victorian Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge said that the Coalition Government is committed to widening the use and availability of naloxone as part of reducing the alcohol and drug toll: Victoria’s plan for 2013-2017 was released in January this year. The project will educate at-risk drug users, family, friends and other
potential non-medical overdose witnesses about the benefits of naloxone and how to administer it in the event of an overdose. Ms Wooldridge said “The project will benefit city, regional and country Victorians, particularly heroin users and people who are at risk of overdosing on opioid-based prescription medicines.”
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