The EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction) are recruiting two Scientific Analysts and a Scientific Writer - the vacancies are open to citizens of the EU and Norway, working in English with a working knowledge of a second EU language. Full details can be found at https://e-recruitment.emcdda.europa.eu/e-recruitment/jobvacancies
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;
CBC News reports that Quebec's Court of Appeal ruled in September that the Quebec government has the constitutional right to sue tobacco companies to recover health care costs related to tobacco and dismissed an appeal by the tobacco companies. The tobacco companies had argued that the Tobacco-related Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act of 2009 was inconsistent with the province’s own Charter of Rights and Freedom. The Act sets out rules for reimbursing the costs incurred from caring for Quebec residents with illnesses linked to tobacco products. The ruling does not concern the lawsuit filed by Quebec in 2012 against Imperial Tobacco, JTI-Macdonald and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges which sought a reimbursement of more than $60 billion from the tobacco companies.
From 1 October 2015 the existing smoke-free law in England and Wales, which makes public places and work premises and vehicles smoke-free, was extended. The Smoke-free (Private Vehicles) Regulations 2015 require all private vehicles to be smoke-free when they are enclosed, contain more than one person and a person under 18 is present in the vehicle. It will be an offence for someone to smoke in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present and for a driver not to stop someone smoking. Drivers and passengers who break the law could face a penalty fine of £50. The Guardian reports that The National Police Chiefs Council said it would be taking a “non-confrontational” approach for the first three months. A spokeswoman said: “Police forces will be taking an educational, advisory and non-confrontational approach when enforcing the new legislation. This would see people being given warnings rather than being issued with fines, which would give time for public awareness of the offences to build.” Amanda Sandford of ASH said “I think in time it will become self-enforcing, just as the law on smoking in public places did, because it has overwhelming public support, even among smokers.”
CVS/pharmacy has become the first chain pharmacy in California to stock and sell naloxone without a prescription. More than 50 CVS/pharmacy stores in California will make the drug available to friends and family members of people at risk of an opiate overdose. According to the Drug Policy Alliance this new programme is a result of the passage of Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s bill, AB 1535, co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance and the California Pharmacists Association. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014. Laura Thomas, California deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said “It can sometimes take years for laws to be fully implemented due to myriad levels of bureaucracy, but in the case of pharmacy naloxone, everyone worked together from the very beginning with cooperation and excitement to do something great for California families.” CVS is also making naloxone available in 11 other US states.
The UK government has announced that it intends to make prisons in England and Wales smoke-free. From January 2016 prisons in Wales will become smoke-free. Then four prisons in south-west England will adopt the smoke-free policy in March 2016. The remainder of the prison estate will subsequently become smoke-free, although the timing of this is still to be determined. The Guardian reports that this selective, phased introduction of the ban is believed to be because of concerns from prison governors about its impact on the prison population and prison stability. Andrew Selous, the prisons minister, said “We have no plans to move to smoke-free prisons overnight and will only do so in a phased way that takes into account operational resilience and readiness of each prison.” He added, “The operational safety and security of our prisons will always be our top priority.” Prisoners will be given support to help them quit and those who want to carry on using nicotine will be able to buy electronic cigarettes in prison shops. The Guardian also reports that the announcement follows the publication of the results of air-quality tests which showed that staff were spending at least one-sixth of their time breathing in secondhand smoke levels higher than World Health Organisation guidance limits. Smoke-free policies have been successfully introduced in a number of other jurisdictions, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada and US federal prisons where early concern about their impact on prison stability proved unfounded.
The scientific paper award, inaugurated in 2011 by the EMCDDA and its Scientific Committee, has announced the five winners for 2015. The papers eligible for the award were assessed for scientific originality, scientific quality, clarity and quality of writing and European Union relevance. The winners were Monique Vallée (France), Tim Weaver and Nicola Metrebian (UK), Ricardo Gonçalves (Portugal), Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy (France), and Christoph Ort (Switzerland) for the paper "Challenges of surveying wastewater drug loads of small populations and generalizable aspects on optimizing monitoring design," published in Addiction, 109, 3, pp. 472–481. Chair of the EMCDDA Scientific Committee Prof. Dr. Gerhard Bühringer said “This year the EMCDDA commemorates 20 years of monitoring the drugs problem in Europe. Promoting scientific excellence has been at the heart of the agency’s work over this time and was the motivation behind this scientific paper award. The award has enabled us to showcase major advancements in the drugs field and reach out to a buoyant research community across the EU. It also helps highlight research gaps with the perspective of improving policy and practice.”
A new research institute to study the ingredients in tobacco and assess the harmful effects of smoking opened in Korea in October, according to the Korea Times. The new body will be set up at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s headquarters. The Korean Health Ministry said that the main objectives of the new institute will include the analysis the ingredients and additives in cigarettes and their smoke, as well as assessing the damage of secondhand exposure. Resulting data are likely to be used in the government's ongoing lawsuit against tobacco companies over compensation for healthcare costs linked to smoking-related diseases, as well as to inform anti-smoking policies. In 2014 the Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) filed a compensation suit with the Seoul Central District Court against three tobacco firms, KT&G, Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco Korea, seeking $45 million for the medical costs it covered for 3,834 smokers who suffered from lung or larynx cancer.
Public Health England (PHE) published a review of the latest evidence regarding e-cigarettes in August. The review set out to explain “the relative risks and benefits of e-cigarettes (EC) in terms of harm reduction when compared with cigarettes and as an aid to quitting.” The review says that “best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes, and when supported by a smoking cessation service, help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether. After critiques of the review in The Lancet and the British Medical Journal, The Guardian reports that Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said “E-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking. One in two lifelong smokers dies from their addiction. All of the evidence suggests that the health risks posed by e-cigarettes are small by comparison, but we must continue to study the long-term effects,” adding “PHE has a clear duty to inform the public about what the evidence shows and what it does not show, especially when there was so much public confusion about the relative dangers compared to tobacco.”
The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Yves Bot, has issued the ECJ’s opinion on proposals to introduce legislation in Scotland that would establish minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol. Bot has advised the ECJ that he believes the proposal breaches European Union (EU) competition and free trade laws. The Guardian reports that Bot said “I feel that, having regard to the principle of proportionality, it is difficult to justify the rules at issue, which appear to me to be less consistent and effective than an ‘increased taxation’ measure and may even be perceived as being discriminatory.” Bot also said that an EU member state can use minimum pricing to restrict trade and distort competition on health grounds but “only on condition that it shows that the measure chosen [minimum pricing] has additional advantages or fewer disadvantages than the alternative measure.” A briefing by The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) describes how the legislation was due to come into force in April 2013, but was delayed by a legal challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association, the European Spirits Association and the Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins. The Scotch Whisky Association has claimed the proposed legislation would amount to a restriction on the trade of alcoholic beverages between Scotland and other EU countries as well as distorting competition between alcohol producers. After the Scottish Courts ruled in favour of the government to uphold the MUP legislation, the alcohol producers' associations appealed. In July 2014 the Court of Appeal referred the matter to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling as the core questions concerned the interpretation of EU law. The Scottish Parliament argued before the ECJ that the proposed legislation would specifically affect the prices of alcoholic beverages which are currently very cheap relative to their strength in a way that taxation measures could not exactly replicate. It also pointed out that the protection of health and human life is a justification provided for under EU law that allows governments to introduce measures that might distort EU trade and competition. The Guardian observes that the ECJ’s final decisions rarely contradict opinions from the Advocate General and its formal ruling is due later in 2015.
A report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission shows that the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) passed in 2010 has led to fewer federal prosecutions and a reduction in the federal prisoner population. The FSA closed the gap in sentence severity for offences involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Before the FSA, a defendant faced a minimum five-year sentence if convicted of possessing at least five grams of crack. Possession of 50 grams brought a minimum of 10 years. It took 500 grams and 5,000 grams, respectively, of powder cocaine to bring the same sentences. Federal judges sentenced 4,730 people for crack-cocaine offences in 2010 but sentenced about half as many offenders in 2014, according to the report. The average sentence three years after the law passed was 71 months; but would have been 106 months without the FSA’s reduction. The federal prison population fell in 2013 for the first time in more than three decades.
The Independent reports that the European Commission has released four very heavily redacted documents about its contacts with lobbyists from the tobacco industry on EU trade negotiations. These negotiations include the ongoing EU-Japan and EU-US trade talks, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty. There is concern that a system of international-state dispute settlements (ISDS) created by TTIP will allow multinational firms, including tobacco companies, to sue European governments in tribunals of corporate lawyers and seek compensation if European laws are deemed to affect their “future anticipated profits.” The content redacted includes the names of officials and tobacco lobbyists involved, the issues discussed and the dates on which some of meetings took place. The European Commission has called the release of the document “partial access” and Catherine Day, Secretary-General of the European Commission, said “Whilst I fully recognise the importance of transparency in enabling citizens to follow trade negotiations, I take the view that this public interest does neither outweigh the public interest in protecting the Commission’s international relations and decision-making process, nor the commercial interests of the companies in question in this case.” The MEP and European health spokesperson Glenis Willmott commented, “The Commission’s reply states that the public interest in transparency does not outweigh the commercial interests of the companies in question. Yet there is a fundamental conflict between the public interest and commercial interests of the tobacco industry, which rely on the promotion of a product that is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Europe. Given the importance of strong tobacco control policies in protecting public health, I think it’s entirely reasonable for the public to have an interest in tobacco industry lobbying on TTIP.”
The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), in partnership with the Network of Alcohol and Other Drug Agencies (NADA) in Australia, has developed the Suicide Assessment Kit (SAK). SAK is a comprehensive assessment and policy development package designed to assist alcohol and other drug services in the assessment and management of suicide risk. SAK was developed in response to a need identified through interviews with staff and managers of residential rehabilitation services in Australia. SAK contains three main resources: the Suicide Risk Screener, the Suicide Risk Formulation Template, and the Suicide Policies and Procedures Pro-forma. Three videos provide an introduction to SAK, role-plays demonstrating the use of the Suicide Risk Screener and feedback received from treatment providers about the process of integrating the SAK into their service.
An expert independent evidence review published by Public Health England (PHE) concludes that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than tobacco and have the potential to help smokers quit smoking. The review, led by Ann McNeill and Peter Hajek, suggests that e-cigarettes may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults and young people. It also found that almost all of the 2.6 million adults using e-cigarettes in Great Britain are current or ex-smokers, most of whom are using the devices to help them quit smoking or to prevent them going back to cigarettes. The review also reported an increase in the number of people who think e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than smoking. Against this trend the review reported that all current evidence finds that e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of smoking and the review concludes, as a broad estimate, that e-cigarettes are "around 95% less harmful" than smoking. Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said “E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”
A report from the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) examines the different strategies used in countries across the Americas to tackle the drug problem in the region. It has a particular focus on the prohibitionist approach, which the report says has led to militarisation, violence, criminalisation of drug use and users, mass incarceration and forced crop eradication campaigns in Latin America. The report stems from a 2014 meeting on this topic organised by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), held at the request of 17 organisations from 11 countries in the Americas. The report expands on the assessments provide by these organisations, showing that prohibitionist policies tend to violate the human rights of many thousands of people and disproportionately affect particularly vulnerable groups.
Agence France Presse reports that an anti-smoking bill, which has passed the Chilean Senate, proposes to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes, limit smoking at beaches and parks to small, designated areas and ban menthol cigarettes. Chile would become the first country in the world to ban menthol cigarettes nationwide. The bill has prompted a reaction from British American Tobacco (BAT), which sells 13 billion cigarettes per year in Chile, 90 percent of the local market. "If they pass the bill as it stands today, we'll close our factory," said Carlos Lopez, head of corporate affairs for BAT Chile. The tobacco industry directly or indirectly creates around 15,000 jobs in Chile, according to the National Agriculture Society.
The New York Times reports that the US Office of National Drug Control Policy has said it would spend $2.5 million on public safety and public health coordinators in five areas of the North East US in an effort to focus on the treatment, rather than the punishment, of heroin addicts. This initiative is part of the government’s response to the increase in use of the drug, with a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that heroin-related deaths had nearly quadrupled in the US between 2002 and 2013. “The Heroin Response Strategy will foster a collaborative network of public health-public safety partnerships to address the heroin/opioid epidemic,” said the announcement by the policy office. “The aim will be to facilitate collaboration between public health and public safety partners within and across jurisdictions, sharing best practices, innovative pilots, and identifying new opportunities to leverage resources.” Funding will also go toward training first responders on how to deal with heroin and prescription opioid-related incidents, including in the use of naloxone. Mayor Ted Gatsas of Manchester, New Hampshire, said the new program would not be enough to confront the heroin deaths in his city, which numbered 50 in the first half of 2015.
Ukraine has suspended legal proceedings against Australia that claimed its plain-packaging tobacco laws were trade-restrictive. Ukraine was the first of five countries to challenge Australia's laws at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2012, even though it does not export tobacco to Australia. Ukraine has told a WTO panel of adjudicators that it hopes to find a mutually agreed solution with Australia. The other countries challenging Australia’s laws, Indonesia, Cuba, Honduras and Dominican Republic, have not indicated they plan to drop their lawsuits. The WTO adjudication panel has previously said it expected to rule on the tobacco lawsuits against Australia in the first half of 2016.
The latest Colombia Coca Survey, produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Colombian Government, showed that the net coca cultivation area in Colombia had increased from 48,000 hectares in 2013 to 69,000 in 2014. InSight Crime reports that another report from UNODC showed that coca cultivation in Peru declined to 42,900 hectares in 2014, meaning Colombia was again the world's largest supplier of coca. Coca cultivation in Peru has been falling since 2011, when it reached a peak of 62,500 hectares. The reduction in coca crops coincided with increased eradication efforts by Peruvian authorities, with US support. InSight Crime also notes a large discrepancy between how much coca the US government estimates is grown in Colombia, compared with UNODC’s estimates, with the White House estimating that coca cultivation had increased to 112,000 hectares in 2014. UNODC uses satellite imagery as the main basis for its estimate. The US has not disclosed the sources for its estimates, although surveys with ex-cocaine farmers have been used in previous reports. InSight Crime suggests this discrepancy underlines how difficult it is to quantify clandestine activities like coca growing and that assessing the success of drug policy using such data “is fundamentally problematic.”
The July Effectiveness Bank Bulletin from Drug and Alcohol Findings provides analysis of research evidence on a range of different ways of reducing alcohol-related harm. The topics covered are teaching schoolchildren to drink more safely, improving identification of excessive drinkers on medical wards through learning by example, how extending treatment for dependence would save lives in the European Union, and the impact of alcohol taxes on mortality rates in Finland.
NewsScholars.org reports that a package of six tobacco-related bills stalled in the California Legislature in July due to a lack of sufficient support. One bill proposed raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. Another of the bills was Senate Bill 140 (SB140) introduced by Democratic Senator Mark Leno which sought to limit the marketing and use of electronic cigarettes by defining them as tobacco products. Leno said, "The chairman and his committee are doing the full bidding of the tobacco industry -- and that's frightening. Big Tobacco has been searching for a 'safe' delivery system for their toxic and addictive nicotine. E-cigarettes are their new holy grail." Commentators have suggested the legislative problems are partly the result of the tobacco industry's financial contributions during election campaigns. Tobacco companies have contributed more than $173,000 to members of the State Assembly's 21-member Committee on Governmental Organization, which stalled SB140. The companies also reportedly spent more than $215,000 on lobbyists opposing the bill in the first three months of 2015.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the number of U.S. heroin users has grown by nearly 300,000 over a decade. Increases were particularly noted among demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use, including women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, "An increasing number of people are primed for heroin use because they were addicted to an opioid painkiller." The heroin death rate quadrupled over a decade, reaching nearly 8,300 in 2013. Most of the overdoses involved other drugs, most often cocaine.
Subject to editorial review, we will be glad to include brief details of your conference or event. Please send your notification to Jean O’Reilly, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF. Fax +44 (0)20 7848 5966;
11 - 14 October 2015, Sarasota Springs, New York, USA.
14 - 16 October 2015, Marina del Rey, California, USA.
14 - 15 October 2015, Sydney, Australia.
31 October - 4 November 2015, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
5 - 6 November 2015, York, UK.
5 - 7 November 2015, Washington, D.C., USA.
8 - 11 November 2015, Perth, Australia.
11 November 2015, London, UK.
12 - 14 November 2015, Alberta, Canada.
13 - 17 November 2015, San Francisco, California, USA.
16 - 18 November 2015, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
3 - 6 December 2015, Huntington Beach, California, USA.
18 - 21 February 2016, Palm Springs, California, USA.
24 - 27 February 2016, Washington, DC, USA.
2 - 5 March 2016, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
8 - 12 March 2016, San Diego, California, USA.
30 March - 2 April 2016, Washington, DC, USA.
14 - 17 April 2016, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
22 - 23 April 2016, Asheville, North Carolina, USA.
2 - 4 May 2016, London, UK.
14 - 18 May 2016, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
15 - 17 May 2016, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.
15 - 18 May 2016, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
16 - 18 May 2016, Sydney, Australia.
18 - 20 May 2016, Gold Coast, Australia.
27 - 29 May 2016, Leiden, The Netherlands.
10 - 13 June 2016, Palm Springs, California, USA.
11 - 16 June 2016, Palm Springs, California, USA.
17 - 22 July 2016, Durban, South Africa.
21 - 22 July 2016, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
17 - 20 September 2016, Vienna, Austria.
16 October - 19 August 2015, Gramado, Brazil.
29 October - 2 November 2016, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.