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;
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.
The Telegraph reports that the German Federal Supreme Court of Justice has ruled in favour of a couple who complained that their downstairs neighbours made it impossible for them to use the balcony of their apartment by smoking too much on the balcony below. The couple took their case to the supreme court after lower courts ruled their neighbours had the right to smoke as much as they wanted on their own balcony. The ruling means that Germans can sue their neighbours for excessive smoking on the balcony. The court did not set a specific limit, instead ruling only against the amount of smoke the "average person" would find bothersome, and sent the case back to a lower court to decide a limit in this particular case.
BBC News reports that UK Public Health Minister Jane Ellison confirmed on 21 January that the government backs the public health case for introducing standardised tobacco packaging. The minister told parliament, “Having considered all the evidence, the Secretary of State and I believe that the policy is a proportionate and justified response to the considerable public health harm from smoking tobacco. The Chief Medical Officer has confirmed this view.” Regulations for standardised packaging will be laid before the current parliament to allow for them to come into force at the same time as the European Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016. Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will need to confirm whether they consent to the regulations applying to those parts of the UK.
The Guardian reports that the Jamaican cabinet has approved a bill that would make possession of 2 ounces (56g) or less of cannabis an offence that would not result in a criminal record. Cultivation of five or fewer cannabis plants on any premises would also be permitted. The bill would establish a cannabis licensing authority to deal with the regulations needed to cultivate, sell and distribute the herb for medical, scientific and therapeutic purposes. The justice minister Mark Golding said, “We need to position ourselves to take advantage of the significant economic opportunities offered by this emerging industry.” The bill also allows Rastafarians legally to use cannabis for religious purposes for the first time in Jamaica. The Jamaica Observer reports US disquiet about the bill.
A Drug and Alcohol Findings Effectiveness Bulletin includes an analysis of the latest report monitoring and evaluating Scotland’s alcohol strategy that was published in 2009. The authors of the fourth report from NHS Scotland conclude that alcohol-related mortality and morbidity, and inequalities in these harms, are continuing to decline in Scotland. England and Wales are used as a comparison in the report where possible, and on some measures improvements have been seen more quickly in Scotland. External factors such as the declining affordability of alcohol due to the economic downturn and the associated policy context across Britain in recent years are likely to be responsible to a large extent for these improvements. However, the ban on quantity discounting of alcohol and the increased number of brief interventions delivered in Scotland are also likely to be contributing to these improvements.
The NL Times reports that the Dutch Senate has accepted a legislative proposal from the Ministry of Security and Justice which makes all actions of persons and businesses preparing and promoting illegal cannabis growing punishable. This legislative amendment aims to cover all links in the preliminary phase of cannabis production and those people and businesses earning money with the supply of goods or services and the financing of illegal cannabis growing. Grow shops, transport and distribution companies, landlords of sheds and barns and electricians who install illegal electrical equipment may be prosecuted. The amendment takes effect on March 1st, 2015 and the maximum prison sentence for such an offence will be three years.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Federal Spending Bill approved in December by the US Congress includes provisions limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical cannabis laws of their states. An amendment states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” One of the sponsors of the amendment, Representative Sam Farr, said “The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws. This is a great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.” The Obama administration had directed federal prosecutors in 2013 to stop enforcing drug laws that contradict state cannabis policies but the measure in the spending bill codifies it as a matter of law. The bill also prevents the Justice Department from undermining state-sanctioned hemp cultivation programmes.
BBC News reports that the UK Court of Appeal has ruled that a child born with foetal alcohol syndrome is not legally entitled to compensation after her mother drank excessively while pregnant. The case was brought by a council in the North West of England and involved a seven-year-old girl who was born with severe brain damage and is now in care. Lawyers argued that her mother had ignored warnings and drank a "grossly excessive" amount of alcohol while pregnant and poisoned her foetus. Three appeal judges at the Court of Appeal had to rule on whether or not the girl was entitled to a payout from the government-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as a victim of crime. The appeal judges ruled that the mother had not committed a criminal offence. Lord Justice Treacy said an "essential ingredient" for a crime to be committed "is the infliction of grievous bodily harm on a person - grievous bodily harm on a foetus will not suffice."
The New York Times reports that the Attorney General of New York, Eric T. Schneiderman, wrote to the chief executive of Amphastar, a company that makes naloxone, demanding an explanation for the recent sharp rise in the price of the drug. After a successful pilot programme on Staten Island, the New York Police Department said it would supply its 19,500 patrol officers with intranasal naloxone, a move that has been introduce by police departments across the country. A nasal-specific naloxone product has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Amphastar’s formulation is used “off label,” in combination with an atomizer, to administer the drug through the nose. Schneiderman’s office began a $5 million programme to reimburse police departments across the state for purchases of naloxone in April 2014. Mr. Schneiderman wrote that “A dose of naloxone that a participating police department had purchased for $14.90 in August is now selling for $34.50.”
The Guardian reports that a Cochrane review found evidence that e-cigarettes can help some smokers quit. The evidence came from two randomised controlled trials involving around 950 participants. The individual trials found no difference in the number of people who quit smoking by at least six months when using e-cigarettes compared with placebo e-cigarettes or nicotine patches. The results on quitting were significant when the trials were added together and the reviewers said the pooled results should be treated with caution. Robert West commented: “It’s early days, but it seems that these devices are already helping tens of thousands of smokers to stop each year.” Dr John Middleton, the vice-president of the UK Faculty of Public Health said, “It’s taken decades of sustained effort to create a society in the UK where smoking is now not seen as the norm. Our concern is that e-cigarettes could reverse this and create a new generation of customers for the tobacco industry, who might otherwise not have started smoking.”
Regulations have been laid in the UK parliament which will lead to making smoking in cars carrying children illegal in England. The restrictions are planned to come into force on 1 October 2015. Government health minister Jane Ellison said, “The existing smoke-free legislation, as set out in the Health Act 2006, will be extended so that it will be an offence to smoke in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present and fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present. If approved by Parliament, the regulations will apply to enclosed private vehicles and will not apply to anyone driving alone.” A fine of £50 will be issued for the offence.
BBC News reports that Beijing city officials have introduced plans to ban smoking in all indoor public spaces. The plans also include prohibition of cigarette advertising on public transport and in films, magazines and newspapers. The ban is due to be enforced from June 2015. The new rules will initially only cover the capital.
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10 - 11 April 2015, Asheville, North Carolina, USA.
17 - 20 April 2015, Barcelona, Spain.
22 - 25 April 2015, San Antonio, Texas, USA.
23 - 26 April 2015, Austin, Texas, USA.
28 April - 1 May 2015, San Diego, California, USA.
8 - 9 May 2015, Hong Kong SAR, China.
16 - 20 May 2015, Toronto, Canada.
16 - 18 May 2015, Carlsbad, California, USA.
17 - 20 May 2015, Arlington, Virginia, USA.
20 - 22 May 2015, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia.
29 - 30 May 2015, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
1 - 5 June 2015, Munich, Germany.
1 - 3 June 2015, Belgrade, Serbia.
7 - 9 June 2015, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
11 - 12 June 2015, Manchester, UK.
13 - 18 June 2015, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
15 - 19 June 2015, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
17 - 19 June 2015, Lisbon, Portugal.
18 - 19 June 2015, Scotland, UK.
20 - 24 June 2015, San Antonio, Texas, USA.
6 - 9 August 2015, Toronto, Canada.
8 - 11 August 2015, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
18 - 21 August 2015, Sydney, Australia.
22 - 25 August 2015, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
29 August - 1 September 2015, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
14 - 17 September 2015, Helsinki, Finland.
21 September 2015, Cardiff, Wales, UK.
23 - 25 September 2015, Lisbon, Portugal.
5 - 8 October 2015, Dundee, Scotland, UK.
7 - 9 October 2015, Melbourne, Australia.
7 - 9 October 2015, Edinburgh, Scotland.
9 - 13 October 2015, Washington, DC, USA.
11 - 14 October 2015, Sarasota Springs, New York, USA.
31 October - 4 November 2015, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
5 - 7 November 2015, Washington, D.C., USA.
12 - 14 November 2015, Alberta, Canada.
3 - 6 December 2015, Huntington Beach, California, USA.