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Puerto Rico bans Sunday alcohol sales to prevent spread of COVID-19
The Governor of Puerto Rico has announced a ban on all Sunday alcohol sales. The ban comes alongside the mandated closure of all non-essential businesses on Sundays to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions follow an increase in tourism and the number of reported daily cases of COVID-19.
Malta lifts ban on smoking near restaurants
The Maltese government has amended the Maltese Smoking Control Act so that people are now allowed to smoke outside restaurants and bars. The Act previously banned people from smoking within 10 metres of places where food was served. Smoking will still be prohibited in enclosed public spaces and near children’s playgrounds.
Tobacco companies sue South African government for infringing on citizens’ rights
The South African government is being taken to court by Japan Tobacco International (JTI), British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) and the South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA). The tobacco companies claim that the government’s ban on alcohol and tobacco sales, imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, was unfair and infringed on citizens’ rights. They also argue that the restrictions will result in reduced tax revenues and increased illicit tobacco trade.
UK NHS provided 6.5% of cannabis-based medicinal product prescriptions in 2019
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has reported that, of 277 cannabis-based medical product prescriptions made in the UK during 2019, only 18 (6.5%) came from the NHS, while 259 were prescribed privately. Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in November 2018 but has not been routinely prescribed or made available to patients since that time.
Rise in stress-related alcohol use in Scotland during COVID-19 lock-down
Alcohol Focus Scotland and Alcohol Change UK have reported that over a quarter of respondents to a national survey said they had used more alcohol than usual during COVID-19 lock-down. Twenty percent of those who reported increased drinking cited stress as the main factor, and just over half reported that they had taken steps to try to manage, or reduce, their drinking.
On-the-spot fines for drug use in France
France’s Prime Minister, Jean Castex, has announced that police will now be able to issue on-the-spot fines for illicit drug use. Under current French law, people convicted of using illicit drugs can face fines and imprisonment; however, very few cases end in prosecution. Under the new legislation, people caught using illicit drugs can be issued with a fixed fine of €200 (approx. $235) which will reduce to €150 if paid within 15 days.
Increase in medical cannabis prescriptions in the Czech Republic
At the beginning of 2020, the Czech Republic Ministry of Health announced that it would introduce medical cannabis subsidies, with a 90% reimbursement for medicinal cannabis products available from public health insurance. Since then, the number of patients being prescribed medicinal cannabis has doubled, with over 1,000 new patients enrolled in the scheme in June alone.
One million quit smoking during UK COVID-19 lock-down
More than 1 million smokers in the UK may have quit during the COVID-19 pandemic. The charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reported that 41% of people who quit smoking between March and July said they had quit in response to COVID-19. A report from researchers at University College London (UCL) also suggested that more people have quit smoking since the beginning of 2020 than during the same time in any other year since their Smoking Toolkit Study began in 2007.
Five-fold increase in referrals to UK gambling treatment services since COVID-19 lock-down
Gambling charities across the UK have reported a five-fold increase in the number of referrals for gambling treatment since COVID-19 lock-down. Treatment agency Gordon Moody Association has seen increased numbers of people accessing its outreach services and 100,000 more women visiting its online therapy website than during the same time last year. The charity also reported that the number of gamblers reporting suicidal thoughts has quadrupled.
Alcohol sales relaxed in Northern Ireland to help COVID-19 hit businesses
Stormont ministers have announced that alcohol sale restrictions will be relaxed, allowing pubs and nightclubs across Northern Ireland to serve alcohol until 2am on weekends, an hour later than was previously permitted. The legislation is due to be implemented in early 2021 and is intended to support the hospitality industry, which has faced financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia and New Zealand introduce health warnings about drinking in pregnancy
The Australian and New Zealand governments have announced that warning labels, outlining the dangers of drinking while pregnant, must be prominently displayed on bottles of alcoholic drinks. The legislation has been criticised by alcohol industry representatives, who argue the costs incurred will be considerable. Manufacturers will have 3 years to implement the new requirements.
The Netherlands proposes Gambling Act amendments
The Netherlands’ government has proposed several changes to its Gambling Act that will introduce restrictions on gambling advertising, licensing, and consumer behaviour. New measures include the stipulation that losses from individual bets cannot be greater than the original stake. The changes will also give gambling operators the responsibility to monitor customers’ behaviour and the power to issue 6-month suspensions to people who show signs of problem gambling.
Rise in illicit drug use among Australians
Data from the Australian National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 indicate that, between 2016 and 2019, an increasing proportion of survey participants used illicit substances, including cannabis (10.4% to 11.6%), ecstasy (2.2% to 3.0%) and cocaine (2.5% to 4.2%). In 2019, nearly half of the teenagers who were surveyed said they had used an illicit substance at least once. The survey also indicated that a growing proportion of Australians supports cannabis legalisation and that 57% would welcome pill testing.
Vaping quadruples among young Australian non-smokers
Australia’s Institute of Health and Welfare has reported data from its National Drug Strategy Household Survey. In 2019, fewer survey participants reported smoking tobacco regularly than in previous years, whilst the proportion of non-smokers aged between 18 and 24 who vaped quadrupled between 2013 and 2019, increasing from 5% to 20%.
Malaysian state of Selangor bans smoking, vaping and alcohol consumption in parks
Selangor has become the first state in Malaysia to introduce bans on smoking, vaping and alcohol consumption in parks and playgrounds. The new rules were enacted through an amendment to the 2005 ‘Parks By-Laws’ policy and are intended to encourage healthy lifestyles.
Ecuador legalises medicinal cannabis and hemp cultivation with 1% THC limit
Ecuador has introduced legislation to legalise medical cannabis and to allow people to cultivate hemp. All cultivated cannabis products will be subject to a 1% THC limit. Cannabis plants will be excluded from the country’s list of controlled substances, with hemp to be controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
Somaliland bans LYFT tobacco products
The Somaliland government has announced a ban on the sales and consumption of all LYFT tobacco products, following health concerns. LYFT is a tobacco-free snus product made from nicotine, tree fibres, water and aromas. Law and enforcement agencies are now authorised to remove all LYFT products from local markets, with violators facing prosecution.
South Africa re-introduces ban on alcohol sales
South Africa has re-introduced a ban on alcohol sales to prevent the spread of COVID-19. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the move as part of wider efforts to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and to alleviate pressures on the national healthcare system.
US drug overdose deaths reached record high in 2019
In 2019, deaths caused by drug overdoses in the US reached an all-time high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 70,980 Americans died last year due to suspected overdoses. This figure is higher than the number of recorded deaths in 2017 and reverses the 4.8% decline reported in 2018.
South Korea limits public alcohol consumption to prevent the spread of COVID-19
South Korea has announced that it will ban alcohol consumption after 7pm on 21 of the country’s largest beaches to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The ban will be introduced on 25 July 2020. Those violating the restrictions could face a fine equivalent to $2,500.