News and Notes

Compiled by John Witton and Jean O'Reilly

European Union Tobacco Products Directive endangered

Writing in the Lancet, Martin McKee and colleagues express concern that the resignation of EU Commissioner John Dalli may imperil the passage of the EU's revised Tobacco Products Directive. The revised Directive was expected to maintain the existing ban on some forms of smokeless tobacco (except in Sweden, which had secured an opt- out during its accession to the European Union to protect its domestic snus market), and possibly extend the ban to e-cigarettes. The Directive was also expected to: ban a range of flavourings; standardise the width, length, and colour of cigarettes; limit displays at point of sale; require larger graphic warnings on packs; and possibly propose future reviews, including the option of plain cigarette packaging. As a result of Dalli's resignation there are fears among many tobacco control advocates that the version of the revised Directive that is eventually presented will be much weaker than the text as it stands today. McKee and colleagues also note that even if the Directive is eventually enacted, the tobacco industry will have benefited from the delay, not only through probable increased sales in the EU but also in other parts of the world that might have followed the EU lead. Alessandro Fusco writing in Public Service Europe suggests that the draft Tobacco Directive will be delayed until the new health commissioner is appointed, and this may leave too little time to get the legislation approved before the parliamentary elections in 2014.


Pro-Smoking Smart Phone Apps Identified

The Guardian and ABC News report that Australian researchers identified 107 apps that promoted smoking in some way when they checked the Apple and Android Market app stores in February. Sixty-five were in the Apple App Store and the other 42 in Android Market's equivalent. By that month a total of about 11 million people used the 42 apps held by Android Market. The researchers, led by Nasser Bin Dihm of Sydney Medical School's school of public health, said the apps appear to be breaching the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. They were also concerned that apps are being misportrayed by Apple and Android Market by being available in categories labelled ‘health and fitness’, ‘entertainment’, ‘games’ and ‘lifestyle’. Tobacco companies deny any involvement, but the US Federal Health Department said it would investigate the retailers of the apps. The UK Department of Health condemned the apps as ‘disgraceful’ but said that British law may not be able to do much to combat them, as many may be produced overseas. Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said Britain should follow the example of the United States and Canada and force tobacco firms to reveal what sort of promotional activities they are undertaking and how much they are spending on each. ‘The measures we have in this country to control tobacco promotion apply to 20th century techniques, not 21st century ones such as the internet and smartphones. Apps are exactly the sort of thing that will attract young people to sample tobacco products because they glamorise them.’


New Government in the Netherlands Rethinks Cannabis Cafe Restrictions

A membership card for cannabis cafes, the wietpas was due to be introduced across the country in January 2013. Dutch News reports that the new cabinet government plans to continue to restrict access to the country's cannabis cafes to local residents but is dropping the introduction of compulsory registration of users via a membership card system. ‘The wietpas will go but entrance to coffee shops will be restricted to residents with ID or a residency permit and a local council statement of residency,’ according to the coalition agreement published on October 29th. However, the coalition agreement goes on to say that determining how this residency requirement is applied will be done ‘in discussion with the local councils concerned and if necessary phased in.’ This will allow a tailor-made approach per locality, the agreement states. The mayors of the Netherlands' four big cities Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht are opposed to the introduction of the cannabis card, saying it will lead to an increase in street dealing. Dutch News suggests that the coalition agreement would appear to pave the way for the big cities to determine their own policies, but there has not yet been any official comment on this. BBC News reports that the Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan says he will not ban foreign tourists from using the city's famous cannabis cafes. ‘The 1.5 million tourists will not say “then no more marijuana”, they will swarm all over the city looking for drugs,’ said Mayor Van der Laan, ‘This would lead to more robberies, quarrels about fake drugs, and no control of the quality of drugs on the market – everything we have worked towards would be lost to misery.’


Colorado and Washington legalize recreational cannabis Possession

Reuters reports that voters in Colorado and Washington have passed ballot proposals to allow legal possession and sale of cannabis for recreational use on 6 November in defiance of federal law. Under the recreational cannabis measures in Colorado and Washington, personal possession of up to an ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis would be legal for anyone at least 21 years of age. They also will permit cannabis to be legally sold and taxed at state-licensed stores in a system modelled on a system many US states have in place for alcohol sales. The Colorado measure will limit cultivation to six cannabis plants per person, but homegrown cannabis would be still be banned altogether in Washington state. The U.S. Department of Justice reacted to the measure's passage in Colorado by saying its enforcement policies remain unchanged, adding: ‘We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.’

US Tobacco Companies Continue to Resist Admissions of Wrongdoing

Reuters reports that two American tobacco companies, Altria Inc and Reynolds Inc, have told a US federal judge that they should not be forced to tell the public that they manipulated nicotine levels in their cigarettes in order to make them more addictive. In 2006 U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler found that the tobacco industry engaged in a multi-decade fraud to deceive the public, had manipulated nicotine levels and lied about health effects. Kessler's decision had been upheld by an appeals court. As part of the penalty tobacco companies should issue ‘corrective statements’, statements which should run in newspapers and cigarette packaging admitting their guilt. Since 2006 Altria Inc and Reynolds Inc have been involved in a legal dispute with the US Government over the corrective statements, maintaining that they did not alter nicotine levels, despite judges ruling against them, and therefore they should not be forced to publicise the statements. A Justice Department lawyer said the proposed statements are factual, based on Kessler's 2006 decision, and that the public needs to be aware of the extent of the companies' lying. Kessler said she would rule on the proposed wording of the ‘corrective statements’ soon.


Final Report from UK Drug Policy Commission

The UK Drug Policy Commission's aim has been to show how independent consideration of evidence can produce both better results and more effective use of resources in drug policy and practice. Its report A Fresh Approach to Drugs: the final report of the UK Drug Policy Commission provides an analysis of the evidence for how policies and interventions could be improved, with recommendations for policymakers and practitioners to address the new and established challenges associated with drug use.


Fines for Cannabis Users in Switzerland

The Swiss parliament has approved a proposal to impose a fine on consumers of small amounts of cannabis instead of opening formal criminal proceedings. The proposal, which was sponsored by the centre-right Christian Democratic Party, includes imposing a fine on consumers above the legal age who are caught with up to 10 grams of cannabis. Interior Minister Alain Berset said the cabinet supported the bill, albeit ‘without enthusiasm.’ Current law on cannabis smoking differs widely across Switzerland. Some cantons have decriminalised cannabis consumption by introducing a small fine for a misdemeanour, while cannabis smokers in Ticino can face criminal proceedings and fines of up to SFr3, 000.


Divided Opinion Among UK Retailers and Alcohol Industry on Minimum Pricing

With the UK Home Office's consultation on how to Implement government plans to enforce a minimum charge per unit of alcohol about to be launched, The Observer newspaper canvassed opinion on the issue among the alcohol industry, supermarkets and pub groups. The newspaper reports that one drinks company, Molson Coors, has publicly supported the proposals. The chief executive of Greene King, a pub operator and brewer, has spoken in support of the proposals while other brewers and pub owners are strongly against them. The biggest supermarket, Tesco, is broadly in favour of minimum pricing while the other major supermarkets have all come out against them. Despite the opposition the Home Office insists it will be launching its consultation this autumn. ‘The government is committed to the introduction of a minimum unit price,’ a spokesman says. ‘The proposal has the backing of the Royal College of Physicians and the Association of Chief Police Officers and could mean 50,000 fewer crimes and around 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths per year by the end of the decade.’


Limerick of the Month

We run a single limerick each month, chosen according to the Commissioning Editor and Editor-in-Chief's tastes. Please feel free to send us some should our pages inspire you to this form of poetry.

The ministry's done some new thinking

Fresh guidance on sensible drinking

Well, I'm off on the town

I give it thumbs down

In fact I find their fresh thinking quite stinking

Jim Orford, University of Birmingham

Conferences and Events

Group Relations Conference on Authority and Leadership in Recovery from Addiction, 11–13 January 2013, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Website:

Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) 2013 Annual Conference, 16–20 January 2013, San Diego, California, USA. Website:

Psychotherapy Associates 39th Annual Advanced International Winter Symposium, 27–30 January 2013, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. Website:

5th International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy (ICDDT), 18–21 February 2013, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Website:

Preventive Medicine 2013 (American College of Preventive Medicine), 20–23 February 2013, Phoenix-Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. Website:

American College of Psychiatrists Annual Meeting, 20–24 February 2013, Grand Hyatt Kauai, Hawaii, USA. Website:

ASCPT 2013 (American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics), 6–9 March 2013, JW Marriott Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Website:

American Academy of Health Behavior 2013 Meeting, 17–20 March 2013, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Website:

Society of Behavioral Medicine's Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions, 20–23 March 2013, San Francisco, California, USA. Website:

Alcohol Policy 16, 3–5 April 2013, Washington, DC, USA. Website:

21st European Congress of Psychiatry, 6–9 April 2013, Nice, France. Website:

American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) 29th Annual Meeting, 11–14 April 2013, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Website:

International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (ISPN) 6th Annual Psychopharmacology Institute and ISPN 15th Annual Conference, 16–20 April 2013, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Website:

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 44th Annual Medical-Scientific Conference, 25–28 April 2013, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Website:

Faculty of Addictions Psychiatry Annual Conference 2013, 2–3 May 2013, Newcastle, UK. Website:

Global Addiction & EUROPAD Joint Conference 2013, 7–10 May 2013, Pisa, Italy. Website:

American Psychiatric Association (APA) 166th Annual Meeting, 18–22 May 2013, San Francisco, California, USA. Website:

Society for Clinical Trials (SCT) 34th Annual Meeting, 19–22 May 2013, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Website:

Harm Reduction International Conference 2013, 9–12 June 2013, Vilnius, Lithuania. Website:

College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) Annual Meeting, 15–20 June 2013, Hilton Bayfront Hotel, San Diego, California, USA. Website:

21st World Congress for Social Psychiatry, 29 June – 3 July 2013, Lisbon, Portugal. Website:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists' International Congress 2013, 2–5 July 2–13, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Website:

The International Narcotics Research Conference, 14–18 July 2013, Cairns, North Queensland, Australia. Website:

Canadian Psychiatric Association Annual Conference, 26–28 September 2013, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Website:

26th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress, 5–9 October 2013, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

3rd International Congress on Dual Disorder, 23–26 October 2013, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD) National Conference, 9–13 November 2013, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Website:

News and Notes welcomes contributions from its 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; e-mail

Conference entries should be sent to Jean O'Reilly at Subject to editorial review, we will be glad to print, free of charge, details of your conference or event, up to 75 words and one entry only. Please send your notification three months before you wish the entry to appear.