News and Notes

Compiled by John Witton and Jean O'Reilly

E-Cigarettes Under Threat in European Union

The Independent reports that the review of the EU Tobacco Products Directive currently under way includes a proposed new regulation which would require any device containing more than 4mgs of nicotine to be authorised as a medicinal product. The EU's review of the Tobacco Products Directive is aimed at making smoking in all its forms less attractive to young people in order to discourage them from taking it up. But there is concern that the proposed regulation would mean that e-cigarettes would have to undergo expensive clinical trials and applications for marketing licenses making them commercially non-viable. Amanda Sandford, a spokesperson for Ash, the anti-smoking charity, said: ‘For the EU to treat e-cigarettes as tobacco products muddies the waters and causes confusion. It would be far better to treat them on a par with nicotine replacement products which are available over the counter through pharmacies and newsagents.’ Anti-smoking campaigners say ‘light touch’ controls would ensure e-cigarettes are safe and effective but allow them to be sold in newsagents and supermarkets alongside cigarettes. Ms Sandford added that they should not ‘have to go through umpteen clinical trials’. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes are also angry with the proposed new regulation. ‘We are not selling a medicinal product; we don't present e-cigarettes as having health benefits and they are not functionally a medicine. They are designed as an alternative to cigarettes,’ said Charles Hamshaw-Thomas, director of legal affairs at the E-Lites brand of electronic cigarettes. ‘Limitations on the wider availability of e-cigarettes will give cigarette companies an unfair advantage and perversely protect their existing markets.’


New Report on Smoking and Mental Health

The UK Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Psychiatrists have published a report, Smoking and mental health. The report draws attention to the lack of change in smoking prevalence among those with mental health disorders compared with the fall in prevalence among the general population and says that much of the substantially lower life expectancy of people with mental disorders relates to smoking. The report also notes that smoking is often overlooked during the management and treatment of a mental health condition and that UK public health policy and clinical service provision must change.


UK to Abandon Plans to Introduce Minimum Pricing

The Independent reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has tacitly acknowledged he is abandoning government plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol. The Prime Minister was on record as backing plans for a 45p minimum unit price and had said the plan would result in 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths a year by 2020, stating that the ‘responsibility of being in government isn't always about doing the popular thing.’ In response to a question in the House of Commons about reports that the Prime Minister had had a change of mind about the plans Mr Cameron said ‘There is a problem with deeply discounted alcohol in supermarkets and other stores and I am absolutely determined that we will deal with this.’ He added ‘We published proposals, we are looking at the consultation and the results to those proposals, but, be in no doubt, we've got to deal with the problem of having 20p or 25p cans of lager available in supermarkets. It has got to change.’ But Mr Cameron failed to mention minimum alcohol pricing in his response. Afterwards, the Prime Minister's spokesman effectively admitted that the plan was dead. In a further development The Independent reports that Public Health England, the body with responsibility for advising ministers on reducing deaths from preventable diseases, said there was clear evidence that increasing the price of drink would save lives. It added that while the Government's decision would obviously be ‘political’, on medical grounds the arguments in favour were compelling. Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE's Director of Health said it was vital that the Government used all the tools it had to reduce alcohol related deaths. Professor Fenton added ‘The evidence for minimum unit pricing is clear. So our recommendation to the Government would be to base their decision on (that) evidence.’ A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The consultation on Minimum Alcohol Pricing closed on 6 February. We will listen to all views and set out a response in due course.’


Cannabis Industry Attracting Investor Interest

The Economist profiles the interest of an investment fund, Privateer Holdings, in the cannabis industry. The article reports that research by Brendan Kennedy, who set up the fund with a few partners, suggested that the US cannabis market is worth $50 billion. The fund's first investment is a website, Leafly, which provides reviews of cannabis dispensaries and varieties of cannabis. Mr Kennedy says Privateer has received over 200 investor pitches since November 2012. Other funders are taking an interest in firms that supply cannabis growing equipment or ancillary services while steering clear of cannabis farming and sales. The Los Angeles Times reports that Lazarus Investment Partners, a $60-million hedge fund in Denver, has invested in AeroGrow International Inc., a maker of hydroponic kitchen appliances for growing herbs, lettuce and tomatoes. Lazarus, which owns 15% of AeroGrow's shares, has suggested that the company modify its products to accommodate taller plants, including cannabis, said Justin Borus, the fund's managing partner.


US Food and Drug Administration to Revise Cigarette Warning Labels Plan

The US government is abandoning its plan to require cigarette packs to carry a set of large and graphic warning labels depicting the dangers of smoking and encouraging smokers to quit. The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the federal government authority to regulate tobacco. The Act also specified the text of nine warnings for cigarette packs depicting the dangers and harms of smoking to encourage smokers to quit. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was directed to adopt graphic images to accompany them. The warning labels were due to appear on packs in 2012. Tobacco companies argued that the proposed warnings went beyond factual information into anti-smoking advocacy. The government, however, argued the images were factual in conveying the dangers of tobacco. In February 2012 the US District Court in the District of Columbia ruled that the FDA mandate violated the US Constitution's free speech amendment, with the judge noting that the labels would not increase consumer awareness of risks associated with smoking, because the labels were intended to evoke an emotional response. In August 2012, a US appeals court upheld that lower court ruling. The Wall Street Journal reports that in March the US Department of Justice decided not to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision. In a separate case the use of graphic warning labels was upheld by the US District Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in March 2012 but was appealed to the US Supreme Court by the five tobacco companies that originally filed the case. According to a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder the FDA now plans to revise its proposed label changes with labels that that meet both the requirements of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and the rulings by the courts. The FDA did not provide a timeline for the revised labels.


State of Washington Gearing Up for Legal Cannabis Market

After the states of Washington and Colorado passed laws legalizing the recreational use of cannabis and setting up systems of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores, Washington's Liquor Control Board must determine how many growers and stores there should be, how much cannabis should be produced, how it should be packaged, and how it should be tested to ensure people's safety. The Seattle Times reports that Washington is aiming to produce just enough cannabis to meet present demand: Producing too little would drive up prices and help the black market flourish, while producing too much could lead to excess cannabis being trafficked out of state. While the board is doing a lot of its own research, it is also recruiting consultants. The board selected a Massachusetts company called Botec Analysis Corp led by UCLA's Professor Mark Kleiman as the finalist for the cannabis consulting contract. Medical Marijuana Business Daily reports that the choice surprised industry professionals, primarily because Botec is a thinktank specializing in crime and drug policy rather than the business aspects of medical cannabis. But Brian Smith, communications director for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, told MMJ Business Daily that Botec was the ‘clear winner’ in each of the main categories (product and industry knowledge; product quality standards and testing; product usage and consumption validation; and product regulation).


Czech Republic Legalises Cannabis for Medical Use

After support from parliament, the President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus has approved the legalisation of cannabis for medical use. According to The New York Times the new law allows cannabis to be imported and later grown locally by registered firms licensed to do this. Patients will need a prescription from a doctor to get the drug at pharmacies and treatment will not be covered by health insurance.


Norwegian Government to Allow Smoking of Heroin

Norwegian Health Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has called the heroin overdose rate in Norway ‘shamefully’ high and announced that he wants to allow addicts to smoke heroin under controlled circumstances. Støre thinks that the move will lower consumption and overdoses, and he has full support for his proposal from the rest of the government. Views and News from Norway reports that Støre said it would be up to local municipalities to provide the controlled circumstances, such as ‘smoking rooms’ in facilities that have provided clean needles. The health ministry says that the measure is not decriminalization and heroin itself will remain illegal.


Global Report on Synthetic Drugs

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched the Global Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme in September 2008. The Programme aims to enhance the capacity of Member States and authorities in priority regions, to generate, manage, analyse and report synthetic drug information, and to apply this scientific evidence-based knowledge to design the policies and programmes. The report is the first global situation assessment on new psychoactive substances. It outlines the emergence of different groups of new psychoactive substances in the regions and highlights several key issues associated with these substances, including reported adverse effects associated with their use, the challenges for the identification of these substances and their subsequent control through legislation.


Conferences and Events

International Conference on Opioids, 9–11 June 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:

ASH Scotland 40th Anniversary Conference, 20–21 June 2013, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Website:

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

7th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, 30 June–3 July 2013, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Website:

ISCTE–EMCDDA European Summer School on Illicit Drugs, 1–12 July 2013, Lisbon, Portugal. Website:

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

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

Addiction Therapy-2013: 2nd International Conference and Exhibition on Addiction Research & Therapy, 22–24 July 2013, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Website:

Contemporary Drug Problems: Complexity: Researching Alcohol and Other Drugs in a Multiple World, 21–23 August 2013, Aarhus, Denmark. Website:

International Conference for the 20th Anniversary of the Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction, 9–10 September 2013, Zurich University, Zurich, Switzerland. Website:

5th Addiction and Mental Health Research Showcase, 11–13 September 2013, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Website:

National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD) 2013, 21–25 September 2013, Anaheim, California, USA. Website:

American College of Clinical Pharmacology (ACCP) 2013 Annual Meeting, 22–24 September 2013, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Website:

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

Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) Annual Meeting and Scientific Conference, 26–28 September 2013, Vancouver, Canada. Website:

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

NAADAC (the Association for Addiction Professionals) National Conference, 11–14 October 2013, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Website:

California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) Addiction Medicine State of the Art 2013, 16–19 October 2013, San Diego, California, USA. Website:

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

American Public Health Association (APHA) 2013 Annual Meeting, 2–6 November 2013, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Website:

37th Annual Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA) Conference, 7–9 November 2013, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Website:

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

International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) 2013 Annual Meeting, 21–23 November 2013, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Website:

Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs (APSAD) Scientific Conference 2013, 24–27 November 2013, Brisbane, Australia. Website:

2013 International Drug Policy Symposium, 27–29 November 2013, Auckland, New Zealand. Website:

American College of Psychiatrists Annual Meeting, 19–23 February 2014, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Website:

College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) Annual Meeting, 14–19 June 2014, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Website:

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