News and Notes


  • Peter Miller,

  • Molly Jarvis


Ronald Davis, immediate past president of the American Medical Association and a tireless anti-tobacco advocate, has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 52. Dr Davis, a preventive medicine specialist, served as the 162nd president of the AMA from June 2007–2008, leading the organization in its historic apology for racial inequality to African-Americans. His career was marked by a passionate crusade against tobacco. He was the first editor of the journal Tobacco Control. Dr Davis helped change AMA policy toward the tobacco industry. In 2008, he was recognised for his career-long fight against tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs when he was awarded the American Public Health Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. Besides the personal tragedy, his passing is a huge loss to the global fight against the death and misery caused by tobacco.


RAND has released a new report ‘Reducing alcohol harm: International benchmark’. The report was commissioned by the UK National Audit Office (NAO), which is undertaking a value for money study to examine alcohol-harm prevention and treatment services supported by the Department of Health and the NHS in England, focusing specifically on NHS services for alcohol misusers. To supplement the evidence from England, the NAO commissioned an international benchmark with the aim of providing lessons from international policy and practice which may be transferrable to England. Five countries, broadly comparable to England in terms of alcohol trends and other socioeconomic indicators, have been studied for this project: Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States. The report can be downloaded in PDF format at


The EMCDDA has released two reports, the first on cocaine use, trade and importation in Europe, the second on the efficacy of selective prevention campaigns with youth. ‘Monitoring the supply of cocaine to Europe’ provides a short review of key issues relating to how cocaine is manufactured in Latin America and transported to European consumers via the Atlantic, Caribbean and West Africa. It also looks at the destabilising effect of the cocaine trade on producer and transshipment countries. The report can be downloaded in PDF format at

The ‘Evidence of efficacy: selective prevention’ report reviews the evidence around the selective prevention interventions that target high-risk groups. The report can be accessed at


The pioneering Swiss program to give addicts government-authorized heroin was overwhelmingly approved by voters who simultaneously rejected the decriminalization of cannabis. It is reported that 68% of voters approved making the heroin program permanent, whereas only 36.8% of voters favored the cannabis initiative. Since its inception, the prescription heroin program has been credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts. Evaluations have reported that the heroin program has helped eliminate scenes of large groups of drug users shooting up openly in parks that marred Swiss cities in the 1980s and 1990s. It is offered in 23 discreet centers across Switzerland, which provide a range of support services to nearly 1300 addicts who have not been helped by other therapies. The cannabis issue was based on a separate citizens' initiative to decriminalize the consumption of marijuana and growing the plant for personal use.

Source: The Age, 1 December 2008


The ban on the sale of fresh hallucinogenic mushrooms in the Netherlands from 1 December 2008 has been confirmed by Dutch health minister Ab Klink. The ban covers both the growing and sale of these mushrooms. The sale of dried mushrooms is already banned.


The British Medical Journal reports that the Russian government is flouting the World Health Organization's convention against smoking, despite having ratified it earlier this year. In defiance of the convention a new Russian standard permits the use of misleading advertising of cigarettes, including the use of the word ‘light’ to describe certain brands, and allows representatives of the tobacco industry to take part in the legislative process.

The lower chamber of the Russian national parliament, the Duma, has passed the national standard for tobacco products in its second hearing. The standard legalises the trade of cigarettes under names that include words such as ‘light’. Although a third hearing is needed before the standard becomes law, this tends to be a formal approval process only, and changes at this stage are unlikely. Two months earlier the head of the national consumer protection agency filed a suit against the tobacco industry for using misleading names on cigarette packets but lost the case.

About 60% of Russian teenagers smoke, and life expectancy in the country matches that of the world's poorest countries, at just 60 years for men. An estimated 330 000 people die from tobacco related disease in Russia every year. In Moscow a packet of non-filter cigarettes can cost as little as 2.5 roubles ($0.09).

Source: BMJ 2008; 337: a2837


In contrast to Russia, more promising news from Africa where international leaders in cancer and tobacco control have announced the launch of an unprecedented multinational effort to promote tobacco control measures across sub-Saharan Africa. This Day reports that the initiative, known as The Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI), will seek to promote the adoption, implementation and enforcement of effective in-country tobacco control policies, legislation and programmes. ATCRI is being supported by Cancer Research UK and the American Cancer Society and will be hosted by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco currently kills about 5.5 million people every year with 70% of the deaths occurring in developing countries. As reported in Addiction, tobacco companies have in the recent past targeted African countries for development, distribution and marketing of tobacco products because of the limited tobacco control legislation to date.

Source: This Day, 11 November 2008


Following an influential United States Government panel's recommendations that smokers receive the pneumococcal vaccine to protect against bacteria that cause illnesses such as meningitis and pneumonia, the Australian Medical Association says the vaccination should be freely available to people who smoke. Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council already recommends the pneumococcal vaccine for smokers. Smokers are at a significantly higher risk of contracting pneumococcal disease compared with non-smokers. Studies show a pneumococcal vaccine is of proven benefit to smokers.

Source: The Canberra Times, 25 October 2008


The first NHS clinic in the UK providing multidisciplinary treatment for problem gamblers has been opened by the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL). The CNWL National Problem Gambling Clinic accepts referrals from across England and Wales for individuals aged 16 and over and has already received a high level of interest. Staff at the clinic will include psychiatrists, psychologists, family therapists, Citizens Advice Bureau debt management specialists as well as other specialist therapists. The service-model is based on work piloted in the USA by Nancy Petry and has been modified for a UK context. Treatment uses motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy approaches with the inclusion of debt management. Once sufficient numbers of clients have passed through the individual treatment elements, a group-based day programme will be set up to assist clients to maintain behaviour changes.


Third Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, 2–3 March 2009, Vienna, Austria. Website:

14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, 8–12 March 2009, Mumbai, India. Website:

National Drug Treatment Conference 2009, 19–20 March 2009, Novotel London West Hotel and Convention Centre, UK. Website:

Harm Reduction 2009: IHRA's 20th International Conference, 19–23 April 2009, Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, Bangkok, Thailand. Website:

Society of Behavioural Medicine 30th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions, 22–25 April 2009, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Website:

Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum (CINP) Thematic Meeting on Major Psychoses and Substance Abuse, 25–27 April 2009, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Scotland. Contact: email Website:

The American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence National Conference, 25–29 April 2009. Hilton New York, New York City, USA. Website:

SRNT 15th Annual Meeting—Joint Conference of SRNT and SRNT-Europe, 27–30 April 2009, Citywest Hotel Conference Leisure and Golf Resort, Saggart, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Website:

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 40th Annual Medical-Scientific Conference, 30 April—3 May 2009, New Orleans, USA. Website:

31st Substance Abuse Librarians & Information Specialists (SALIS) Conference, 5–8 May 2009, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Website:

National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers Annual Conference, 17–20 May 2009, PGA Resort, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA. Website:

35th Annual Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium of the Kettil Bruun Society, 1–5 June 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark. Website:

12th European Federation of Therapeutic Communities Conference, 2–5 June 2009, World Forum Convention Centre, The Hague, The Netherlands. Website:

National Conference on Tobacco or Health, 10–12 June 2009, Phoenix Convention Centre, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Website:

The College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) 71st Annual Meeting, 20–25 June 2009, John Ascuaga's Nugget Casino Resort, Reno/Sparks, Nevada, USA. Website:

2009 UK National Smoking Cessation Conference, 22–23 June 2009, Novotel London West Hotel and Convention Centre, UK. Website:

19th Annual Symposium of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, 8–11 July 2009, Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles, Illinois, USA. Website:

International Narcotics Research Conference, 12–17 July 2009, Benson Hotel, Portland, Oregon, USA. Website:

International Society of Addiction Journal Editors (ISAJE) 2009 Meeting, 24–26 September 2009, Hotel Riviera & Maximilian's, Trieste, Italy. Website:

News and Notes welcomes contributions from its readers. Send your material to Peter Miller, 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 Molly Jarvis 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.