News and Notes

Compiled by Peter Miller, Jean O'Reilly and Molly Jarvis


An alliance of institutions collectively managing an estimated 80% of all public health research funding worldwide has announced its first targets for concerted action in the fight against ‘chronic non-communicable diseases’ (CNCDs). Lowering hypertension (high blood pressure), and reducing tobacco use and the indoor pollution caused by crude cooking stoves in developing countries—which together contribute to about 1 in 5 deaths each year—were chosen as initial priorities for the unprecedented coordinated research program under the recently-formed Global Alliance for Chronic Disease.

The Alliance was created in June 2008 to support clear and coordinated research funding priorities in the battle against CNCDs, namely cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), several cancers, chronic respiratory conditions, and type 2 diabetes. Members include the South African Medical Research Council, the Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, the Australia National Health and Medical Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the UK Medical Research Council, and the US National Institutes of Health.



A report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified that although the prevalence of current cigarette smoking among adults has declined 3.5% since 1998 (from 24.1% in 1998 to 20.6% in 2008), smoking rates have shown virtually no change in the past 5 years [1]. The CDC suggests that the unchanging smoking rates may be due to underfunded tobacco control programs. In the fiscal year 2009, not one US state has funded its tobacco control programs at CDC-recommended levels. States annually receive $24.6 billion in Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) funds and tobacco excise tax revenue, of which only 15% is needed to fund state tobacco control programs to CDC-recommended levels. However, some states are doing much better than others, most commonly those that have introduced interventions such smoking bans in the workplace, restaurants and bars. Unfortunately, only 21 states out of 50, plus the capital city Washington, have implemented such measures [2]. The CDC concludes that such measures should be implemented more widely.



A joint report released by the Global Smokefree Partnership and the American Cancer Society (ACS) warns that without the intervention of smoke-free laws, Africa may face a surge in cancer deaths. According to the report, ‘nearly 90% of people on the continent remain without meaningful protection from second-hand smoke’. The report highlights recent efforts by several countries in Africa to introduce strict anti-smoking laws, but also says there are obstacles to the anti-smoking measures.

Without intervention, the report predicts that ‘more than half the continent will double its tobacco use within 12 years’. The price of cigarettes also figures in tobacco use and the report points out that while cigarettes prices are increasing in rich nations, they're relatively cheap in Africa. The report also includes information on additional contributing factors to increased tobacco use in Africa and the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The report: Rebutting the tobacco industry, winning smokefree air can be viewed at



The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has demanded that makers of drinks that contain a double hit of alcohol and caffeine supply the FDA with scientific evidence that the drinks are safe or such drinks could be banned within months. The FDA is reportedly worried that consuming the drinks leads to rash behaviour, car crashes, violence and assaults, because they may mask the effects of alcohol. In 2006, Marczinski and Fillmore found that consumers of the drinks felt they were less inebriated than when imbibing alcohol alone, even though they made just as many errors in standard tests of alertness and reaction time [1]. The FDA allows caffeine concentrations of up to 200 parts per million in soft drinks, but adding caffeine to alcohol is unregulated. At least two of the 27 companies contacted have already withdrawn their drinks.



The Australian parliament has released a discussion document that evaluates the options and issues associated with taxation reform for alcohol. It found that inconsistencies exist in the current alcohol taxation regime when viewed against principles such as economic efficiency, equity, and enforceability and compliance. They quote the example that the ‘excise on low-strength draught beer is about one fifth that on low-strength packaged beer, while the tax on cask wine is only a fraction of that on mid-strength beer even though wine has higher alcohol content. The amount of wine equalisation tax (WET) is unrelated to alcohol content. These differences seem unrelated to policy objectives’.

The report found that reform options based on the general taxation principles include broadening the tax base, eliminating preferential treatment of certain beverages and producers, applying a single excise rate, structuring excise so that rates rise as alcohol content increases, and abolishing the WET and replacing it with excise tax. Most importantly, it concluded that ‘[t]axing alcoholic beverages on the basis of alcohol content, combined with a graduated taxation rate, whereby the tax rate rises with the alcohol content of the beverage, would represent a considerable improvement on the current alcohol taxation regime. The evidence indicates that combining a graduated tax based on alcohol content with an increase in the overall tax take would reduce the very considerable social costs of excessive alcohol consumption’.



The Vietnamese online news source VOVNEWS reports that overconsumption of alcoholic beverages among Vietnamese, especially the young, is posing a threat to society and the national economy. Statistics released by the Institute for Medical Policy Strategies show that as much as 4.4% of the population is faced with health problems caused by drinking. The medical institute says as high as 69% of boys and 28% of girls aged 14–15 start trying alcohol. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization warns that excessive consumption of alcohol at a young age could stunt the development of their brains. Dr Sally Caswell of the WHO says that the harmful effect of alcohol is even greater than that of tobacco, because it can bring about social disorders and a negative impact on economic growth, especially in developing countries. Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Xuyen says the total cost of manufacturing alcoholic beverages and dealing with the problems they cause accounts for 2 to 8% of GDP.

Vietnam has introduced measures to prevent the abuse of alcohol. But there are reasons to be cynical about the drinks industry as it has continued to grow and flourish over the past 10 years. The Ministry of Health has recently organized a conference to share views with the WHO and other participants on the need to push for anti-alcoholism schemes. Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Xuyen says that in 2009 her ministry will submit to the government a draft bill on preventing the abuse of alcohol in the 2010–2020 period, including a ban on advertising and promoting drinking in all forms.

Source: VOVNEWS, 15 November 2009.

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The Australian Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, in collaboration with the Drug Policy Modelling Program, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, has released a report entitled ‘How do methamphetamine users respond to changes in methamphetamine price?’[1]. The report investigates whether supply-side drug law enforcement reduces drug use by raising the cost of buying drugs. A sample of 101 methamphetamine users in New South Wales was given hypothetical scenarios and their spending preferences recorded. Substitution effects were noted across drugs as the price rose; however, the amount of substitute drugs was less than the amount of drug of choice.



A group of Australian academics active in the heroin overdose field has called for changes to that country's laws regarding the provision of naloxone [1]. They believe that existing international evidence clearly suggests that making naloxone more widely available in Australia will prevent many overdose fatalities and call for Australian governments to take steps to increase access to naloxone as a part of overdose prevention training. They propose that this training should begin with known high-risk groups, such as prisoners about to be released and people who exit abstinence-oriented drug treatment programs. Careful monitoring and evaluation would be a prerequisite. They further propose that, at a minimum, Australian states should promptly enact Good Samaritan legislation to protect lay people using naloxone in emergency situations. Beyond this, rescheduling naloxone to make it available across the counter would greatly facilitate access to the drug.



Southeast Conference on Addictive Disorders 2010, 21–24 February 2010, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Website:

Drug and Alcohol Treatment for Young People, 24 February 2010, Ort House Conference Centre, London, UK. Website:

Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) Annual Meeting, 24–27 February 2010, Hilton Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Website:

Fourth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, 15–16 March 2010, Santa Monica, California, USA. Website:

Alcohol and Violence: Relationships, Causality, and Policy, a thematic meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society, 15–18 March 2010, Melbourne, Australia. Website:

18th Annual Public Health Forum: Confronting the Public Health Crisis, 24–25 March 2010, Bournemouth International Centre, Bournemouth, UK. Website:

Society of Behavioural Medicine 31st Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions, 7–10 April 2010, Seattle Sheraton, Seattle, Washington, USA. Website:

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 41st Annual Medical-Scientific Conference, 15–18 April 2010, San Francisco, California, USA. Website:

Harm Reduction 2010: IHRA's 21st International Conference, 25–29 April 2010, Liverpool, UK. Website:

32nd Annual Substance Abuse Librarians & Information Specialists (SALIS) Conference, 27–30 April 2010, New York City, New York, USA. Website:

National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers Annual Conference, 22–25 May 2010, La Cantera Resort, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Website:

The American Psychiatric Association's 2010 Annual Meeting, 22–26 May 2010, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Website:

Association for Psychological Science 22cd Annual Convention, 27–10 May 2010, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Website:

36th Annual Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium of the Kettil Bruun Society, 31 May-4 June 2010, Lausanne, Switzerland. Website:

The Society for Prevention Research (SPR) 18th Annual Meeting: Cells to Society: Prevention at All Levels, 1–4 June 2010, Denver, Colorado, USA. The International Program and the Prevention Research Branch of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will host the 3rd Annual NIDA International SPR Poster Session at this event. Website:

Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum (CINP) 2010 World Congress, 6–10 June 2010, Hong Kong, China. Website:

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) International Forum: Drug Policy, Research, and the Public Good, 11–15 June 2010, Fairmont Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. Website:

The College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) 72nd Annual Meeting, 12–17 June 2010, Fairmont Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. Website:

2010 UK National Smoking Cessation Conference, 14–15 June 2010, Radisson Hotel, Glasgow, UK. Website:

Inaugural National Indigenous Drug & Alcohol Conference (NIDAC 2010), 16–18 June 2010, Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, South Australia. Website:

4th European Alcohol Policy Conference, 16–18 June 2010, Brussels, Belgium. Website:

The International Narcotics Research Conference, 11–16 July 2010, Hilton Hotel, Malmö, Sweden. Website:

The International AIDS Society's 18th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010), 18–23 July 2010, Vienna, Austria. Website:

Translational Research in Methamphetamine Addiction Conference, 19–21 July 2010, Chico Hot Springs and Day Spa, Pray, Montana, USA. Website:

The 20th Annual Symposium of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, 24–27 July 2010, Scandic Star, Lund, Sweden. Website:

International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism (ISBRA) 2010 Congress, 13–16 September 2010, Paris, France. Website:

The International Society of Addiction Medicine 12th Annual Meeting, 4–7 October 2010, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy. Website:

The American Association of for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence National Conference, 23–27 October 2010, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Website:

Addictions 2010: The New Frontier in Addiction Treatment: Evidence-Based Policy and Practice, 28–31 October 2010, Sheraton National, Arlington, Virginia, USA. Website:

American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Exposition, 6–10 November 2010, Denver, Colorado, USA. Website:

Alcohol Policy Conference Series #15: Policies for Reducing Problems Associated with Alcohol Availability, 5–7 December 2010, Washington Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, DC, USA. A thematic meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society, organized by the Silver Gate Group. Website:

Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, 13–17 November, San Diego, California, USA. Website:

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