News and Notes

Compiled by Jean O'Reilly and Peter Miller


According to The Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) group, the tobacco industry in Australia has tried to undermine the implementation of plain pack cigarettes through the release of an Australian federal agency report. Intellectual Property Australia (IP Australia) has queried the legality of the Australian government's proposed legislation to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes from 2012. The IP briefing documents said that plain packs raised controversial issues concerning the use of trademarks, undermining traders' ability to distinguish their goods or services from other products. They could also breach the free trade agreement with the United States, which imposes obligations on how Australia treats US investments.

The IP Australia briefing documents were released under freedom-of-information requests by the Institute of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank. Tim Wilson, a spokesman on intellectual property for the Institute, said the documents supported the institute's arguments that plain packaging was illegal and might lead to compensation payments to the tobacco industry of up to $3 billion.

IP Australia dismissed Mr Wilson's statement as incorrect. But prior briefing documents from IP Australia stated that constitutional provisions might not prevent tobacco companies from seeking compensation.

The ASH group said the Institute of Public Affairs was a front group for the tobacco industry, which was seeking to axe the proposed plain pack legislation. Anne Jones, chief executive of ASH, said the Institute, ‘which repeatedly fails to mention its past acceptance of tobacco funding, is again presenting views very similar to those of the tobacco companies—unsupported by the evidence’.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the government remained committed to introducing plain packaging from 2012 to reduce smoking.

‘By introducing plain packaging of cigarettes we will remove the last way for cigarette companies to advertise their products,’ the spokeswoman said. ‘These actions by the tobacco industry suggests the tobacco companies know the changes will work’.

Source: Metherell M., Agency queries plain pack legality, The Age, 23 October 2010.


According to a story in The New York Times, on 2 November 2010 voters in California defeated Proposition 19, which would have legalised marijuana for recreational use, allowing licensed retailers to sell up to one ounce at a time, with no doctor's note required, to those over the age of 21.

Advocates of legalisation argued that it was already easier for young people to get a marijuana cigarette than a cigarette or beer, and that legalising marijuana would generate tax revenue and reduce the violence caused by Mexican organisations that traffic in illegal drugs.

But opponents carried the day with their argument that lifting the ban on marijuana would increase use of the drug. Already, a recent change in the law categorises possession of small amounts as an infraction, the lowest level of offence.

Medical marijuana initiatives fared better, with more than a dozen states allowing cannabis for those who get permission from their doctors. But voters in South Dakota and Arizona rejected a measure allowing medical marijuana in those states. Voters in Oregon, where about 40 000 people legally use medical marijuana, rejected a measure to set up state-regulated dispensaries.

The vote on legalising marijuana in California was closely watched, especially in Mexico, where the government is engaged in a violent battle with drug traffickers who grow marijuana and sneak the profitable herb in bales across the border.

Source: Lacey M., California rejects marijuana legalisation, The New York Times, 3 November 2010. Website:


According to an Arab News story, the Ministry of Health intensified its campaign to make the holy cities of Mecca and Medina completely tobacco-free as Hajj pilgrims arrived in Saudi Arabia in November for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Over 2 million pilgrims from around the world travel to Mecca and Medina each year.

‘We require the cooperation of pilgrims to make the two holy cities among those with the lowest tobacco consumption in the world,’ said Dr Sameer Al-Sabban, executive director of the Anti-Smoking Campaign in Mecca.

The sale of tobacco is strictly banned in the 5-km radiuses of the Grand Mosque and Holy Mosque in Mecca and Medina. Buses carrying pilgrims have anti-smoking posters on them, and folders containing pamphlets, flyers, postcards and stickers will also be handed to pilgrims at the Jamrat during Hajj.

To assist pilgrims, the Ministry set up six free anti-smoking clinics in the holy city as part of the campaign. The clinics are open to male and female smokers.

Source: Rasooldeen M.D., Holy cities to be tobacco-free. Arab News, 1 November 2010:


The New York City Health Department announced in October that smoking-related deaths have declined by 17% in New York City during the past decade—from approximately 8700 in 2002 to about 7200 in 2009. Altogether, an estimated 6300 lives were saved during this period as the smoking rate fell. The biggest reductions in smoking-related mortality occurred in cardiovascular disease (down 27%), cancer (down 9%) and respiratory disease (down 12%). Dr Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner, presented the findings at a New York Academy of Medicine conference, ‘Public Health in New York City: Innovative approaches to leading causes of mortality and morbidity.’

The reduction in smoking-related deaths parallels a dramatic decline in New York City's adult smoking rate, which fell by 27% during the same eight-year period. The death rate should continue to fall for many years, as the City maintains its aggressive anti-tobacco initiatives and New Yorkers reap the long-term health benefits of not smoking.

New York City has initiated many anti-smoking measures during this period of declining deaths. The 2002 Smoke-Free Air Act eliminated smoking in virtually all New York City work places, including bars and restaurants, in an effort to curb the hazardous effects of secondhand smoke. Since 2003, the City has distributed nicotine patches and gum to 250 000 New York City smokers through annual giveaways, enabling an estimated 80 000 to quit. Beginning in 2006, the City's education campaigns have depicted the harmful effects of tobacco smoke on the human body. According to the Health Department, nine out of 10 smokers said they saw the ads in 2006, and half said the ads made them want to quit.

Source: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene press release:


The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) has launched Canada's first online healthy lifestyle television channel for youth aged 10 to 24. URL-TV is designed to engage, educate and empower youth to make healthy lifestyle choices and stay away from drugs.

The program helps young people develop valuable life skills and get them to focus their energy onto positive pursuits such as creating videos and learning to manage money. According to CCSA, research shows that effective prevention initiatives need to have a skill-development component, help youth improve their self-esteem and decision-making abilities, and encourage them to increase their ties to their families and communities so that they will be less likely to get involved with drugs. URL-TV blends information about substance use and its effects into youth-friendly, skill-building ‘infotainment’ and news that youth can use., the web address where URL-TV can be found, was launched in 2008 by CCSA and has won numerous awards as an innovative drug prevention website. The site features ‘URL,’ an animated eyeball that can be given a variety of illegal substances like pot and ecstasy with the click of the mouse. This allows youth to explore through virtual experimentation, seeing the effects that different drugs have on URL without harming themselves.

Source: CCSA press release:


In April 2010, The Addiction Research Institute (IVO) in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, organised its first Masterclass Addiction, an innovative interdisciplinary meeting to discuss the current state of affairs on the concept of addiction. Ten of the world's most influential scientists and their talented juniors participated, including Griffith Edwards, Robin Room, Dike van de Mheen, Terry Robinson, James Cornish, and Gerhard Gmel.

A short documentary film is now available, in which Robin Room, Terry Robinson, Kerstin Stenius, Griffith Edwards, and Dike van de Mheen provide their views on the themes that the Masterclass covers:

  • • What is addiction?
  • • Is addiction a brain disease?
  • • Are compulsive behaviors, like sex and gaming, real addictions?
  • • What are important implications of the concept of addiction?

The documentary can be accessed two ways: on the IVO website ( or on YouTube (Part 1: and Part 2:


Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) Annual Meeting, 16–19 February 2011, Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto, Canada. Website:

13th International Symposium on Substance Abuse Treatment: Drug Dependence: Treatment Generalities and Specificities, 23–25 March 2011, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

European Conference on Tobacco or Health, 28–30 March 2011, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Website:

Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum (CINP) Thematic Meeting: Polypharmacy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, 1–3 April 2011, Groβe Universitätsaula, Salzburg, Austria. Website:

International Harm Reduction Association's 22nd International Conference, 3–7 April 2011, Habtoor Grand Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon. Website:

37th Annual Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium of the Kettil Bruun Society, 11–15 April 2011, Melbourne, Australia. Website:

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 42cd Annual Medical-Scientific Conference, 14–17 April 2011, Washington DC, USA. Website:

32nd Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 27–30 April 2011, Washington, DC, USA. Website:

Australian Drug Foundation's 6th International Drugs and Young People Conference, 2–4 May 2011, Melbourne Convention Centre, Melbourne, Australia. Website:

Substance Abuse Librarians & Information Specialists 33rd Annual Meeting, 3–6 May 2011, Hilton-President Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Website:

Royal College of General Practitioners 16th National Conference: Working with Drug and Alcohol Users in Primary Care 2011, 12–13 May 2011, Harrogate International Centre, Harrogate, UK. Website:

National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers Annual Conference, 14–17 May 2011, Wild Horse Pass, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Website:

Fifth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, 23–24 May 2011, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Website:

2011 UK National Smoking Cessation Conference, 13–14 June 2011, Novotel London West Hotel, London, UK. Website:

College on Problems of Drug Dependence 73rd Annual Meeting, 18–23 June 2011, Westin Diplomat, Hollywood, Florida, USA. Website:

34th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, 25–29 June 2011, Atlanta Georgia, USA. Website:

13th European Federation of Therapeutic Communities Conference, 20–23 September 2011, Keble College, Oxford University, Oxford, UK. Website:

Beyond the Buzzword: Problematising ‘Drugs’, 3–4 October 2011, Prato, Italy. Hosted by Contemporary Drug Problems. Website:

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