News and Notes

Compiled by Jean O'Reilly and Peter Miller


According to a story in the British Medical Journal, the World Health Organization (WHO) is urgently advising governments worldwide to increase the fight against cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases. These four major groups of diseases share four risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol.

‘We see higher levels of risk factors like tobacco and overweight and obesity in the lower social-economic class[es] and we also see the highest prevalence of diabetes occurring in developing populations,’ said Ala Alwan, the WHO's Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.

According to the WHO, non-communicable diseases cause 60% of all deaths, or more than 35 million deaths every year, of which 80% occur in low and middle income countries. The WHO predicts that global mortality from non-communicable diseases will increase by 17.6% or more between 2006 and 2015.

Alwan also highlighted that non-communicable diseases are ‘largely preventable if we address risk factors with tobacco control, address unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.’

Source: John Zarocostas, Need to increase focus on non-communicable diseases in global health, says WHO, BMJ 2010; 341:c7065:


The World Health Organization has published the Atlas on substance abuse: Resources for the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. The Atlas offers information collected from 147 countries, representing 88% of the world's population. It has a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries. The report analyses issues such as levels of government funding, staffing, policies, legislation and information, detailing measures that meet health needs for people with substance use disorders and highlighting gaps and challenges.

Key findings of the Atlas include:

  • • Many more people suffer from alcohol use disorders compared to drug use disorders and both types are more common in men than women
  • • Alcohol causes the highest demand for treatment of substance use disorders in most WHO regions bar the Region of the Americas, where treatment demand is mainly for cocaine use disorders
  • • Every year alcohol kills 35 people and illicit drugs kill four people per every 100 000 people
  • • Two-thirds of countries have a government unit or official responsible for treating substance use disorders and under 50% have a specific budget for treating such disorders
  • • In Africa, out-of-pocket payments are the main funding method for treating alcohol and drug use disorders. Africa is also the WHO region with the fewest countries with substance abuse policies.

The report may be downloaded at

Source: WHO press release, ATLAS 2010: First global report on substance use disorders launched, 14 December 2010:


The 170+ parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) have unanimously adopted a Declaration reaffirming their strong commitment to prioritize health measures and to exchange information on the tobacco industry's activities which attempt to interfere with the implementation of public health policies.

The Uruguay meeting reviewed the progress in implementation of the Convention and adopted new guidelines that provide further direction to Parties on how to implement several of the treaty's provisions.

The Conference decided that flavouring ingredients which increase attractiveness of tobacco products should be regulated in order to reduce the number of new smokers, especially among youth; smoking cessation services should be integrated into national health systems to make them more available for increasing the number of smokers who wish to quit; and parties should establish an infrastructure and build capacity to support education, communication and training, thereby raising public awareness and promoting social change.

The delegations also decided that negotiations on a protocol to combat illicit trade in tobacco products should continue with the aim of completion in 2012.

Source: WHO press release:


India had almost 70 000 diagnosed cases of cancers of the mouth in 2008, the highest in the world ahead of the US at 23 000 cases, according to statistics compiled by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer ( The high level of oral cancer is linked to sales of a low-priced spicy blend of chewing tobacco and areca nut called gutka.

Gutka is sold at street stalls across India. Its rough consistency abrades the mouth's lining and can accelerate the effect of nicotine and cancer-causing chemicals. The combination of tobacco and areca nut makes gutka and its hand-made ancestor (known as paan) addictive, scientists say. Areca nut is the fourth-most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world after tobacco, alcohol and caffeine. A chemical analysis of gutka highlighted in a 2008 report from the WHO ( found that it contains chromium, nickel, arsenic and lead as well as tobacco-related nitrosamines, all of which are known carcinogens.

More young people are picking up the habit. A survey of 1500 teenagers in Mumbai aged 13 to 15 found that double the students identified themselves as tobacco chewers compared with a decade ago, according to Healis (, a public health research institute.

Source: Adi Narayan, Two-cent chewing tobacco for kids spreads oral cancer in India, Bloomberg, 29 November 2010:


A new survey from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that about 30 million Americans per year admit to driving while drunk and 10 million more say they drive under the influence of illicit drugs. Although the rate of drunk and drugged driving decreased slightly in the past few years, from 14.6% to 13.2%, the problem is still enormous and steps need to be found to reduce it more, researchers say. The rate of drugged driving also dropped, from 4.8% of drivers in 2002–2005 to 4.3% in 2006–2009, according to the SAMHSA report. The national survey also found significant differences in substance use and driving among the states.

Source: Bill Hendrick, 30 million Americans admit they drive drunk, WebMD Health News, 14 December 2010:


Anti-smoking legislation was amended in December 2010 to allow smokers to smoke again in small owner-operated bars that have no other staff. Responding to claims that the ban was driving small Dutch pubs out of business, an incoming coalition government has also cancelled 280 fines levied during a campaign of civil disobedience by smokers and bar-owners.

The relaxation of the smoking ban will cover more than 2000 bars, many of which had been in open defiance of a prohibition that Dutch people thought went against the grain of their country's liberal reputation.

Source: Bruno Waterfield, Dutch smoking ban reversed for small pubs, The Telegraph, 16 December 2010:


A study published by Deakin University's Associate Professor Linda Hancock in Australia shows how well Crown Casino has implemented and regulated Melbourne's Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct. Casinos operate in Australia under largely industry self-regulated Responsible Gambling Codes of Conduct. Crown Casino was chosen strategically for its claims to international best practice in responsible gambling and formal regulatory requirements. The research reports on interviews with 225 Crown Casino workers, including gaming, bar, food and beverage and security staff as well as focus groups.

Key findings include:

  • • a lack of staff awareness of even the limited number of ‘signs’ of problem gambling included in the Crown Code of Conduct that are meant to trigger staff reporting of problem gambling;
  • • interpretation of signs like ‘gambling for long periods of time’ to mean 24 hours or more;
  • • ambiguity in the ‘upward report-to-supervisor’ process resulting in low rates of floor staff interventions in problem gambling—because they are told not to intervene;
  • • 65.3% of casino employee interviewees say they do not advise customers to take regular breaks in play;
  • • 55.3% say they would not intervene when customers are in a distressed state while they are playing; and
  • • 81.2% say they do not approach people whom they think are having problems with their gambling.

This Working Paper can be downloaded from:

Source: Deakin University press release, New Deakin University research on Crown Casino, December 2010:


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We knew something was wrong when we heard Iggy trip and fall headlong down the stairs that lead up to our esteemed office. It wasn't so much the thud, thud, thud of reptile bouncing off carpeted step that terrified us (though this was, of course, of serious concern) but the eerie silence that followed. Our screams of panic alerted the editorial team's first aider, who extracted the following short note from the claws of the thankfully unharmed, but gently snoring reptile . . . 

Bliss at last. The future is rosy, and I couldn't put it better than ol' Mr Langston Hughes himself when he penned those famous words: “Life is fine. Fine as wine”. Our magnificent and beneficent new Chief at the Department for Healthy Lizards has at last thrown open the cage door to the winds of change. And change it's gonna be—on an industrial scale.

You see, here in little old England, the new boss at the Department really is putting the Big Brand Food and Drink boys in charge of health policy! [1] I just can't wait! I'm counting on the chaps from the Iceberg Lettuce Marketing Board getting a seat at the top table– they sure know how to make happy little contented lizards. Too long the poor salad selling guys were left out in the cold along with the rest of the whisky, cola and chicken nugget fraternity, practically starving in that cruel commercial world. Well, they are back in the fold now, and I just know that my health will be their number one priority.

For so many long, dreary years policy has been run by a load of killjoy bureaucrats at the Department. They've badgered me about five-a-day this and five-a-day that; sup no more than three (or was it four?) drops of the finest rain that mother nature supplies, and no more binge drinking after a good shower. You know, I've gotten so fed up of all that nanny statist “About Me—Without Me” food and drink control nonsense.

Well I'm sure the commercial boys will be doing away with nanny. The boss has already asked the lads which bits of nasty European Law red tape to cut so that I can have a lifetime of contented, guilt free consumption of all the things that MAKE ME REALLY HAPPY! From now on I'm goin' to have My Greens—My Way, and I'll rattle my cage til I get them—crisp, shredded and by the garden shed load.

Nudge me that pile of Iceberg, buddy.

Iggy will no doubt return on his discharge from detox.


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:

American Psychological Association's 119th Convention, 2–7 August 2011, Washington, DC, USA. Website:

Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco Europe (SRNT Europe) 13th Annual Meeting, 8–11 September 2011, Kervansaray Hotel, Antalya, Turkey. 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:

American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting: Healthy Communities Promote Healthy Minds & Bodies, 29 October–2 November 2011, Washington D.C., USA Website:

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