Prevention Update

A unique update on what is happening in the world of drug abuse prevention.

Welcome to Prevention Update, Mentor International's daily summary of and comment on latest news, research, statistics, policy updates, information on resources and events. It is relevant in particular to practitioners and policy makers but equally valuable and interesting to all who form the drug prevention community.

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Ban on menthol cigarettes on the way in the EU

The EU is planning to ban menthol cigarettes in order to prevent young Europeans from taking up the smoking habit. Other plans include stricter rules on 'slim' cigarettes which would have to be sold in normal cigarette boxes (to lessen their appeal to females) and introducing combined graphic and text health warnings covering 65% of cigarette packaging. Electronic cigarettes are not covered in the proposal, but according to the Irish Health Minister James Reilly, they could become a target for future legislation as they contain harmful levels on nicotine and thus may pose health risks to users. The changes are expected to take effect by 2017. According to studies we covered before, not only do menthol cigarettes appeal more to young people due to their refreshing flavour, but they also increase the risk of kids becoming regular smokers (with non menthol tobacco).


Smoking during pregnancy linked with higher risk of substance use in children

We have covered a number of studies linking maternal substance use to lower IQ and brain damage in children. According to a new study, smoking mums-to-be may also put their children at higher risk of substance use and development of addiction when they reach adolescence. Researchers looked at 177 13-15 year-olds who had been exposed to cigarettes prenatally, and found that exposed teens were more impulsive than non-exposed teens and were more likely to be excited by exploring new things, including drugs. 45% of them indicated that they had smoked at least one cigarette in their life, compared to 32% in non-exposed teens. The researchers suggest that prenatal exposure to nicotine led to lower levels of pleasure hormones in children's brain, which meant that later in life these children acted in ways to increase pleasurable feelings, by using drugs for instance. The findings highlight the need for education and preventive measures to reduce smoking during pregnancy.


'25 Years of International Research into Drug use/abuse' Conference

The International Federation of Catholic Universities’ Centre for the Coordination of Research, in partnership with the EMCDDA, is organising an international conference entitled '25 years of international research in the field of drug use/abuse. Cross-cultural views on 5 key issues'. The conference aim is to celebrate the past 25 years of work in the field and also to open up debate and publicise the scientific results of the latest research project: 'Analysis of policies and practices in the area of the use and abuse of drugs.

Skills Consortium Annual Conference - Building Effective Practice

The Skills Consortium Annual Conference - Building Effective Practice will take place on 28th June in London. The conference will focus on the practical applications of workforce development for the drug and alcohol sector in this period of transition, and highlight examples of new projects and resources useful to practitioners. Registration for the event is required. Fees apply.


Early age drinking by girls: relative importance of ethnicity, genes and environment

New research examined the relative contribution of different factors to the age of first drink (AFD) in young women from European American and African American descent. Over 3,500 twins were studied from age 18 to 29 years. Age of first drink is significant for later drinking behaviour and African Americans (AA) were generally found to begin later than European Americans (EA). The role of ethnicity has been much less well researched than other factors. This study concluded that environmental factors such as parenting and school influences play a larger role in the development of alcohol-related problems in EA than AA young women, and genes contribute to problem drinking to a greater extent in AA than EA women.


Vivid picture of international drug use from analysis of wastewater

We have previously described the emerging science of sewage epidemiology. This latest meeting of international experts in Lisbon, 'Testing The Waters', was attended by over 100 participants from 20 countries. The conference concluded that, 'offering reliable data on spatial and temporal trends in illicit drug use, the technique can reveal what drugs are being used, where they are being consumed and even on which days of the week.' The event was organised by the EMCDDA, in collaboration with: the EU-funded SEWPROF project; the Italian Mario Negri Institute; and the Norwegian Institute for Water Research.


How important are social skills and problem-solving in reducing youth substance use?

This Spanish study examined how the elimination of either problem-solving or social skills training from the school-based drug prevention programme 'Saluda' affected substance use. 341 Spanish students aged 12-15 were assigned to the full programme, social skills only, problem solving only, or education as usual. Findings showed that the full Saluda programme was indeed more effective than standard education. Interestingly however, removing either the social skills or the problem solving element did not significantly reduce initial success in drug prevention, although this might reduce effectiveness over time.


Alcohol labelling - forgotten policy tool in prevention?

Despite evidence showing the effectiveness of health warnings on cigarette packaging, this policy tool is surprisingly absent when it comes to alcohol, according to a new study. Few countries require a list of ingredients or health warnings and astonishingly none require basic nutritional information. Only Australia requires serving size and servings per container to be displayed (it is also the only country in the world with plain tobacco packaging in place). Evidence suggests that labels which are composed of both nutritional information and health warnings would constitute the best approach to empower consumers to make healthy, informed decisions about their alcohol intake. The authors stress the need for better labelling of alcoholic beverages.


Smoking bans at venues need to include entrance areas

Research from Spain found that health protection from smoking bans decreases when staff or customers are allowed to smoke on terraces or near entrances. The findings correspond to similar studies in other European countries and in Uruguay.



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