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October 6, 2017


The alcohol and other drugs blog site "Volteface" recently published an article titled "A problem of 'joint' use: Exploring the interplay between cannabis and tobacco". The article draws on data from the Global Drug Survey, as well as a placebo-controlled double-blind study that compared cannabis and tobacco co-administration. The Global Drug Survey found that people who smoke cannabis mixed with tobacco tended to have less motivation to quit, than those who used cannabis alone. The placebo-controlled study found no difference in how stoned people became, regardless of whether they mixed tobacco with cannabis, but those who combined did show more extreme changes in heart rate and blood pressure - potentially increasing the harm.  The simple take home message is people who smoke cannabis should avoid mixing it with tobacco.

Read "A problem of 'joint' use: Exploring the interplay between cannabis and tobacco"

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August 31, 2017


Australia now has the lowest rates of tobacco smoking in the world.  A number of measures have contributed to this, including taxation, plain packaging, advertising restrictions and restrictions on smoking in public places. Now that smoking rates have declined significantly, we can see that there remain specific disadvantaged population groups that continue to have higher rates of tobacco use than the general population.  This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people from low socio-economic communities.  The Medical Journal of Australia has recently posted a podcast featuring an interview with Professor Billie Bonevski where she describes some of the issues with specific population groups, and provides suggestions for better reaching these groups.

Listen to "Targeted anti-smoking efforts with Professor Billie Bonevski"

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March 10, 2017


The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (formerly known as the Australian Drug Foundation) have re-launched their Drug Facts website.  The site contains information on a broad range of drugs, in an accessible format suitable for any worker.  Each fact sheet contains information on the specific substance including how the substance is used, an overview of the effects and harms, and information on rates of use in the population.

Go to the ADF Drug Facts website

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August 12, 2016


The Australian Indigenous Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre has recently launched the "Tackling Indigenous Smoking Portal".  This online service hosts information for services funded by the "Tackling Indigenous Smoking Programme", but much of the information on the site is useful for any worker or service who is supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait ISlander people to quit smoking. The site includes an overview of activities that are effective at reducing smoking including community health promotion activities like school based education and social marketing approaches, as well as individual activities like brief interventions, and physical activity.

Go to "Tackling Indigenous Smoking Portal"

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February 12, 2016


Recent data has indicated that smoking rates amongst young people in Australia have hit record lows, with only 3.4% of 12 - 17 year olds being daily smokers.  Data from New South Wales shows that in 2014 only 6.7% of 12 - 17 year olds reported current smoking, which is down from 23.5% in 1996.  An article describing these trends and the possible reasons for these significant declines has been published in the journal "Public Health Research and Practice", titled "Factors influencing reductions in smoking among Australian adolescents".  In the article, the authors show how various policies f have impacted youth smoking rates, from the increase in cigarette price due to taxation, right through to the more recent interventions such as plain packaging.

Download "Factors influencing reductions in smoking among Australian adolescents". (188KB PDF)

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November 20, 2015


Areca nut (commonly known as betel nut) grows in tropical parts of Asia, the Pacific and parts of Africa.  It is widely used as an intoxicant, believed to be the fourth most common human intoxicant after alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.  Generally chewed in combination with slaked lime, betel nut turns the mouth and saliva a distinct red colour which many people who've travelled throughout South East Asia and the Pacific would be familiar with.  Betel nut is sometimes seen in northern parts of Australia, and it is known to produce dependence and withdrawal.  The active ingredient in betel nut is arecoline, however it has been previously unclear exactly how this chemical produces dependence, and there has been little information available about treatment approaches for people wanting to reduce or cease their use of betel nut. An article was recently published on PLos ONE titled "Nicotinic activity of arecoline, the psychoactive element of betel nuts, suggests a basis for habitual use and anti-inflammatory activity."  The authors found that the arecoline in betel nut works on nicotinic receptors in the body, and they hypothesise that smoking cessation therapies such as varenicline (Champix) may assist people who want to cease using.

Go to "Nicotinic activity of arecoline, the psychoactive element of betel nuts, suggests a basis for habitual use and anti-inflammatory activity."

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October 2, 2015


There continues to be significant debate in public health circles about the relative risks or benefits of the use of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping.  While there is some evidence that the vapor in most e-cig products is significantly less harmful than the chemicals found in regular tobacco smoke, there remain concerns that vaping may become a "gateway" into cigarette smoking by young people.  Tobacco companies have invested heavily in e-cig businesses, with some public health professionals believing that this could be an attempt by "big tobacco" to maintain their primary business.  The Conversation website has published a challenging article by Professor Lynn Kozlowski from the State University of New York titled "Vaping as a gateway to smoking is still more hype than hazard."  In the article, Professor Kozlowski describes two recent studies which appeared to show this gateway effect, however he believes there were problems with these conclusions.

Read "Vaping as a gateway to smoking is still more hype than hazard."

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August 28, 2015


Public Health England has published a research report titled "E-cigarettes: An evidence update". E-cigarettes, devices which heat a capsule of nicotine in a propylene glycol or glycerine base into a vapour, mimics the sensation of cigarette smoking, but without lots of the dangerous chemicals in tobacco smoke.  E-cigarettes remain illegal in Queensland, while there has been a dearth of evidence about their safety or efficacy. This latest research review from Public Health England is a welcome addition to the literature.  They found that e-cigs are 95% less harmful to health than normal cigarettes, and when supported by a smoking cessation service, they help most smokers quit altogether.  They found that while there has been a steady increase in the use of e-cigs in England, rates of tobacco smoking in young people have continued to decline.  They found that e-cigs are used almost exclusively among people who have already smoked, reducing the fear that e-cigs could be a gateway to commence tobacco smoking.  The report also found that e-cigs release a negligible level of nicotine into ambient air, with no risks to bystanders through passive consumption. There remain concerns about quality control of specific e-cig products, with some variation noted amongst particular devices and nicotine capsules.

Go to "E-cigarettes: An evidence update"

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July 31, 2015


The Australian Drug Foundation has developed a handy fact sheet on E-cigarettes.  In recent years, E-cigarettes have increased in popularity globally and in Australia.  The battery operated devices can be used to inhale vapour from a disposable cartridge / capsule which could contain nicotine or other flavouring agents.  Some people use e-cigarettes to reduce the harm from smoking tobacco, however there is currently not enough research to conclusively recommend e-cigarettes for harm reduction purposes.  The lack of regulation around the manufacture of the devices has also led to concerns of possible contamination or other problems.

Go to the Australian Drug Foundation Fact Sheet "E-Cigarettes"

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May 29, 2015


Simon Chapman has published an article in the Medical Journal of Australia titled "The future of electronic cigarette (EC) growth depends on youth uptake".  Given the continuing decline in the rate of smoking in the population, cigarette companies are increasingly investing in ECs - with successful EC companies being bought by tobacco companies.  There is little data on rates of EC use in Australia, however on study from 2013 found that 15.4% of cigarette smokers aged over 14 reported using ECs in the previous 12 months, despite the nicotine liquid being illegal in Australia.  In the United States, rates of EC use have risen above that of traditional cigarettes, leading to concerns that EC use might be a gateway into cigarette smoking.

Read "The future of electronic cigarette growth depends on youth uptake" here.

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