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Tobacco and alcohol 'are more dangerous than LSD'

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  • Tobacco and alcohol 'are more dangerous than LSD'

    Alcohol and tobacco are more harmful than many illegal drugs including the hallucinogen LSD and the dance drug ecstasy, according to a new scale for assessing the dangers posed by recreational substances.

    Drug specialists say the current system for ranking drugs - class A for the most dangerous to class C for the least dangerous, as set out in the Misuse of Drugs Act - is irrational, arbitrary and "lacking in transparency".

    Scientific evidence shows that heroin and cocaine are correctly ranked as class A drugs as they do cause the most harm. But LSD and ecstasy come close to bottom of the league in terms of harm caused, yet they are also labelled as class A.

    Alcohol is legal and widely used but comes fifth in the "harm" table, ahead of amphetamines and cannabis, which are ranked as class B and class C respectively. Tobacco is also ranked as more harmful than cannabis.

    The league table of 20 drugs drawn up by drugs specialists is intended to provide a scientifically based model for policy makers of the harm they cause. It shows that the dangers they pose bear little relationship to the official classification, on which the penalties for drug use are based. The eight drugs ranked as most dangerous include two that are unclassified while the eight judged least dangerous include two class A drugs.

    The report comes a fortnight after an independent commission called for a radical overhaul of Britain's drug laws which it said were driven by a "moral panic". The commission, set up by the Royal Society of Arts, said the aim of public policy should be to reduce the harm drugs cause, not send people to jail. It proposed reclassifying drugs - legal and illegal - according to the harm they do.

    Professor David Nutt, who works in addiction psychiatry at the University of Bristol and who led the latest research, said: "The current drug classification system is arbitrary in the way it assesses harms. It is not fit for purpose. We have tried to come up with a better system by looking at the factors that contribute to drug use and the harms they cause. We should review the penalties for drug use in the light of the harms they cause and have a more proportionate response."

    Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council and co-author of the study, said: "The object was to bring a dispassionate approach to a very passionate issue. Some conclusions might appear to be liberal in stance, but that was not our starting position. We intended to reach conclusions that were evidence-based."

    "Alcohol and tobacco are way up there in the league table, not far behind heroin and cocaine and street methadone. Society has not only come to terms with alcohol and tobacco but is well aware of the harms associated with them so we felt it was useful to include them as calibration points for other drugs."

    All drugs were marked on the physical harm they caused to the individual user, their tendency to cause dependence and their social harm, including their effect on families, communities and society [such as crime and NHS costs]. Each was given an overall harm score by two separate groups of experts which yielded roughly similar results.

    There was little evidence that ecstasy caused extensive harm, despite its widespread use by young people in clubs and pubs at weekends. Cannabis has been cited as a cause of schizophrenia but the authors said a causal relationship had not been established. If it were, evidence showed no more than 7 per cent of cases could be attributed to use of the drug.

    Professor Leslie Iversen, of the University of Oxford, said there was a widespread myth that skunk, from the tips of the cannabis plant, was 20 to 30 times more powerful than that available 30 years ago. "It is simply not true," he said. "The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs looked at this carefully. Cannabis resin [hash] has changed little and is about 5 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Skunk has 10-15 per cent THC. That makes it two to three times more powerful, not 20 to 30 times."

    The study, which took five years to complete, is published today in The Lancet. Professor Blakemore said: "We hope that policy makers will take note of the fact that the resulting ranking of drugs differs substantially from their classification in the Misuse of Drugs Act and that alcohol and tobacco are judged more harmful than many illegal substances."

  • #2
    obviously! i wonder if it's because of the money the states/countries make on it why it is not forbidden yet...


    • #3

      For many Americans, the tobacco industry's disingenuousness became a matter of public record during a congressional hearing on April 14, 1994. There, under the withering glare of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-California, appeared the chief executives of the seven largest American tobacco companies.

      Each executive raised his right hand and solemnly swore to tell the whole truth about his business. In sequential testimony, each one stated that he did not believe tobacco was a health risk and that his company had taken no steps to manipulate the levels of nicotine in its cigarettes.

      Thirty years after the famous surgeon general's report declaring cigarette smoking a health hazard, the tobacco executives, it seemed, were among the few who believed otherwise.

      But it was not always that way. Allan M. Brandt, a medical historian at Harvard, insists that recognizing the dangers of cigarettes resulted from an intellectual process that took the better part of the 20th century. He describes this fascinating story in his new book, "The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America" (Basic Books).

      In contrast to the symbol of death and disease it is today, from the early 1900s to the 1960s the cigarette was a cultural icon of sophistication, glamour and sexual allure — a highly prized commodity for one out of two Americans.

      Many advertising campaigns from the 1930s through the 1950s extolled the healthy virtues of cigarettes. Full-color magazine ads depicted kindly doctors clad in white coats proudly lighting up or puffing away, with slogans like "More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette."

      Early in the 20th century, opposition to cigarettes took a moral rather than a health-conscious tone, especially for women who wanted to smoke, although even then many doctors were concerned that smoking was a health risk.

      The 1930s were a period when many Americans began smoking and the most significant health effects had not yet developed. As a result, the scientific studies of the era often failed to find clear evidence of serious pathology and had the perverse effect of exonerating the cigarette.

      The years after World War II, however, were a time of major breakthroughs in epidemiological thought. In 1947, Richard Doll and A.Bradford Hill of the British Medical Research Council created a sophisticated statistical technique to document the association between rising rates of lung cancer and increasing numbers of smokers.

      The prominent surgeon Evarts A. Graham and a medical student, Ernst L. Wynder, published a landmark article in 1950 comparing the incidence of lung cancer in their nonsmoking and smoking patients at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. They concluded that "cigarette smoking, over a long period, is at least one important factor in the striking increase in bronchogenic cancer."

      Predictably, the tobacco companies — and their expert surrogates — derided these and other studies as mere statistical arguments or anecdotes rather than definitions of causality.

      Brandt, who has exhaustively combed through the tobacco companies' internal memorandums and research documents, amply demonstrates that Big Tobacco understood many of the health risks of their products long before the 1964 surgeon general's report.

      He also describes the concerted disinformation campaigns these companies waged for more than half a century — simultaneously obfuscating scientific evidence and spreading the belief that since everyone knew cigarettes were dangerous at some level, smoking was essentially an issue of personal choice and responsibility rather than a corporate one.

      In the 1980s, scientists established the revolutionary concept that nicotine is extremely addictive. The tobacco companies publicly rejected such claims, even as they took advantage of cigarettes' addictive potential by routinely spiking them with extra nicotine to make it harder to quit smoking. And their marketing memorandums document advertising campaigns aimed at youngsters to hook whole new generations of smokers.

      In 2004, Brandt was recruited by the Department of Justice to serve as its star expert witness in the federal racketeering case against Big Tobacco and to counter the gaggle of witnesses recruited by the industry. According to their own testimony, most of the 29 historians testifying on behalf of Big Tobacco did not even consult the industry's internal research or communications. Instead, these experts focused primarily on a small group of skeptics of the dangers of cigarettes during the 1950s, many of whom had or would eventually have ties to the tobacco industry.

      "I was appalled by what the tobacco expert witnesses had written," Brandt said in a recent interview. "By asking narrow questions and responding to them with narrow research, they provided precisely the cover the industry sought."

      Apparently, the judge, Gladys Kessler of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, agreed. Last August, she concluded that the tobacco industry had engaged in a 40-year conspiracy to defraud smokers about tobacco's health dangers. Her opinion cited Brandt's testimony more than 100 times.

      Brandt acknowledges that there are pitfalls in combining scholarship with battle against the deadly pandemic of cigarette smoking, but he says he sees little alternative.

      "If one of us occasionally crosses the boundary between analysis and advocacy, so be it," he said. "The stakes are high, and there is much work to be done."


      • #4

        From the gold foil wrapping to the cork, the wire tie, and the shape of the bottle it looks - and bubbles - much like the real thing.

        But Disney Partyfizz, a fizzy juice drink aimed at the massive children's party market, has been seized on by health campaigners as a potentially dangerous gateway to alcoholism for youngsters.

        The entertainment giant has been accused of acting irresponsibly by creating a champagne-style drink for children. Disney's detractors warn the product will create a "dangerous mindset" among youngsters and encourage early experiments with alcohol.

        Tesco is among the retailers stocking the £1.99 bottles and last night insisted the 'kiddie champagne' was safe and would remain on its shelves.

        The row follows rising concern about underage drinking in Scotland. More than 40% of 15-year-olds in Scotland regularly drink alcohol, with consumption higher among girls than boys. Last week a report claimed alcohol, as well as tobacco, was as dangerous as any illegal substances.

        Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "It's irresponsible to market and package juice for children as if it is alcohol, particularly by such a famous global brand as Disney. Underage drinking is a big enough problem in Scotland without products like this being aimed at young children. We call on Tesco to remove the product from its shelves immediately."

        Law added: "It could lead to potentially dangerous situations. A child could reach for a bottle of real champagne at a family party thinking it's fizzy juice, and pour himself or herself a glass. Parents should consider the connotations before buying this product."

        Campaigners have likened the lookalike bubbly to controversial cigarette sweets, which are still sold to children despite known risks. According to research published in the British Medical Journal in 2000, children who have used sweet cigarettes are more likely to become adult smokers.

        American researchers found that executives in the tobacco industry regarded sweet cigarettes as good advertising for future smokers. Withdrawing the confectionery from sale could even reduce tobacco use among young people, concluded researchers.

        Professor Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at Glasgow University, said: "It is a matter of serious concern that Disney has chosen to present soft drinks to young people that so very clearly resemble alcoholic products.

        "In Scotland we have a huge problem with underage drinking. Some of our strongest alcoholic products have penetrated the world of children and young people.

        "The marketing of this product will only serve to further young people's interest in alcohol and to encourage the graduation from those products that resemble alcohol to drinking the real thing."

        Last week, lobby group Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) called for a Scottish parliament inquiry into alcohol-related health problems, which are responsible for 45 deaths in Scotland each week.

        Dr Bruce Ritson, chairman of SHAAP, agreed parents should stay away from alcohol-style drinks. He said: "I have concerns about this looking like alcohol or real champagne. It fosters the ambition of celebrating occasions with alcohol. It could introduce young children to a model of drinking alcohol. Parents should be encouraged to think seriously about this product's connotations before buying it for their children."

        Disney's foray into celebratory drinks for children is part of the wider trend towards lavish kids' parties. As well as increasingly exotic venues, the average party bag now contains items worth £7.48, according to a survey published earlier this month. Pressure to provide upmarket trinkets means the gifts include sunglasses, temporary tattoos, model cars and water pistols.

        But Richard Lamming of the British Soft Drinks Association said: "It's quite hard to see how this could lead children off the straight and narrow. I don't share the view that it will encourage children to drink alcohol. These concerns are not well founded. I am sure children are quite aware that they are drinking fizzy apple juice and not alcohol. The whole point of the drink is to let children have a bit of fun.

        "I can understand there is concern about factors influencing teenagers and children to drink. But this product is not a risk factor."

        Yesterday Tesco, which enjoys the biggest share of the UK's supermarket industry, denied the product was harmful to children. "You can buy many other products in champagne shapes. One common example is chocolates. This is because the shape of a champagne bottle is associated with family celebration," said a Tesco spokesman.

        A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "We are very concerned about alcohol misuse, including anything that would encourage those under the age of 18 to drink alcohol."

        No one was available for comment from Disney.

        'It made me feel grown up'

        The girls from Glasgow watched, fascinated, as the wire tie on the Disney Partyfizz bottle was unravelled.

        The distinctive 'pop' of the cork drew an excited shriek from the two friends, who burst into laughter.

        "I want a bottle for my birthday next month to share with my cousins," said Monica Perry, aged seven. "It tasted like fizzy apple juice. I really liked it.

        "It reminds me of champagne. The bottle shape and the colour of the juice are the same. I've seen mummy and daddy drink champagne at parties."

        Mary Anne Keegan, also seven, wasn't convinced at first. "It tasted a bit funny because I've never had apple juice before," she said. "I thought it was champagne when I first saw it. The bottle looks just like it.

        It was good fun. It made me feel a bit grown-up."

        Her mother, Teri Smillie, rejected claims the product could lead to underage drinking.

        "It's just another way of making parties special for kids," said Smillie. "It's not like parents are buying a bottle for their kids to drink on a Friday night while the parents sip their white wine."

        Sweets with bitter taste

        In 1999, shops in Britain were flooded with chewing tobacco sold in brightly coloured sweet-style packs.

        The foil packets from Asia sold for as little as 20p, with some bearing children's faces on the front. The packets contained ground tobacco, often mixed with other ingredients including betel nuts. Some were sweetened, with one type tasting of chocolate.

        Politicians called for an immediate ban on the product, which was blamed for a rise in oral cancer among children.

        Sweet cigarettes, also known as candy sticks, are still sold in small retail outlets today.

        Lobby groups have called for the sweets to be banned over concerns they can encourage children to smoke.


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