Loop to resume drug testing for festival season

Drug-checking charity The Loop will resume its drug testing programmes at UK music festivals this year, following its successful application for a licence from the Home Office.

Substances will be tested onsite at the events in the charity’s mobile lab, providing ‘rapid information to help keep festival attendees safe’. The organisation will also be sharing information with agencies such as health services and police to help increase understanding of local drug markets, it says.

The onsite services will provide ‘back of house’ testing, The Loop states, which means rapid analysis of drugs obtained from amnesty bins, confiscations and submissions from paramedics following drug-related medical incidents. It is distinct from ‘front of house’ checking where members of the public can submit drugs they intend to use for testing, and which are then returned to them.

Katy Porter: Accurate information enables effective harm reduction

‘The drug market is changing, and we are able to plan and prepare in our harm reduction messaging and response when we are informed regarding the drugs which are in circulation, and equipped with accurate and current information,’ said Loop CEO Katy Porter.

The licences have been issued ‘under strict conditions to drug testing organisations to operate at some of the leading festivals in the UK,’ the Home Office stated. ‘Confiscated or surrendered drugs will be tested on site and public alerts will be cascaded to festival goers if extremely potent drugs are detected to protect the public as much as possible and help prevent drug-related harm. This will also provide an important source of data for the government’s early warning system in tracking the prevalence of emerging threats, such as synthetic opioids, so that police and health support services can take swift action to contain the problem should any be identified.’ More licences are expected to be issued in the coming weeks, it added.

Vaping in young people has tripled since disposable e-cigs entered the market

Meanwhile, new research from UCL shows that the proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds who vape has ‘tripled since disposable e-cigarettes entered the market’ – up from 9 per cent in May 2021 to 29 per cent in May last year. However, smoking in this age group has fallen from 25 per cent to 21 per cent over the same period, says the study, which is published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe. Older age groups saw smaller increases in vaping and ‘smaller or no declines’ in smoking.

‘While action is needed to counter the rise in vaping among young people who otherwise would not use nicotine, policies should avoid signalling that e-cigarettes are a worse alternative to smoking tobacco,’ said senior author Dr Sarah Jackson. ‘Vaping may not be risk-free, but smoking is uniquely lethal.’

The government’s tobacco and vapes bill, which aimed to create a ‘smoke-free generation’ by raising the legal age of smoking by a year each year until it applied to the whole population (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/government-plans-smoke-free-generation/) has been shelved following the announcement of a July election. However, both Labour and the Conservatives have stated they intend to introduce the legislation if elected.

Trends in vaping and smoking following the rise of disposable e-cigarettes: a repeat cross-sectional study in England between 2016 and 2023 available here 

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