Hollings Leading Study on Policies Regulating Tobacco, Nicotine Use

Contact: K. Michael Cummings, Ph.D., M.P.H.
843-876-2429 (office)
716-868-8579 (mobile)

Allison Leggett

June 2, 2016

CHARLESTON, SC – The Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) Hollings Cancer Center was awarded a five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to lead an international consortium of research designed to evaluate the impact of government policies on tobacco use behaviors and the evolving nicotine delivery market, which includes the use of vaporized nicotine products such as e-cigarettes. This grant builds upon the long-standing International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC Project), which has used cross-country comparisons and a common set of measures to evaluate the behavioral impacts of national-level tobacco control policies implemented as part of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The grant includes five interrelated studies and the collaborative efforts of more than two dozen investigators from 10 academic institutions in four countries with a goal of assessing the likely impact of current and potential future policies to regulate tobacco products, including the new class of projects referred to as vaporized nicotine products (e.g., e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn tobacco products).

“The timing of this project is opportune since policies regulating vaporized nicotine products and conventional tobacco products are evolving in different countries, including the recently enacted regulations adopted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and data are needed to help guide effective policy development,” said K. Michael Cummings, Ph.D., professor in the MUSC Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and co-leader of the project.

Other institutions included in this research consortium include the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada), Roswell Park Cancer Institute, King’s College London (England), Georgetown University, Virginia Tech, The Cancer Council Victoria (Melbourne, Australia), University of Illinois at Chicago, The State University of New York, University of South Carolina, and Susquehanna University.

“There is a hotly contested debate in the medical and public health communities about whether vaporized nicotine products such as e-cigarettes will prove to have a net positive or negative impact on population health,” said Anthony J. Alberg, Ph.D., MPH, a co-investigator on the grant and the interim director for the Hollings Cancer Center. "With so many new nicotine products being introduced into the marketplace, we are in new and uncharted terrain, and in desperate need of data to characterize the strengths and weaknesses of different policy options. The data generated from this project will help guide decision-makers and ultimately governments as to the most prudent course of action under this complex set of circumstances.”

The proposed research utilizes both experimental and observational methods to explore the impact of policies on tobacco use behaviors in four countries – the United States, Canada, Australia, and England. According to Cummings, “Canada and Australia have fairly restrictive regulations about the sale of e-cigarettes, while the U.S. and England are less restrictive, although evolving new regulations are likely to come into play in the next several years. We predict that policies such as higher taxes, product warnings, and plain packaging that makes the use of cigarettes less convenient and attractive will increase interest and use of alternative forms of nicotine such as e-cigarettes. The opposite effect will occur if policies make vaporized nicotine products less convenient and accessible.”

Collectively, the proposed set of studies are designed to comprehensively examine how different policies are likely to influence the use of vaporized nicotine products as well smoked tobacco products, with the goal of developing forecasting models to predict the population health impact of different product regulatory schemes.

About Hollings Cancer Center

The Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and the largest academic-based cancer research program in South Carolina. The cancer center is comprised of more than 120 faculty cancer scientists with an annual research funding portfolio of $44 million and a dedication to reducing the cancer burden in South Carolina. Hollings offers state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, therapies, and surgical techniques within multidisciplinary clinics that include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation therapists, radiologists, pathologists, psychologists and other specialists equipped for the full range of cancer care, including more than 200 clinical trials. For more information, visit Hollings Cancer Center.