By: Cathy L. Backinger, Ph.D., M.P.H. and Cindy Miner, Ph.D.
How dramatic is the increase in e-cigarette use? Why are flavored little cigars and cigarillos increasingly popular among ethnic minorities? What would happen if we reduced the amount of nicotine in cigarettes so that they were no longer addictive?
These are just some of the questions that FDA-funded scientists are answering. Often research is focused on innovation and discovery to expand the body of scientific knowledge. Regulatory science is different—and exciting in its own way. How often do scientists get to see their research findings used to improve people’s lives? Tobacco regulatory scientists are doing just that.
We Need a Strong Science Base to Address Issues that Matter Now
In 2009 Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, creating the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) at FDA and giving us the responsibility to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco to protect public health.
Our challenge is to regulate effectively in a changing marketplace. The 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that while cigarette smoking has continued to decline, a new trend emerged—more middle- and high-school students used e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes and 2.2 million students reported using two or more types of tobacco products. In April 2014, FDA proposed a new rule to extend FDA’s authority to cover additional tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, little cigars, and cigarillos.
Data on these and other key topics—from harmful chemicals in tobacco to the effect of chewing tobacco on oral health to tobacco advertising—will help inform future regulatory actions and monitor the impact of those actions on public health.
Some of the Researchers Who Are Leading the Way
FDA is currently funding a broad range of important research, including the following via a partnership with the National Institutes of Health:
Andrew Hyland (Roswell Park Cancer Institute) is the lead investigator for the landmark Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, which will help us learn how and why people start using tobacco, switch from one tobacco product to another, quit using it, and start using it again after they’ve quit. The PATH Study collects information on new tobacco products like e-cigarettes and will give us many insights.
Watch Andrew Hyland’s “Tobacco Regulatory Science in Action” interview on FDA’s website.
Eric Donny (University of Pittsburgh) is studying how reduced levels of nicotine in cigarettes might affect the way people smoke. What are the benefits? Could there be adverse effects, such as people smoking more cigarettes to get the same amount of nicotine? Does it make a difference whether the levels are reduced gradually or at once?
Watch Eric Donny’s “Tobacco Regulatory Science in Action” interview on FDA’s website.
Kymberle Sterling (Georgia State University) is studying what people, especially ethnic minorities, think about little cigars and cigarillos. Little cigars and cigarillos are used by many people who are younger and in ethnic minority groups. Understanding what contributes to this behavior will help the nation begin to address some of the disparities that exist among vulnerable populations.
Watch Kymberle Sterling’s “Tobacco Regulatory Science in Action” interview on FDA’s website.
To learn more about the breadth of research we support, please look at all of our research videos* or look at the abstracts of research we’ve funded in our search tool. These projects are just a part of the work that FDA has undertaken to improve public health and inspire the next generation of researchers interested in tobacco regulatory science.
Cathy L. Backinger, Ph.D., M.P.H, is FDA’s Deputy Director for Research in CTP’s Office of Science
Cindy Miner, Ph.D., is FDA’s Director of the Division of Health, Regulatory and Scientific Communication in CTP’s Office of Health Communication and Education
*The opinions in these videos reflect the views of individual researchers, and not necessarily the official position of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. These videos represent accurate information about the design of these CTP supported studies at the time the interviews were conducted (Spring, 2014).