Current Research on Tobacco Harm Reduction

In 2017 the Centre for Substance Use Research will be further expanding its programme of research in the area of tobacco and smoking related harm reduction. In some instances this will involve continuing research which began in 2016 whilst in other instances we will be initiating entirely new studies. In detail our research for the coming year will include the following studies:

1. Research in Support of US Government Programme to Assess the Impact of New Tobacco Products on Public Health

In 2017 we are beginning a programme of research in support of the US Governments requirement to assess the impact of new tobacco products on public health. Instituted as part of the Deeming regulations brought into law in 2016 the US government has placed tobacco companies under an obligation to provide evidence of the impact of their products on public health. The Centre for Substance Use Research will be undertaking a series of studies to assess the impact of new tobacco products (including e-cigarettes and e-liquids) on the health of consumers and non-consumers of these products, young people, smokers and non smokers.

2. Research Review Assessing the Evidence on Nicotine and Dependence

At present many of the major tobacco companies are developing a range of reduced risk and reduced harm alternatives to combustible tobacco including e-cigarettes and heat not burn devices that warm (but which do not burn) compressed tobacco. Research undertaken to date is showing that these products are likely to be substantially less harmful than smoking combustible tobacco with Public Health England assessing e-cigarettes as at least 95% less harmful than conventional cigarettes. As these products attain wider use there is likely to be growing interest in determining the impact of recreational nicotine use. The Centre for Substance Use Research will be undertaking a detailed review on the evidence as to the link between nicotine and dependence looking at what is known about the way in which nicotine impacts upon the brain and the various explanatory models that have been offered as to the relationship between nicotine and dependence.

3. The Development and Impact of Vaping Behaviour in the United States

We are currently analysing the results of our recently completed survey of over 22,000 vapers in the United States. This online survey has provided detailed information on the chronology in the development of these individual’s e-cigarette use including whether they were smoking prior to beginning to use e-cigarettes, whether their smoking of conventional cigarettes has been assisted as a result of their use of e-cigarettes and whether there is evidence of vapers beginning to use conventional cigarettes following their use of e-cigarettes. In addition we will be analysing self-reported data from the vapers on the health impact and extent of dependent use of e-cigarettes.

4. Qualitative Research into Vapers Views of Vaping and Smoking

We will be continuing to analyse data from a qualitative study which involved interviewing young people about their use of e-cigarettes how and why they started to use e-cigarettes and whether in their judgement this use has had an impact on their likelihood of smoking conventional cigarettes. We have produced one peer reviewed paper from this research (Visible Vaping and the Further De-Normalization of Smoking). We are currently preparing a further publication from this study.

5. Factors Associated with the Onset Progression and Cessation in the Use of Electronic Cigarettes

We are currently undertaking research looking at the factors associated with the uptake progression and cessation of e-cigarettes use amongst a sample of smokers and non-smokers. To date we have been surveying this study sample at baseline three months six months and twelve months and have just completed the last in this sequence of follow up assessment. The results of this research will be being prepared for presentation and peer review publication in 2017.

6. The Contribution of Vapers in Supporting Smokers Quit Attempts

Whilst there is clear evidence that switching from smoking combustible tobacco to using e-cigarettes results in a substantial reduction in harm to the user at present we know much less about the potential contribution of vapers in providing peer support to smokers assisting those smokers quit attempts. In 2017 we will begin a detailed study assessing the contribution of vapers in supporting smokers quit attempts by pairing a sample of smokers and vapers and monitoring the smokers smoking behaviour over a 12 week period.

7. Confirmed Smokers Views of Smoking and Reduced Risk Alternatives to Combustible Tobacco

We recently undertook an online survey of the views of smoking held by sample of confirmed smokers. These were typically individuals in contact with the Forest organisation which lobbies in favour of smokers’ rights. Our research has addressed a range of topics including these smokers use of and views about reduced risk alternatives to conventional cigarettes.

8. The Potential Value in Providing Information on Alternatives to Smoking on Cigarette Packaging

With the advent of plain or standardised packaging of tobacco products within the UK there is an opportunity to consider what other health related messages may replace the previous branded imagery on tobacco packaging. At present the sole health related messages contained on tobacco packaging comprises negative messages and images of adverse health effect resulting from smoking. Our research will consider the potential value of adding to these negative health messages with more positively focussed messages on the value of switching from combustible to non-combustible products.

9. Engagement With Key Stakeholders

In 2016 we began a programme of engaging with key stakeholders within the US on the issue of the regulation of e-cigarettes with the main thrust of our input into such engagement being the presentation of current evidence on the relative harm of combustible and non combustible tobacco/nicotine products. This work included a series of meetings with congressional staff within Washington and other US cities. As much of our research in 2017 progresses we anticipate this engagement work expanding including engaging with the incoming administration.

Past Research