Tobacco Research

The latest updates from the University of Bath's Tobacco Control Research Group

About us

Our work falls into the following three areas...

Tobacco policy evaluation

A policy is best considered as a rule or principle used to guide decisions and actions to achieve a desired outcome. Tobacco control policies aim to reduce or eliminate the harm caused by tobacco.

Tobacco control policy evaluations produce an evidence base of policy efficacy to reduce smoking prevalence, consumption and the exposure to second-hand smoke. This evidence is crucial to inform future directions in tobacco control.

Our researchers have conducted policy evaluation work in the first five of the World Bank’s six strands of tobacco control.

  1. Protect people from tobacco smoke
  2. Help people to give up smoking
  3. Reduce the affordability of smoking by increasing taxes on tobacco products
  4. Use mass media to warn people of the dangers of smoking
  5. Reduce tobacco promotion
  6. Regulate the content of tobacco products

For more information see: http://www.bath.ac.uk/health/research/tobacco-control/policy-evaluation/

Corporate policy influence

and impacts of trade and investment liberalisation on health

The products of tobacco, alcohol and food industries are responsible for a significant and growing proportion of the global burden of disease (Gilmore, Savell and Collin, 2011). Smoking and alcohol combined account for 12.5% of global deaths and 19.5% in high-income countries, while six diet-related risk factors account for 13.6% and 17.5% of deaths, respectively. Arguably the greatest challenge and opportunity for public health lies in reducing the contributions of tobacco use, unhealthy diet and harmful alcohol consumption to the rising global burden of non-communicable diseases (Gilmore, Savell and Collin, 2011). This demonstrates a need to improve our understanding of how corporations contribute to this disease burden, both directly through the promotion of products damaging to health and indirectly through influence over public policy.

The importance of the second of these areas of investigation has been stressed in the Preamble to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which recognises the need for Parties to the Convention to be alert to any efforts by the tobacco industry to undermine or subvert tobacco control efforts, and the need to be informed of activities of the tobacco industry that have a negative impact on tobacco control efforts.

Our research takes three broad approaches to exploring industry political activity. One of the most exciting and potentially significant approaches concerns the industry’s exploitation of relatively new initiatives, such as the European Union’s Better Regulation agenda and corporate social responsibility (CSR), to influence policy. Another innovative approach has involved researchers developing applied models of corporate political activity to be used by policymakers. In addition to this, we also examine tobacco industry political activity in a variety of policy areas ranging  from specific tobacco control policies to more diverse issues such as  trade policy and tobacco industry privatisation. (Closely related to this is our work exploring the impacts of investment and trade liberalisation on health).

For more information see: http://www.bath.ac.uk/health/research/tobacco-control/corporate-policy-influence/

Harm reduction and innovation

People smoke because they are addicted to nicotine and seek a 'hit', but it is the other toxins in tobacco that cause most of the harm. Nicotine can be obtained from a range of products, which vary in their level of harm and addictiveness, from smoked tobacco (i.e. cigarettes) at the top end of the harm/addiction spectrum, to medicinal nicotine (i.e. nicotine replacement therapy products) at the other end.

Tobacco harm reduction aims to reduce the harm caused by smoking, by encouraging smokers to shift to less hazardous forms of nicotine, ideally resulting in them ultimately quitting nicotine use altogether. This seems straightforward, yet tobacco harm reduction has been controversial and divisive in public health, in particular when debating a possible role for smokeless tobacco within a harm reduction strategy, with the tobacco industry’s role a key concern.

Furthermore, packaging and product innovation has become a key marketing technique for tobacco companies to encourage consumers to buy more expensive brands, allowing the companies to remain profitable despite falling cigarette volumes. A key concern is that innovations may convey a misleading suggestion of reduced risk, with market research company Euromonitor arguing that tobacco innovation has three purposes: to justify a premium price, to promote a different experience, and to suggest a reduced risk experience (Gilmore 2012).

As part of efforts to effectively inform tobacco control policy and ensure prompt policy responses to emerging issues, researchers at the University of Bath conduct work to critically examine tobacco industry claims of interest in harm reduction, whilst continuously monitoring new developments in tobacco products and packaging.

For more information see: http://www.bath.ac.uk/health/research/tobacco-control/harm-reduction-innovation/