Public Release: 

Penn researchers receive $18 million grant for Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science

The center will examine the effects of advertising, packaging, and labeling on perceptions, use, and exposure to tobacco products

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

PHILADELPHIA--A new $18 million grant to Penn Medicine researchers will allow them to take aim at the effects of tobacco marketing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have renewed their commitment to the Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) program and awarded a second cohort (TCORS 2.0) of centers. The grant will support research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Rutgers University School of Public Health. The grant will help the center conduct work for the next five years, driving research that will provide data to protect public health and inform regulatory science issues related to tobacco control.

The center is focused on examining the effects of advertising, packaging, and labeling on perceptions, use, and exposure of combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigarillos (short, narrow cigars that are wrapped in tobacco leaves or brown tobacco-based paper). Researchers combine expertise in assessing smoking behaviors, toxin and nicotine exposure, as well as eye tracking and product risk perceptions measures to better understand the impact of potentially misleading advertising claims, descriptors, labeling, and packaging features of combustible tobacco products.

"Perceptions of risk and product expectations begin when people encounter product marketing and labeling. We are taking a comprehensive approach to better understand the effects of tobacco advertising and packaging--from psychological responses to use patterns and exposure," said Andrew Strasser, PhD, director of the Biobehavioral Smoking Laboratory at Penn's Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction and Principal Investigator (PI). Cristine Delnevo, PhD, MPH, professor and director of the Center for Tobacco Studies at the Rutgers University School of Public Health, is the co-PI.

The center will focus on four primary projects and four cores, including:

  • Assessment of smoking behaviors, psychological responses, and biological effects to understand the effect of cigarette packaging on smoking low-nicotine content cigarettes, an important component of potential regulatory strategies.
  • Experimental analysis of low-nicotine cigarette advertising and novel tobacco product marketing, with an aim to identify how the public is misinformed about health risks.
  • Experimental analysis of how cigarillo packaging with varying colors, graphic designs, descriptors, and warning labels influences perceptions and use.
  • Examination of the effect of cigarette descriptors that can mislead about the health harms of tobacco products.

The cores will provide continued surveillance of the tobacco industry's marketing strategies for combustible tobacco products; tobacco regulatory science training and career enhancement opportunities; and expert support on emerging biomarkers, analytic approaches, and regulatory expertise.

"The greatest contributor to tobacco caused disease is from cigarettes and other combustible products. Tobacco regulatory science can inform the FDA on future steps that can reduce harm from the most dangerous tobacco products and have the greatest potential to improve public health," Delnevo said. "We've assembled a stellar team of collaborative researchers who have been deeply committed to tobacco regulatory science since the passage of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act."


Additional Penn collaborators include Janet Audrain-McGovern and Melissa Mercincavage in Psychiatry, and Joseph Cappella at the Annenberg School for Communication. Additional Rutgers experts include Olivia Wackowski and Jane Lewis. The TCORS 2.0 will also collaborate with researchers at other institutions including Columbia University, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Georgetown University Medical Center, University of Nevada-Reno, and University of Vermont.

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $405 million awarded in the 2017 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital - the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, a leading provider of highly skilled and compassionate behavioral healthcare.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2017, Penn Medicine provided $500 million to benefit our community.

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