University of Michigan-led tobacco regulations center receives $20M for tobacco use research

A closeup image of a person holding a cigarette up to their mouth with a lit lighter.

The Center for the Assessment of Tobacco Regulations (CAsToR)—a collaboration between the University of Michigan, Georgetown University, and the BC Cancer Research Institute—recently received $20 million in funding to continue its research on the impact of tobacco regulations on tobacco use patterns and their downstream health effects.

CAsToR, established in 2018 and housed within the University of Michigan School of Public Health, is one of seven centers to receive funding from the US Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health as part of the third cohort of Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS 3.0). The funding extends the center’s research for an additional five years.

The principal investigators of CAsToR—David Mendez, professor of Health Management and Policy at Michigan Public Health; Rafael Meza, distinguished scientist at the BC Cancer Research Institute and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia and Michigan Public Health; and David Levy, professor of oncology at the Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center—lead the multidisciplinary team focused on providing evidence-based, expert-informed modeling for the evaluation of the behavioral and public health impacts of FDA tobacco rules or other regulatory actions.

”Smoking impacts nearly every organ system of the body and causes 30% of cancer deaths in the US,” Levy said. “Leveraging evidence-based approaches to reduce or prevent tobacco use remains a critical public health goal and requires large, multidisciplinary efforts.”

For TCORS 3.0, CAsToR has designed four projects based on detailed analyses of current and historical tobacco use patterns in the US, for both the general population and key subgroups. This research offers not just an insight into the potential future impacts of regulatory action, but also a comprehensive understanding of the factors motivating shifts in tobacco use across the country and the globe.

“Tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, is responsible for 480,000 premature deaths in the US annually. The extended funding will allow us to analyze how policies are likely to influence tobacco use habits among different populations and help to determine the best interventions to reduce, and maybe eliminate, the smoking toll," said Mendez.

Meza agreed: "We are thrilled to continue CAsToR’s work assessing the impact of tobacco use and regulations, as well as continuing our efforts to train a new generation of tobacco regulatory scientists and modelers. To date, our center has made important contributions to the development of US tobacco regulations—such as the forthcoming cigarette menthol ban—and we look forward to continuing our work to further reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality."

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