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UIC awarded $14 million to study tobacco pricing and media

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received $14.2 million from the National Cancer Institute to study how mass media and tax and pricing affects tobacco use and behavior.

The two five-year studies at UIC's Institute for Health Research and Policy build on previous tobacco research conducted by the institute to better understand what factors influence smoking behaviors.

In one study, senior research scientist Sherry Emery and colleagues will measure the extent to which people are exposed to, search for, and exchange both pro- and anti-tobacco information in mass media, how these activities are related to one another, and ultimately, how these actions are related to smoking behavior, beliefs and attitudes.

In evaluating pro- and anti-tobacco information the researchers will use existing data to assess passive exposure to television advertisements, banner ads that pop up on the internet, and sponsored text messaging; what people actively search for on the internet; and what people exchange via social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

"The hypothesis is that if you're exposed to, for example, an ad that says you should quit smoking your level of engagement with that information will be substantially lower than if you actively search the Internet for ways to quit smoking; in turn, engagement will be even greater if you share your experience with quitting via social media. These different levels of engagement may be associated in important ways to tobacco-related attitudes, beliefs and behavior," says Emery, principal investigator of the $7.2 million NCI-funded grant.

Emery's study will also collect new data from an online survey of 15,000 people in the country's top 75 media markets to obtain media market estimates of people's behavior and their consumption of pro- and anti-tobacco information from a variety of mass media, as well as smoking behavior information and demographics.

The tobacco industry is prohibited from advertising on television, but they are not prohibited from providing information about their products that can be actively searched for on the internet, says Emery, whose previous research has examined the impact of tobacco-related television advertising on youth and adult smoking attitudes and behaviors.

Watching television, while still the dominant source of information for many people, is a different behavior than it was five years ago, Emery said.

In the other study, Frank Chaloupka, distinguished professor of economics and director of the Health Policy Center at UIC, and colleagues will assess policies affecting retail tobacco prices over a 10-year period; evaluate the impact of price-reducing promotions on tobacco purchasing behaviors, such as choice of product and brand; and determine to what extent consumers will avoid paying tax on tobacco products by crossing county or state borders, or by purchasing online or by phone or mail order.

The study will also investigate how pricing and tax policies impact tobacco behaviors, including prevalence, frequency and intensity of use, youth uptake, cessation, and substitution among products.

"Tobacco tax increases are widely recognized as the most effective policy governments have for reducing the death, disease and economic costs imposed by tobacco use," said Chaloupka. "Findings from this project will help to ensure that these policies are designed and implemented in a way that maximizes their effectiveness in reducing tobacco use and its consequences."

Chaloupka has conducted extensive research on the economics of tobacco use and found that increases in cigarette prices -- including tax hikes -- lead to significant reductions in smoking. This research has led to many substance-abuse policy initiatives and has been cited by the U.S. surgeon general's office.

Co-investigators on Chaloupka's $6.9 million NCI grant are Emery, Jamie Chriqui, Jidong Huang, David Merriman, Sandy Slater, and John Tauras, all from UIC; Andrew Hyland, Roswell Park Cancer Institute; Chuck Alexander, Burness Communications; and Dianne Barker, Barker Bi-Coastal Health Consultants.

Co-investigators on Emery's grant are Chaloupka, Jidong Huang, and Robin Mermelstein, all from UIC; Joseph Cappella, University of Pennsylvania; and Kurt Ribisl, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The results of the research will be disseminated to policy makers, advocates, public health practitioners, researchers, and the general public.


Contact: Sherri McGinnis Gonzlez
University of Illinois at Chicago

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