Tobacco Policy Research

This chapter looks at one strategy used by the Foundation to help the nation address problems associated with tobacco use: the support of policy-related research. It describes two key research programs—the Tobacco Policy Research and Evaluation Program and its successor, the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program. Although funding research might seem like an indirect way of decreasing tobacco use, the authors makes a strong case that these programs provided useful information rapidly to those in a position to formulate policies on tobacco use.

These programs shaped a new field of research. In the past, researchers interested in tobacco tended to focus on epidemiological questions—such as patterns of use and cancer rates across different types of users—or assessments of strategies to reduce initiation into tobacco use or to stop people from smoking. The new programs, however, steered researchers into another important area of research: assessments of public and private-sector policies that can affect tobacco use. These policies might involve regulatory issues, taxes, or different approaches to reducing access to tobacco products by youth.

In addition to the research described in this chapter, the Foundation supports a large effort to develop a surveillance system of tobacco policies directed at young people. It also sponsors evaluations of interventions to change the behavior of smokers, funds surveys of tobacco use, and supports the work of leading researchers trying to understand better why people smoke.