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How does the tobacco industry shape the tobacco retail environment in low and middle-income countries?

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L Robertson
    Dr Rob Branston
    Dr Michael Bloomfield
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description


In most countries, retail outlets that sell tobacco products are ubiquitous. The high retail availability of tobacco promotes youth smoking and reduces the odds of smoking cessation by making cigarettes easily accessible, and by increasing environmental cues to smoke. Tobacco’s widespread retail distribution also presents a challenge for enforcing restrictions on sales to minors.

Achieving and maintaining the widespread distribution of tobacco products is one of the tobacco industry’s main marketing strategies. Much of what we know about how the tobacco industry shapes the tobacco retail environment (such as the use of retailer rebates and incentives, stakeholder marketing, and third party allies to oppose policy) comes from research conducted in ‘dark markets’, i.e. high-income countries such as the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, which have progressive tobacco control legislation. In those countries, there has been increasing attention given to the idea of substantially reducing tobacco retail availability, as an ‘endgame’ strategy and a means to reduce smoking prevalence. There has been very little research on this topic in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and it is not yet known whether the tobacco industry uses similar or different tactics in LMICs, or how policies to reduce tobacco availability are viewed by stakeholders in those countries.

The successful student will conduct their research under the supervision of Dr Lindsay Robertson (University of Bath, Department of Health), Dr J Robert Branston (University of Bath, School of Management), Dr Michael Bloomfield (University of Bath, Department of Social and Policy Sciences). The student will be based at the University of Bath.

A PhD investigation will make a significant contribution to developing knowledge on this topic, will help inform policy interventions to redress high tobacco availability, and will enable tobacco industry actions to be identified and exposed in LMICs. The precise research questions will be determined on the appointment of the best candidate but could include:
• Understanding the retail supply chain for tobacco and the points at which the TI influences the supply chain;
• Exploring TI practices with tobacco retailers, and the nature of business contracts and relationships between tobacco manufacturers and retailers;
• Examining retailers’ awareness, understanding and experiences with illicit tobacco products;
• Examining the use of retailer associations in tobacco control policy interference;
• Exploring stakeholders’ views on whether restrictions on tobacco availability and retailer rebates/ incentives should be included into FCTC Article 13;
• Developing and testing an innovative data collection method to measure tobacco retail availability or promotion (e.g. crowdsourcing, monitoring, geographic information systems; GIS).

Research methods would likely include semi-structured qualitative interviews, combined with documentary analysis (i.e. industry documents or publications), content analysis (media reports and/or trade publications) and/ or analysis of tobacco sales data, with the opportunity to develop expertise in an innovative data collection methodology such as crowdsourcing or GIS.

We anticipate this research would focus on 1 or 2 LMICs, depending on the final PhD agreed on.

It will be an interdisciplinary project combining skills in two or more of the following areas, depending on the particular focus: public health, marketing, economics, politics, geography or development studies.

Conflict of interest information can be found here:

Anticipated start date: 30 September 2019 or 20 January 2020

Since we anticipate this research would focus on 1 or 2 LMICs, the candidate would be expected to spend time in that country/ those countries conducting fieldwork.


First class or Upper Second class undergraduate honours degree in a suitable area. A relevant Master’s degree would be highly desirable.


Shortlisted candidates are likely to be interviewed by the end of July.

Funding Notes

The PhD project is funded by STOP (Bloomberg Philanthropies) covering Home/EU/Overseas tuition fees, a training support fee of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 for 2019/20) for a period of up to 3 years, full-time study.


How good is research at University of Bath in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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