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PhD Studentship: Understanding contemporary tobacco industry efforts to influence health policy, with a particular focus on the illicit tobacco trade

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Gilmore
    Dr J Hatchard
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Applications are invited for a full-time University studentship to support and work in the Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) ( within the Department for Health.


The tobacco industry has a long history of involvement in the illicit tobacco trade. Through the 1990s overwhelming evidence emerged that cigarette smuggling was a core part of tobacco industry business, actively used on a global basis. This prompted investigations and lawsuits and it had generally been assumed that industry involvement in the trade had ceased. Emerging evidence suggests this might not be the case and that some degree of complicity may be ongoing with, for example, tobacco companies overproducing or oversupplying cigarettes in the apparent knowledge that they will leak into the illicit market. The tobacco industry is simultaneously using arguments about illicit trade as a key part of its efforts to prevent the implementation of public health policies including tobacco tax increases and to shape policy in their own interest by arguing that demand for the illicit product, rather than its supply, drives the problem (Gilmore et al 2015). Tobacco industry actions and messaging on illicit trade thus pose key challenges to public health which require further investigation.


The student will conduct their research under the supervision of Professor Anna Gilmore ( and other relevant members of the TCRG, including Dr Jenny Hatchard, Dr Rosemary Hiscock, Dr Karen Evans-Reeves and Andy Rowell: the final selection dependant on the exact focus of the PhD which the student will help determine. The TCRG is an internationally recognised, interdisciplinary and leading centre for tobacco industry research. The group have conducted extensive research on tobacco smuggling, including investigations of industry reports on the illicit tobacco trade and examinations of the use of tobacco industry data by the media. The group founded and maintains a ground-breaking knowledge-exchange wiki, (, which monitors the tobacco industry and reports its activities.

The student will also be a member of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS) (, a network of 13 universities (12 in the UK, one in New Zealand) funded by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration. UKCTAS delivers international research in the fields of tobacco and alcohol research by, for example, developing strategies for behaviour change in tobacco and alcohol use, assessing risks, identifying measures to reduce harm, monitoring the tobacco and alcohol industries, and developing effective public policies to improve public health and wellbeing. As part of UKCTAS, the student will have access to specialist training, networking and conferencing.

The project

A combination of qualitative and quantitative data will be used to examine diverse issues around the illicit trade in tobacco products. The successful candidate will play a key role in shaping the geographic focus of the work and appropriate research questions which may include the following:

- Data: Who produces and controls the data on illicit tobacco and has this changed over time, how accurate is this data, does accuracy vary significantly by source?
- Nature: What is the nature of the illicit trade in tobacco products, does this vary with geography, what is the evidence of tobacco industry involvement in this trade?
- Policy: How is the tobacco industry attempting to influence public and political understanding of the illicit trade in tobacco? How is the tobacco industry attempting to influence efforts to address the illicit trade? How is the tobacco industry using the illicit trade argument to oppose tobacco control policies? Methodologies may include semi-structured interviewing, document analysis, investigative research, basic statistical analysis of quantitative data and critical appraisal of industry data on illicit.


The successful candidate should:
- Fulfil the entrance requirements for a Department for Health PhD (
- Have at least a strong understanding of social science or public health and associated research methods
- Be willing to travel, including to Africa. Fluency in a language other than English is desirable, but not essential

How to apply

Apply online ( to study for a full-time PhD in Health (you must quote the project title above on your application).
Complete the Funding Request Form ( and upload this to Application Tracker ( (you must outline your motivation for wanting to undertake research).

The closing date for the receipt of applications has been extended to 12.00 noon (GMT), Thursday, 4 February, 2016.


Informal enquiries should be addressed to Dr Jenny Hatchard (

Questions about the application process can be sent to email: [Email Address Removed] or tel: 01225 38 4159

Funding Notes

The award

Funding lasts for three years and includes:
- £14,057 (2015/16 rate) yearly stipend
- Home/EU tuition fees (if you are an international student then you will need to source alternative funding to pay the shortfall in fees)
- Annual Training Support Grant

View terms and conditions of this and other awards (

The successful applicant is likely to commence the PhD programme in April 2016.

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