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Tobacco industry approaches to harm reduction and harm reduction science: a Help or Hindrance to Public Health

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Gilmore
    Dr J Campbell
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) may have a role to play in reducing tobacco use yet tobacco harm reduction remains highly contested in public health with key concerns focusing on the role of the tobacco industry and the generalisability of evidence from high income-country to other settings.

The major tobacco companies have launched a wide range of non-combustible nicotine and tobacco products, and Philip Morris International (PMI) has established the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW) which claims it aims to end smoking in this generation. This has been much critiqued by the public health community while analysis of tobacco industry documents, released through litigation, suggests its claimed commitments to harm reduction are misleading.

Ensuring the accuracy of science in this area is therefore essential and a key concern, given the tobacco industry’s long standing history of scientific fraud, is the influence the FSFW with almost $1 billion in funding. Other concerns include how the industry might use heated tobacco products to undermine existing tobacco control regulations.

The exact focus of this PhD can be shaped by the candidate dependent on his or her background, but it will include examining some of the following:

• What science is the industry funding and/or undertaking, what does it measure, and how useful is it? This would ideally include a specific focus on what biomedical science research - incorporating biomarker and disease pathogenesis outcome measures - are being used, how the studies are designed and whether they address the right questions?
• What is the addictive potential of new products relative to existing tobacco and nicotine products; is this being adequately measured?
• Do industry funded studies differ from independent studies and how does the industry respond to the latter?
• How does the industry use reduced risk claims in promoting its heated tobacco products and are they justified based on existing science?
• How does the industry engage with harm reduction stakeholders (e.g. politicians, public health professionals, independent scientists, users) and how does it seek to influence registration and regulation of such products?
• What can we learn about total tobacco and nicotine consumption?
• What are the implications for tobacco control in different country settings?

This multidisciplinary PhD would ideally suit a candidate with an undergraduate degree in Biomedical/Health Sciences (or similar), and research interests in biomarkers, inflammation and disease pathogenesis but could be adapted to suit those of other backgrounds. A Masters Degree in public health, social sciences, politics or other relevant subject would be advantageous.

There will be opportunities to work with scientists in international organisations and national authorities, and with experts in addiction at the University of Bath.

You will be joining a thriving, growing, research group with global reach and be part of the Stop Tobacco Organisations & Products (STOP) project. See

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 1st April 2019

Funding Notes

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First class or 2(i) undergraduate honours degree and/or good Master’s degree.

Applicants will be considered for a University studentship covering Home/EU tuition fees, a training support fee of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£14,777 2018/19) for a period of up to 3 years, full-time study.

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