Research studies have been supported by National Cancer Institute, American Legacy Foundation and the Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute. Intervention research has focused on delivery of motivational interventions to parents of young children from low income communities. Recent lab-based research projects have included assessment of consumer responses to tobacco product messaging; switching studies using potential reduced exposure products (PREPs) and fire safer cigarettes; human hookah smoking research; ignition propensity (fire safer cigarette) testing; and human sensory testing of low sidestream emission cigarettes.

For additional information about research at the Center for Global Tobacco Control, please contact:

Dr. Vaughan Rees

Brain Lab

Intervention Evaluation Research

Breathe Free for Kids: Promoting Smoke-Free Homes

The major goal of this project is to design an intervention to protect high-risk children from involuntary second-hand smoke (SHS) exposure in domestic environments.  Using community-based participatory research, this initiative will evaluate the effectiveness of motivational intervention compared with usual best practices be having parents voluntarily adopt smoke-free home policies to protect children from SHS.

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health/National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIH/NCMHD)
Principal Investigator: Vaughan Rees, PhD

FRESH: Families Reducing Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

This project is evaluating a motivational intervention to reduce household tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure among families enrolled in Boston Head Start programs. A broad-based intervention to increase parent/caregiver cessation and reduce children’s secondhand smoke exposure via Head Start’s family service workers has yet to be tested in carefully designed intervention trials. The overall purpose of this project is to determine whether enhanced training of Head Start’s family service workers (compared with minimal training) results in parent improvement in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to smoking and home-based second-hand smoke restrictions.  The project is a collaboration between Harvard School of Public Health, The American Legacy Foundation and Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD).

Sponsor: American Legacy Foundation
Principal Investigator: Alan Geller, RN, MPH


Tobacco Product Research

Development of Novel Consumer Perception Metrics for Tobacco Products

The Food and Drug Administration is now required to consider how consumers are likely to respond to new and modified tobacco products when evaluating whether such products will be permitted into the marketplace. The marketing of products with claims of reduced exposure or risk is controversial within the tobacco control community because of concerns that such products may delay quitting among smokers, promote relapse among former users, and entice adolescents to initiate use. Research is needed to identify and validate measures that could be used to predict how consumers are likely to respond to new and modified tobacco products. This project thus will address that gap in research and will provide an empirical base for future FDA regulation of tobacco product marketing.

Sponsor: Roswell Park Cancer Institute/National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Principal Investigator: Richard O’Connor, PhD (RPCI); Vaughan Rees, PhD (HSPH)


Subjective and Behavioral Responses to PREP Design and Marketing: CONCLUDED

The objectives of this project are to examine the inter-relationships between PREP design and marketing and their effects on consumer response and acceptance, in order to evaluate the potential commercial impact of new and future PREPs.

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI)
Principal Investigator: Gregory Connolly, DMD, MPH (Northeastern University)

Subjective and Behavioral Responses to PREP Design and Marketing: CONCLUDED

Administrative supplement for special research priority on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tobacco Product Regulation

This project aims to identify design and messaging factors that influence consumer acceptance of “Lights” cigarettes, using analysis of internal industry documents, a web survey of consumer perceptions of “Lights” pack descriptors and a switching study from high to low ventilated cigarettes.  Data will be used to provide the FDA with resources to inform the development of strategies to regulate package descriptors and physical design (filter ventilation) used by manufacturers to promote lowered risk perceptions among consumers of low tar tobacco products.

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI)
Principal Investigator: Gregory Connolly, DMD, MPH (Northeastern University)

Design and Characterization of Cigarettes

The objectives of this product are to describe and evaluate the influence of cigarette brand characteristics and design features on individual uptake and use, market sales and population use.  This research will promote better understanding of the systems which impact tobacco use, and provide authorities such as FDA with strategies to regulate tobacco product design and marketing.

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI)
Principal Investigator: Gregory Connolly, DMD, MPH (Northeastern University)

Testing Tobacco Products Promoted to Reduce Harm: CONCLUDED

The major goals of this project are to conduct a topography study of Massachusetts smokers, obtain measures of ignition propensity and thermal performance of cigarette brands, and finally, to conduct a comprehensive analysis of internal tobacco industry documents and patents related to cigarette ignition propensity.

Sponsor: Roswell Park Cancer Institute/NCI
Principal Investigator: Gregory Connolly, DMD, MPH (Northeastern University)


Second-Hand Smoke Research

Secondhand Smoke Measurement in the Eastern Mediterranean Region

The objective of this project is to conduct indoor air quality monitoring in public venues throughout the Eastern Mediterranean Region.  Reports and publications summarizing these results will then be disseminated throughout the region to help educate the public and legislators of the dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke.

Sponsor: Action on Smoking and Health International
Principal Investigator: Vaughan Rees, PhD

Second-hand Smoke Emissions of Reduced Exposure Products (PREPS): CONCLUDED

The major goals of this project are to evaluate PREPs using the following complimentary 4 approaches: 1) investigate tobacco industry research and development through internal documents and patents; 2) test PREP sidestream emissions; 3) test human subjects’ perceptions of the sensory qualities (odor, visibility and irritation) of PREP secondhand smoke; and 4) assess industry messaging through advertisements and websites.  The results of this work will help to develop strategies to ensure that public protection from toxic second-hand smoke is not undermined by these new “safer” products.

Sponsor: Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute (FAMRI)
Co-Principal Investigator: Vaughan Rees, PhD


Other Substance Abuse

Regional Variation in Risk Profiles for Skin and Soft Tissue Infection in
Injection Drug Users

Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are a prominent cause of hospitalization for injection drug users (IDUs), incurring significant morbidity and financial cost1,2. Anecdotal observations suggest that injection risk profiles and disease prevalence differ greatly based on regional factors such as drug supplies, consumption patterns, and injection practices driven by conventional wisdom, and local resources. To date, no studies have analyzed differences in injection practices between regions of the United States in order to understand and compare factors that may account for different rates of vein damage and SSTIs. This mixed-methods investigation will utilize focus groups and surveys conducted with active IDUs recruited from needle exchange sites in two distinct urban areas (Cambridge, MA and Sacramento, CA, USA) to provide insights into drug characteristics, consumption patterns, injection behaviors, perceived barriers to care, and IDUs’ understandings of SSTI, and how these factors impact vein health and frequency of SSTIs.

Co-Principal Investigators: Phillip Summers, MPH & Vaughan Rees, PhD


International Tobacco Control Research Projects:

HEART (Hellenic Action through Research Against Tobacco): CONCLUDED

The objectives of this project were to make smoking history in Greece through the collaboration of the Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Panagiotis Behrakis of the Hellenic Anti-Cancer Society and the University of Athens, School of Medicine.  The long-term goals of the project are: 1) to have Greece adopt and successfully implement proven tobacco control policies, including taxation, clean indoor air laws, graphic warning on cigarette packs, and bans on tobacco advertising and promotions by implementing the FCTC and European Guidelines and 2) to have Greece fund comprehensive tobacco control programs, which include mass-media, youth education and empowerment, and smoking cessation services.

Sponsor: George D. Behrakis Foundation
Principal Investigators: Professor Gregory Connolly and Associate Professor Panagiotis Behrakis