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Science and Health Communication Research Group Member Awarded Two National Institutes of Health Grants

Dr. Jim Thrasher, Associate Professor in the Arnold School of Public Health and Science and Health Communication Research Group member, was awarded two National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants to continue his research on how media imagery can be used to both promote and discourage cigarette smoking.

The first of the two R01 grants, for $2.7 million, was awarded to Thrasher and will allow him to continue his research on the impact of pictorial warning labels printed on cigarette packages among adult smokers in Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States. The research project focuses on which kinds of warning labels are most effective in increasing understanding of smoking-related risks, discouraging smoking, and helping people quit. In the first part of the study, researchers will follow 1,000 smokers in the four countries and will interview 4,000 participants every four months over the course of two years.

“Tobacco use continues to be the number one leading cause of preventable deaths in the United
States and around the world,” said Thrasher. “Health warning labels with pictures that illustrate the consequences of smoking are among the most cost-effective public health interventions that exist. The results from this project will be critical for the US, where the tobacco industry has successfully delayed implementation of pictorial warnings by saying that they violate the industry’s First Amendment rights. Evidence for the public health impact of specific types of warning label content is needed to support implementation this policy in the US.”

The second R01 grant, for $1.6 million, was awarded to support Thrasher’s research focusing on the effects of smoking depictions in movies and youth smoking in Mexico and Argentina. Thrasher will use this award to collaborate with local researchers, organizations and government officials in the two countries, in order to produce locally relevant research on tobacco use in domestically produced movies and its impact on youth smoking. The goal of this research is to determine the amount of tobacco-related movie content in domestic and international films, in order to study the impact of movies and marketing on smoking among secondary school youth in each country.

“As traditional tobacco marketing strategies have been restricted around the world, the tobacco industry seeks new ways to promote its products, including through entertainment media. This study will enhance understanding of an increasingly important risk factor for youth smoking, while informing culturally relevant policy strategies to address this issue,” Thrasher said.

Thrasher’s continued studies will add to the growing research on media and policy influences on smoking and will provide insight into how public health policies can be developed to more effectively address the tobacco epidemic around the world.

 
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