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Arnold School of Public Health


Thrasher appointed to FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee

August 22, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

As a result of his research expertise on tobacco policy, marketing, and communications, Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) Associate Professor Jim Thrasher has been appointed to serve as a voting member on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee. During the four-year term, Thrasher’s role will primarily involve input on regulatory decisions that involve media, marketing and communication effects on tobacco-related perceptions and behavior.

The FDA established the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) in 2009 to implement the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. The committee consists of 12 members: a chair, a government office or employee, a representative of the general public, and nine technically qualified voting members who are physicians, dentists, scientists, or health care professionals practicing in relevant specialties (e.g., oncology, cardiology, addiction). The members are nominated by peers and then selected by the FDA Commissioner for overlapping four-year terms.

The committee advises the Commissioner and provides reports and recommendations on tobacco-related issues to other relevant groups and agencies. Example topics include: the public health impact of menthol in cigarettes; the nature and public health impact of emerging nicotine products, such as dissolvable tobacco products; applications submitted by tobacco product manufacturers, claiming that use of a specific product reduces health risks relative to the use of other tobacco products.

On these issues and others, the committee reviews and evaluates safety, communication, dependence and health issues related to tobacco products. They may also review applications for new tobacco products or petitions related to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act as well as provide recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services related to new tobacco-related regulations that are under consideration.

“The FDA recently expanded its power to include regulation of tobacco products that are changing the landscape of tobacco use, such as electronic cigarettes, waterpipes, and other vaping devices,” says Thrasher. “Within the tobacco research community, there are still many unanswered questions and raging debates regarding the most effective strategies for addressing these emerging issues. The next four years will be a critical period for the TPSAC, as we provide input into FDA regulatory decision making about the great range of nicotine products.”  

Thrasher has more than 15 years of experience researching and shaping policy and communications to reduce tobacco use in a range of countries around the world. He is an internationally-recognized expert in the field who recently received The World No Tobacco Day Award from the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization for his efforts. Thrasher was awarded the Faculty Excellence Research Award by the Arnold School of Public Health in 2014, and he serves on numerous scientific, regulatory, editorial, and advocacy workgroups and committees.