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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Rutgers Professor Awarded R01 Grant to Study Reduced Risk Tobacco Messaging

Dr. Olivia Wackowski, assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health and member of the Center for Tobacco Studies, has been awarded an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Project Grant Program titled, “Perceptions and Impact of Modified Risk Tobacco Product Communication.” As the study PI, Dr. Wackowski will lead efforts to further understand ways to communicate with the public about the reduced risks of e-cigarettes and snus relative to traditional cigarettes, and the potential effects of these communications.

While e-cigarettes and snus (a type of smokeless tobacco) are not harmless products, misperceptions exist that they are as harmful or even more harmful than smoked cigarettes. These misperceptions may prevent current cigarette smokers from switching to these products for harm-reduction purposes; however, few studies have explored the effects of reduced risk messages. Moreover, little is known about how to effectively communicate such messages, where they should be placed, how the public will react, and what their effects might be. This grant will allow Dr. Wackowski to break new ground in developing and testing reduced-risk communications while learning how phrasing, placement, and format influence their effectiveness.

[Photo: Dr. Olivia Wackowski]

Dr. Wackowski’s work will address an important and timely research gap: tobacco control professionals have long advocated for better public information surrounding the reduced risks of non-combustible cigarette alternatives. Further, tobacco companies are beginning to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for permission to make reduced risk claims in their e-cigarette and snus advertising. As they do, Dr. Wackowski’s research has an opportunity to guide FDA regulations on tobacco risk communication.

Funding for “Perceptions and Impact of Modified Risk Tobacco Product Communication” is effective April, 2018. Dr. Wackowski is the project PI and is collaborating with Rutgers School of Public Health faculty: Dr. Cristine Delnevo, vice dean, Dr. M. Jane Lewis, associate professor, and Dr. Pamela Ohman-Strickland, associate professor. In addition to her professorship at the Rutgers School of Public Health, Dr. Wackowski is also a member of the Rutgers School of Public Health Center for Tobacco Studies and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.