Dr. Jim Thrasher, professor of health promotion, education, and behavior in the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, has been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center. Together with co-investigator Dr. Joaquin Barnoya, Dr. Thrasher will use the four-year, R01 grant to examine the use of electronic cigarettes in low- and middle-income countries in Latin America, including the use of simulation modeling to evaluate their public health impacts and the effects of different policies.
“The use and consequences of electronic nicotine delivery systems — also known as electronic cigarettes — are only beginning to be understood. Research is sorely needed in low- and middle-income countries, where most of the world’s cigarette smokers live,” says Dr. Thrasher. “Our project will collect data from e-cigarette users and adolescents in Mexico and Guatemala in order to understand the frequency and types of e-cigarettes that they use, including whether their use reduces use of more harmful cigarettes.”
With electronic cigarette use spreading rapidly around the world, this new study will help scientists understand their public health impact and the policies to regulate them. The researchers will collaborate with the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC Project), in which Dr. Thrasher has participated for over a decade. This includes their current ITC Project to evaluate the impact of electronic cigarettes in high-income countries (i.e., Canada, England, United States) that have contrasting electronic cigarette policies. Data collected from Dr. Thrasher and Dr. Barnoya’s study will be integrated into this larger, international research effort.
Specific aims of the Guatemala/Mexico-focused study include comparing initiation and consequences of electronic cigarette use among adolescents, and characterizing the labeling, design and constituents of these products across the two countries. The researchers will also determine the predictors and outcomes for use among established adult smokers in Mexico, where they will adapt a simulation model for predicting longer-term trends of electronic cigarette use, including the public health impact of different policies.
“By achieving these aims, we will strengthen capacity in Guatemala and Mexico for conducting observational, experimental, and simulation research on electronic cigarettes. The results will inform the development of best practices for policies and interventions,” Dr. Thrasher says. “The project will build upon our longstanding and fundamental role in tobacco research capacity building across Latin America, so that sound public health policies can be developed to address electronic cigarettes and other emerging challenges to tobacco control in the region and in low- and middle-income countries around the world.”