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State and Local Tobacco Control Policy Research

Advance the ability of state agencies, legislative and regulatory bodies and local communities throughout California to assess, understand and implement science-informed tobacco control polices.

The enactment of five state tobacco control laws in June 2016 and passage of Proposition 56 in November 2016 to increase the state tobacco excise tax were major policy advances to protect Californians from tobacco exposure and reduce morbidity and mortality rates from tobacco-related diseases. These efforts have infused energy and desperately needed resources into California’s tobacco control, prevention, education and research efforts.

At the same time, California voters approved Proposition 64, legalizing the recreational use and sale of cannabis, which may increase the prevalence of and public exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke. Further, Philip Morris has announced plans to shift from the combustible tobacco market and aggressively market their iQOS product (“heat-not-burn” tobacco sticks or electronically-heated tobacco) and brand in Europe and Asia as a reduced-risk product. Philip Morris’ Modified Risk Tobacco Product application is under review by the U.S. FDA and, if approved, it would permit the iQOS to be sold in the U.S. as a reduced-risk tobacco product.

Tobacco control must prepare to address “heat-not-burn” tobacco because it will hit the U.S. market before independent research assesses its risks and safety. The tobacco industry also show signs that it may enter the nicotine replacement therapy market with its own line of flavored nicotine lozenges and gum. In this regard, tobacco companies are communicating to the public its plans to pivot toward public health goals for tobacco control, which is similar to their corporate social responsibility activities in the 2000s.

The tobacco control policy landscape continues to change rapidly in the U.S. and globally. While California is poised to further reduce tobacco smoking on the heels of recently enacted legislation, the industry will continue to:

  • attract youth and adults to nicotine addiction with menthol tobacco and little-flavored cigars/cigarillos sold and taxed at a lower rate than cigarettes;
  • sell combustible tobacco products to the poor, individuals with mental illness and people of color in the U.S., and in low- and middle-income countries, demonstrating complete disregard for the disproportionate impact of tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases for certain groups; and
  • manipulate trade agreements to benefit their financial interests and to discourage protective public health laws at the local, state, national and global level;
  • change their brand image by revising their corporate social responsibility campaign with the “heat-not-burn” tobacco and other electronically heated tobacco products at the center, in the hopes that the public will be convinced of their intention to pivot toward public health goals; however, the message will likely be framed as protecting public health from tobacco-related diseases through reduced-risk tobacco products

The complexity of this new era of tobacco control policy work will require timely dissemination of impactful research findings to California policymakers and stakeholders at local, state and national levels and globally. Training needs to be accelerated to expand capacity in the tobacco control workforce in California and to prepare the next generation of leaders in the field. We encourage policy researchers to scientifically evaluate community programs and school based tobacco activities through collaboration with Local Lead Agencies (LLAs) funded by the California Tobacco Control Program/ CA Department of Public Health (CTCP/CDPH) and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) funded by the California Department of Education (CDE). The following policy-related research topics are considered responsive to this priority.

Sub-Focus areas

  • Downstream effects from California’s changing tobacco control policy landscape
  • Research on training to expand tobacco control capacity and leadership
  • Menthol and flavored tobacco regulation
  • Countering tobacco industry marketing and corporate social responsibility efforts
  • Reducing tobacco product waste and protecting the environment through policymaking
  • Protecting youth from tobacco and cannabis exposure
  • Tobacco policy interactions with cannabis policy
  • Impact of federal and global tobacco control policy on California policymaking
  • Tobacco industry influence

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Examples of relevant research topics

Downstream effects from California’s changing tobacco control and cannabis policy landscape

  • Intended and unintended consequences of the state tobacco laws passed in 2016, including Proposition 56
  • Retailer knowledge and compliance with new laws
  • Characterizing effective policy approaches that support stronger local tobacco control ordinances
  • Facilitators and barriers to implementation and enforcement of smoke and tobacco free school campuses
  • Progress toward closing loopholes in smoke-free workplace laws
  • Changes to the tobacco and vapor retail environment in response to recent California laws
  • Policy impacts on narrowing or widening health disparities
  • Evaluation of methods to achieve community college tobacco-free policies
  • Geospatial research to characterize policy effects and health outcomes
  • Economic modeling to characterize pre- and post- policy effects from new California laws on tobacco prevalence, youth access, tobacco-related diseases and tobacco-related healthcare expenditures
  • Extent to which end-game strategies can reduce tobacco-related disparities
  • Analysis of intended and unintended consequences from implementation of end-game strategies
  • Extent to which Proposition 64 is associated with cannabis use, problem cannabis use and cannabis-related health and legal issues
  • Economic impact of recreational and medical cannabis use

Research on training to expand tobacco control capacity and leadership

  • Theoretical models and curricula for training community members and researchers in policy advocacy
  • Multidisciplinary leadership development programs in tobacco control that focus on translational science to inform policy
  • Building relationships with community organizations that serve priority groups in California to strengthen tobacco policy
  • Building relationships with American Indian tribal leadership and community-based organizations (Researchers are expected to distinguish commercial from ceremonial tobacco use, respect the sovereignty of all American Indians’ lands and seek cooperation at all levels when working in these venues, including patrons, employees, management, tribal members and tribal leaders)

Menthol and flavored tobacco regulation

  • Research to support local ordinances regulating menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco (e.g., little cigars, cigarillos and e-juices)
  • Strategies to build support for minimum price and unit packaging
  • Strategies to strengthen local regulation and accurate labeling of chemical constituents in flavored e-juices/e-liquids
  • Preparing municipalities for industry litigation threats and organizing tobacco retailers against menthol and flavored tobacco regulation

Countering tobacco industry marketing and corporate social responsibility efforts

  • Evaluating strategies to counter the tobacco industry’s pressure on American Indian tribal leadership and policies related to commercial tobacco use in American Indian gaming casinos
  • Establishing groundwork for future tobacco control policy change through coordination with American Indian tribes and trusted organizations serving this priority group
  • Evaluation of community efforts to counter tobacco industry marketing campaigns
  • Characterizing the direction of new and emerging tobacco industry corporate social responsibility efforts
  • Analyzing tobacco industry documents and other sources to reveal their intention to pivot and align with public health’s tobacco control goals and manipulation of public perception of tobacco companies

Reducing tobacco product waste and protecting the environment through policymaking

  • Policy development to address the impact of tobacco butt and electronic cigarette waste on the environment
  • Policies to prevent leaching of tobacco chemical waste products into waterways, soil and coastal areas
  • Fire risk from cigarette butts
  • Theoretical models and policy experiments to hold the tobacco industry and e-cigarette industry accountable for product waste
  • Communication strategies to inform the public of the impact of tobacco waste on the environment

Protecting youth from tobacco and cannabis exposure

  • Evaluating changes in youth tobacco and cannabis use, perceptions of new and emerging product, and access to tobacco/cannabis products to inform local and state policy development
  • Evaluating youth exposure to cannabis smoke; knowledge, attitudes and behaviors associated with edible cannabis and flavored cannabis derived oils and concentrates to inform counter marketing strategies and policy development
  • Youth perceptions of vaporized cannabis and cannabinoids
  • Developing and evaluating counter marketing approaches for flavored cigarillos and cannabis
  • Strategies to support local and state laws requiring childproof packaging of e-juices/e-liquids and cannabis products
  • Discouraging marketing and packaging that attracts youth at the point of sale

Tobacco policy interactions with cannabis policy

  • Reconciling conflicts between local multi-unit housing (MUH) smoke free policies and adult recreational cannabis smoking in MUH
  • Impacts from secondhand cannabis smoke and vapor exposure
  • Helping local governments align indoor tobacco smoke free laws with cannabis smoking regulation
  • Extent to which cannabis marketing and policies on possession and use renormalize tobacco/nicotine use and smoking
  • Correlates of tobacco and cannabis outlet density

Impact of federal and global tobacco control policy on California policymaking

  • Evaluating changes in federal regulation of tobacco and nicotine products and weakening or strengthening of national tobacco laws
  • Evaluating the extent to which trade agreements between California and/or U.S. with other nations strengthens or weakens tobacco control laws
  • Characterizing tobacco industry manipulation and strategies to weaken local, state, federal and international tobacco control policymaking

Tobacco industry influence

  • Industry manipulation of non-profit organization
  • Industry lobbying impact on tobacco control policymaking in California
  • Industry's influence in public and private schools; civic, cultural and advocacy organizations; and the hospitality industry
  • Product promotions targeting rural smokers, low-income residents and individuals with mental illness
  • Elucidating mechanisms used by industry to fund consultants, front groups and powerful individuals who advocate for industry interests
  • Evaluating the extent to which the continuum of risk theory is a vehicle to build evidence for policies supported by the industry and/or the tobacco control community, including harm reduction advocates and scientists

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