Virginia Tech research may impact the future of smoking



National Cancer Institute

awarded $15 million to 10 academic institutions to conduct research on the impact of current and potential policies regulating tobacco products, including vaping products.

Warren Bickel

, Virginia Tech Carilion Behavioral Health Research Professor, will use $2.63 million of the grant to examine how a person decides to use a vaporized nicotine product, such as an e-cigarette, rather than a conventional cigarette.

"The effects of new policies need to be understood to deal with the existing smoking problem and to manage new products," said Bickel, "However, no current research method can adequately estimate, prior to implementation, the effects of a new regulation of the introduction of a new tobacco product on the patterns of consumption and substitution by current smokers across the various tobacco/nicotine products available in the ever more complex tobacco marketplace."

Bickel and his team are introducing a new approach called the Experimental Tobacco Marketplace. Researchers said, people who smoke can volunteer to participate in controlled experiments where they can choose conventional cigarettes, vaporized nicotine or other tobacco products under various conditions.

The team plans to test four factors influencing a person's choice between vaporized nicotine products and conventional cigarettes: nicotine dosage, extra costs, smoke-free environments and flavors.

"If a person gets enough nicotine, doesn't have to pay extra taxes, can use the e-cigarette in places where conventional cigarettes are banned, and has several flavor options, perhaps the person will choose vaping over smoking," Bickel said. "Maybe it will only take one of those variables to influence a person's decision, and maybe that's the first step toward managing a continuously growing public health problem."

The other institutions participating in the research include the Medical University of South Carolina, Georgetown University, University of Illinois at Chicago, the State University of New York, Susquehanna University, and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, all in the United States.