The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have awarded funding for a new Center for Rapid Surveillance of Tobacco (CRST). Through rapid surveillance and reporting of information, CRST will enhance the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) and the research community’s ability to understand, document and quantify changes in the tobacco product marketplace and tobacco use patterns.
“Nothing like this has ever been attempted before now,” said Cristine Delnevo, director of the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies and principal investigator of the rapid surveillance center. “No one has collected such comprehensive information, let alone organized and disseminated it rapidly. We think it will provide the FDA with meaningful and timely data to inform their congressionally authorized regulation of the tobacco market.”
Research results from the CRST are expected to generate findings and data that are directly relevant in informing the FDA’s regulation of the manufacture, distribution and marketing of tobacco products to protect public health. In particular, the CRST will support more time-sensitive data collection, analysis and reporting—making potentially actionable information available before more traditional data collection methods.
“Given the rapidly evolving tobacco landscape, it’s critical that we have nimble surveillance tools that can keep pace to best protect public health,” said Brian King, director of the FDA’s CTP. “This new center is another important addition to our surveillance toolbox to help identify emerging issues and to inform timely action.”
The CRST is supported through the Tobacco Regulatory Science Program, an interagency partnership between the NIH and CTP to foster tobacco regulatory research.
The work is led by Rutgers Center of Excellence in Rapid Surveillance of Tobacco with substantial involvement from a large collaborative network that triangulates multiple data sources, federal scientific staff at CDC, NIH and CTP as well as external advisors with relevant expertise.
“The signals about JUUL’s popularity with youth were there as early as 2017, but without identifying early, meaningful signals and subsequently implementing nationally representative large surveys with appropriate measures, it took much longer to evaluate the problem,” Delnevo said. “Successful rapid surveillance will facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the problem in a timely manner.”
The grant money will fund the Rutgers Center of Excellence in Rapid Surveillance in Tobacco, which officially began operations on June 1, pulling information from numerous data sources. Researchers will:
- Collect information from marketing company databases, tobacco maker websites, social media and merchant outlets to spot new marketing strategies;
- Analyze retail scanner data to track tobacco-product sales and spot trends involving new product characteristics such as innovative flavors or delivery mechanisms;
- Triangulate responses from surveys of youth, young adults, and adults who use tobacco and nicotine products to understand preferences and behaviors;
- Synthesize the data to identify meaningful trends early and provide the FDA with actionable information to improve its regulation of tobacco products.
Another seven faculty members from the Center for Tobacco Studies will join Delnevo on the rapid surveillance project, as will 13 co-investigators from Roswell Park Cancer Institute, East Carolina University, Stanford University, the University of Kentucky, The Ohio State University, Columbia University, and Westat, Inc.
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