Announcement
September 20, 2013

Penn Researchers Hornik and Lerman Receive $20 Million in Federal Funding to Establish Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science

New FDA/NIH-funded program combines expertise from four Penn schools and centers to explore communication about tobacco in the digital age, inform FDA regulatory activities

PHILADELPHIA — A $20 million federal grant will create the University of Pennsylvania Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (Penn TCORS). A first-of-its-kind regulatory science research enterprise, the new center is designed to conduct studies to inform the regulation of tobacco products to protect public health.  The new grant is supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will fund research from 2013 to 2018.

The new Penn TCORS, co-led by Penn Professors Robert Hornik and Caryn Lerman, includes faculty experts from the Annenberg School for Communication, the Perelman School of Medicine, and the Wharton School. The Penn TCORS is among 14 centers from across the nation which will receive a total of up to $53 million for tobacco-related research in fiscal year 2013. The Penn TCORS will have a thematic focus on tobacco-related messaging in the complex, 21st century communication environment, with projects that address multiple levels of effect, extending from neuroscience to health policy.

Despite decades of work to reduce its prevalence, tobacco use in the United States continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease.

“Public communication about tobacco products has been transformed by the digital marketing revolution and the rapid diffusion of emerging social media,” said Robert Hornik, PhD, Wilbur Schramm Professor of Communication and Health Policy in the Annenberg School for Communication “As a result, tobacco product information and misinformation is readily available through mass media sources such as newspapers and TV, social media such as Twitter, user commentary on media, and the cigarette package itself. Such misinformation can mislead the public to underestimate the dangers or overestimate the benefits of various tobacco products, and threatens to undermine FDA’s regulatory efforts.”

The Penn TCORS will carry out several projects, including:

  • A comprehensive analysis of the nature and effects of both traditional and emerging media coverage of tobacco products on youth and young adults.
  • Experimental analyses of “belief echoes” -- lingering public attitudes based on misinformation about tobacco products -- and will examine novel, theory-based corrective interventions.
  • Experimental analysis of the effects of cigarette packaging formats on smoking behavior as well as downstream biological effects.
  • Establishing the Tobacco Fact Check Core, a tobacco specific version of APPC’s award-winning FactCheck.org and FlackCheck.org, each of which uncovers fact from fiction and/or “spin” in political messages.

In addition, a new training program will provide opportunities for doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows to strengthen their research capacity in tobacco communication and regulatory science in an intensive, rigorous, multi-disciplinary environment.

“Despite massive efforts to eradicate tobacco addiction -- and some significant successes -- tobacco dependence continues to be a major public health problem,” said Caryn Lerman, PhD, Mary W. Calkins Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Annenberg School for Communication, and Deputy Director of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. “By marshalling the tremendous resources we have at Penn Medicine and Annenberg, we’re aiming to uncover new ways of countering the insidious effects of advertising and misinformation that induce people, especially the young, to adopt this lethal habit.”

For more information:

FDA: Center for Tobacco Products

Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS)

NIH: Tobacco Regulatory Science Program

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.

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