Current Research and Scholarly Interests
Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising (tobacco.stanford.edu)
Drawn to the field when my mother was dying of lung cancer in the early 2000s, for over fifteen years the study of tobacco industry marketing has become my primary field of research as well as my intellectual and creative passion. Motivated by the lack of a comprehensive and well organized compendium of tobacco advertisements, and the relative paucity of scholarly research analyzing the marketing practices of the industry, I chose to focus my research on advertising. The overarching purpose of my research has been to reveal the behavior of the tobacco industry in recruiting and retaining its consumers with the goal of informing regulators and legislators as they consider tobacco policy.
As my tobacco research intensified, in 2006 I created a research group which studies the impact tobacco advertising, marketing, and promotion. The initial priority of SRITA was to create a digital repository of tobacco advertising material to support scholarship, advocacy, judicial proceedings, and regulatory/legislative deliberations. The online collection has grown to become the world’s largest repository of tobacco advertising images. Most images are high quality scan which are contained within a searchable, meta-data rich, annotated online database. As of October 2019, the online collection (tobacco.stanford.edu) is comprised of 55,579 tobacco advertisements and has had 637,589 unique users representing virtually every country in the world. The entire compendium of original tobacco advertisements from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries now reside in the archives of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. A Smithsonian exhibit “When More Doctors Smoked Camels” launched in April 2018.
As our group seeks to influence policy, media attention is helpful in communicating the fruits of our research. The work of SRITA has been subject of articles in the New York Times, Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, SF Chronicle, LA Times, Forbes, Times of London, Vox, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Wired, History Channel, The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, and many other media outlets. Numerous TV and radio news shows have featured the work of SRITA including CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NPR, AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg.
As a Stanford University program, SRITA focuses upon original scholarship utilizing the unique resource of our advertising collection. Our early academic focus was primarily historical study of advertisements using images of physicians and targeted to physicians in medical journals as well as overt health claims so prominent in the 20th century. A 2015 study on the ethics of trial testimony of physicians in defense of the tobacco industry received wide media attention. SRITA research interests include targeting of special populations such as of women, youth, and African Americans.
In recent years, our research has focused primarily upon emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn devices. We have conducted numerous studies of the promotion of popular products such as JUUL and IQOS, social media marketing, cessation advertising, nicotine delivery, and the role of flavors in attracting youth. Our early 2019 white paper on “JUUL Marketing in its First 3 Years on the Market” has had major impact among regulators and legislators. In late 2019, we plan to release a major white paper on the “Global Marketing of IQOS: The Philip Morris Campaign to Popularize “Heat-Not-Burn” Tobacco.” Aside from scholarship, SRITA has been extensively engaged in helping to inform policy through consultations with congress (testified to House Oversight Committee in July 2019 on the JUUL phenomenon), the FDA, and legislators, regulators, and attorneys general from numerous states.