Cover Story

David B. Abrams, PhD, Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies; Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

  • Conducted basic research on the role of stress and reactions to cues in precipitating relapse.
  • Developed and tested work site and community interventions to reach unmotivated smokers.
  • Developed an equation — now an integral part of the growing field of dissemination and implementation science – that rates the overall reach, efficacy and cost of quitting programs. Abrams also developed smoking-cessation questionnaires, including the 1991 Readiness to Quit Ladder, which draws on the psychologist-created "trans-theoretical stages of change" model and is still widely used today.

Susan J. Curry, PhD, University of Iowa College of Public Health

  • Led the first study to show that providing full insurance coverage for smoking cessation services produced greater service use and higher quit rates than non-insured programs. The study's advice — adopted by many businesses, insurance companies and by Medicare and Medicaid — was reported in a 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Developed and evaluated both individual-level programs and a national sample of community-based youth tobacco cessation programs. One finding: When you combine quit-smoking interventions for women with pediatric visits for their children, they are twice as likely to quit.

Ellen R. Gritz, PhD, MD, Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, Houston

  • Conducted early research with smoking cessation pioneer Murray Jarvik, MD, PhD, demonstrating that nicotine is the addicting agent in tobacco smoke.
  • Wrote the behavioral sections of the first Report of the Surgeon General on Women and Smoking in 1980, and contributed as author or editor to nine surgeon general's reports on smoking and health.
  • Led the first randomized controlled trial of a smoking cessation intervention in cancer patients, specifically, those with head and neck cancers. She also was one of the first scientists to call for systematically documenting tobacco use and effects in cancer patients, and for the critical need for smoking-cessation treatment as a standard part of cancer care.

Jack Henningfield, PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

  • In the 1980s, was lead researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse on investigating nicotine as a potentially addicting drug.
  • Co-edited the 1988 Surgeon General's Report on nicotine addiction, the first of these reports to conclude that cigarettes met all the criteria of addicting drugs.
  • Co-authored the first article on reducing the nicotine in tobacco to non-addictive levels, which remains a central FDA focus today.
  • Co-authored the 2010 World Health Organization technical report discussing the science and potential public health implications of electronic nicotine delivery systems, or e-cigarettes.

Robert M. Kaplan, PhD, National Institutes of Health, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research

  • Beginning in the late 1970s, conducted a series of studies designed to help rehabilitate smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other smoking-related health diseases. This work inspired him to help combat the tobacco epidemic.
  • Starting in the 1980s and continuing to the present, conducted cost-related analyses for the state of California examining the effects of tobacco taxes and smoking bans in apartment buildings.
  • Lead author on a 1995 Annals of Behavioral Medicine article advocating for the adoption of tobacco regulation by the FDA, a tobacco tax, a ban on youth cigarette advertising, and Medicare payment for smoking cessation services. All are now policy.
  • Along with psychologists John Pierce, PhD, and Shu-Hong Zhu, PhD, initiated the ongoing California tobacco surveys to examine tobacco use and its determinants for random samples of the California population. Helped Zhu establish the California Smokers' Helpline, which has become a model for broad-scale cessation interventions throughout the country.

Edward Lichtenstein, PhD, Oregon Research Institute

  • Among the first to construe smoking as an important target for behavioral intervention. He helped point the field in a public health direction — away from purely individual interventions to strategies that could impact large numbers of people — thanks to a 1992 Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology paper he co-authored with Russell E. Glasgow, PhD.
  • One of the first to identify the role of self-efficacy in cessation and to focus research on the benefits of social support in helping people quit smoking.
  • His work and that of C. Tracy Orleans, PhD, Shu-Hong Zhu, PhD, and others helped to institutionalize smoking quitlines that now serve hundreds of thousands of smokers in the United States and around the world.

Raymond S. Niaura, PhD, Schroeder Institute; Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

  • Co-authored an influential 1996 Annals of Behavioral Medicine paper that spelled out a comprehensive managed-care model that uses cost, user motivation and program impact to triage smokers into one of three treatment steps. Other psychologist authors include Abrams, Orleans, James O. Prochaska, PhD, and Wayne Velicer, PhD.

Judith K. Ockene, PhD, University of Massachusetts Medical School

  • Helped move the practice of tobacco control into clinical medicine.
  • Held key positions related to tobacco control, including scientific editor of the 25th Anniversary Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health, and of the 1990 Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health, which examined the benefits of cessation. She also was the behavioral scientist on the independent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force from 2003 to 2008, and on Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services used her research on topics including tobacco intervention and cardiovascular disease, physician-delivered smoking interventions, and medical student training on tobacco treatment counseling to develop its tobacco treatment guidelines in 1996, 2000 and 2008.

C. Tracy Orleans, PhD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

  • Developed, evaluated and disseminated evidence-based quit-smoking programs in many venues and with many populations including pregnant women, African Americans, older adults and athletes addicted to smokeless tobacco.
  • Helped pioneer links between evidence-based individual-level clinical interventions and population-level interventions, for maximum impact. Developed and led many national research programs related to this topic, including at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • Documented the limited Medicaid reimbursement for evidence-based cessation counseling, which helped propel dramatic increases in this coverage.
  • Modeled the synergistic effects of clinical cessation and broader public health tobacco control policies, which helped make the case for combined clinical and policy-oriented national tobacco control efforts.

Marina Piciotto, PhD, Yale University

  • Conducted genetic knockout mice studies of the nicotine receptor, showing how nicotine activates the reward centers of the brain and hence leads to its compulsive use. Such research has contributed to the field's understanding of the basic mechanisms of smoking addiction and treatment.

Terry F. Pechacek, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • A contributor, peer reviewer, senior scientific reviewer, editor and lead federal scientist on many surgeon general's reports on smoking since 1979, including this year's report. Received the Surgeon General's Medallion in 2006 and other awards from the surgeon general's office for his work on 20 of these reports. 
  • In 1989, helped to establish the American Stop Smoking Intervention Study (ASSIST) at the National Cancer Institute, which funded 17 states and the American Cancer Society to implement this comprehensive tobacco control model. The study reduced the number of adult smokers by 1.2 million, and its findings supported the creation of CDC's National Tobacco Control Program.
  • Wrote the CDC's "Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs" in 1999, updated it in 2007, and testified on its recommendations before legislatures and governor's advisory boards in more than 20 states. His technical advice and the National Tobacco Control Program have guided the implementation of more than $10 billion in state investments to implement comprehensive tobacco control programs.
  • Lead federal scientist in developing most of the common "key facts" used to describe the tobacco epidemic in this country, including smoking-related morbidity and mortality economic costs' methodology, CDC's updated smoking-attributable annual death estimates, the estimated economic costs of smoking, and the projected future death estimates among youth. 

Saul Shiffman, PhD, University of Pittsburgh

  • Conducted one of first systematic studies of nicotine withdrawal, which helped change the view of smoking from that of a bad habit to a physical addiction.
  • Contributed 35 years of research to understanding what makes smokers relapse and how they can prevent it.
  • Studied pharmacological treatment of smoking, including nicotine replacement therapies. This work influenced treatment policy, helping to shape the current consensus that medication is an essential part of smoking-cessation treatment.
  • His work informed the decision to allow nicotine medication to be sold over the counter rather than through a doctor's prescription. The move increased medication use by more than 250 percent, and allowed psychologists to use medication as part of their treatment approach.

— Tori DeAngelis