Psychologists are heading several major projects funded by a federal program designed to support tobacco regulatory science, a research area aimed at ensuring that U.S. tobacco regulation is based on the best possible science.

The program was created by a mandate from the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in response to an increasingly complex scientific and regulatory landscape of tobacco-related products, including e-cigarettes.

The grants, which total more than $273 million, were administered in 2013 by the National Institutes of Health through the Tobacco Regulatory Science Program, a collaborative effort between the NIH Office of Disease Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products. Fourteen universities and the American Heart Association were each awarded up to $20 million to establish a Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science, or TCORS.

Each center will conduct up to five years of research that includes at least three integrated research projects, the opportunity for developmental and pilot research, and a training component for junior researchers, says Cathy Backinger, PhD, deputy director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products' Office of Science.

TCORS locations with psychologists as principal investigators are:

  • The Pennsylvania State University, led by epidemiologist Joshua Muscat, PhD, and clinical psychologist and tobacco researcher Jonathan Foulds, PhD.
  • The University of Pennsylvania, directed by communication researcher Robert C. Hornik, PhD, and psychologist and nicotine dependence researcher Caryn Lerman, PhD.
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, headed by UNC ecological-community psychologist Kurt M. Ribisl, PhD.
  • University of Southern California, led by psychologist and prevention expert Mary Ann Pentz, PhD, and pulmonary physician and epidemiologist Jonathan Samet, MD.
  • University of Vermont, directed by psychologist and behavioral pharmacologist Stephen T. Higgins, PhD.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University, headed by VCU psychologist Tom Eissenberg, PhD, and research psychologist and behavioral pharmacologist Robert L. Balster, PhD.
  • Yale University, led by pharmacologist and toxicologist Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, PhD, and clinical psychologist and addiction researcher Stephanie O'Malley, PhD.

— Tori DeAngelis