Dr Katie East is an SSA academic fellow, who visited the United States in 2023 to attend the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) Annual Meeting. Here, she blogs about spending time with fellow nicotine and tobacco researchers, pursuing new research collaborations, and taking the opportunity to run around Central Park.

SRNT is the leading international conference specifically for tobacco and nicotine research and is attended by researchers and policymakers from around the globe.

I travelled to the US in March 2023, as part of my SSA fellowship, to attend a conference in San Antonio (Texas) and to visit Columbia University (New York) and Rutgers University (New Brunswick). The first portion of the research trip involved flying from London to Austin, and then travelling to San Antonio to attend the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) Annual Meeting. SRNT is the leading international conference specifically for tobacco and nicotine research and is attended by researchers and policymakers from around the globe.

Networking and career pathways

At SRNT, I presented a paper from my SSA fellowship entitled “Noticing education campaigns or public health messages about vaping among youth in England, Canada, and the US from 2018 to 2022”. I also chaired a session entitled “Mechanisms of health warning delivery and alternative use by industry”, which included a paper I was involved in, led by my colleague Eve Taylor.

SRNT had numerous in-person networking events, including a dinner with the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Project, for which I am the England co-lead. The ITC Project is the largest and most comprehensive tobacco control evaluation programme – present in 31 countries so far. Other events included a network meeting with the Policy Research Network and an early career researcher event. I also participated in the Policy Research Network’s ‘It’s Just Coffee’ mentoring programme, where I met with a PhD student from the University of Queensland (Australia) to discuss career pathways and research opportunities. Several previous SSA fellows also attended SRNT, so I had the opportunity to discuss research and career pathways with them too.

The quality of the science at SRNT is always very high. I learned about what is new in the field of nicotine and tobacco research, including new research into the effectiveness of harm reduction strategies, statistical techniques that I could use in my research, and what policies are being considered in the US as well as internationally that could be helpful to examine in future research.

As a result of attending SRNT, I am working on a new project with colleagues from King’s College London, University College London, and the University of Waterloo (Canada) to help further understand the impact of standardising e-cigarettes. Additionally, following discussions at poster sessions at SRNT, I am now contributing to a couple of papers on youth patterns of smoking and vaping in different countries.

This trip also allowed me to be a tourist for a few days in Texas! When not hiding in the shade – it was 40 degrees – I visited The Alamo and Mission Concepcion (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) to learn about the history of San Antonio. I also rented a car with colleagues to drive around the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch and National Historical Park. A particular highlight was watching the Houston Rockets beat San Antonio Spurs in a National Basketball Association (NBA) game and eating an enormous stack of pancakes at an IHOP.

Funding opportunities (plus a few days to be a tourist)

Following SRNT, I flew to New York to give a talk on vaping harm perceptions to Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and then to the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies.

At Columbia, I co-presented with my colleague Eve Taylor. Colleagues at Columbia have a background in toxicology and have moved into the vaping research area. They valued the opportunity to learn more about the public health impact of vaping, where gaps in the research base exist, and what regulations are like in the UK compared with the US.

At Rutgers, I met with Dr Olivia Wackowski and her research group, who are experts in tobacco and nicotine use. Dr Wackowski is a collaborator and co-author on my fellowship work. We discussed ideas for the second study in my fellowship, which will examine public health messaging about vaping in England, Canada, and the US, and also discussed career pathways and future funding opportunities – for example, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have funding opportunities that UK researchers are eligible for.

As with Texas, I also had the opportunity to be a tourist for a few days in New York! Unlike Texas, NYC was absolutely freezing, so out came the puffer jacket and woolly hat. Eve and I visited the Brooklyn Bridge, saw the Empire State Building, ate a lot of cheesecake, and then ran it off around Central Park.

by Dr Katie East

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