National Institutes of Health Funding for Tobacco Versus Harm From Tobacco

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Previously, the author documented that, even though tobacco-related diseases accounted for 20% of US deaths, in 1995 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) expended only 1.1% of its budget on tobacco research. The current analysis is a replication test of this result and adds other outcomes and comparisons.


The author obtained NIH funding information for tobacco, alcohol, and drug use and for obesity for each year between 2007 and 2014 from Project Reporter and compared these to the total NIH budget and to measures of disease burden.


NIH allocated $321 million for tobacco research in 2014. The percent of the NIH budget dedicated to tobacco was 1.3% in 2014 and has not changed since 1995; similar rates for alcohol, drug, and obesity problems in 2014 were 1.8%, 3.3%, and 3.8%. The ratio of spending to mortality from a risk factor was substantially less for tobacco compared to alcohol or obesity problems (0.07 vs. 0.60 and 0.30).


These results replicate our earlier findings. Tobacco research continues to be underfunded at the NIH compared to its disease burden in the United States and to NIH funding for other behavioral risk factors.

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