The impact of tobacco control research on policy: 20 years of progress

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Abstract

Objectives

To assess progress in tobacco control policy research and the relevance of research to policymaking.

Methods

Over 100 experts were surveyed about their opinions on the body of research existing in 1992 and 2011 concerning 11 areas of tobacco control policy, the state of policy implementation in both years, the extent to which research has affected policy adoption and how experience with policy has influenced research. Case studies of how research and policy implementation have interacted were developed.

Results

The body of research was not judged ‘substantial’ in any of the policy areas in 1992. In 2011, 6 of the 11 areas were evaluated as substantial. None ranked as substantial regarding policy implementation in 1992, but by 2011 half were so ranked for developed countries; in low-income and middle-income countries policy implementation moved from very low to moderate. Respondents judged the role of research in actual policymaking as ‘substantial’ regarding clean indoor air, taxation and cessation treatment policy. Case studies illustrate how research can directly affect policy (taxation), how policy and research can have iterative effects (clean indoor air), and how research and policy interact in the case of novel policies (graphic cigarette pack warnings). The role of research in the formulation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is also examined.

Conclusions

Policy research goals established in 1992 have been largely realised. For select tobacco control policies, research has made truly important contributions to saving lives. Evidence-based policy adoption will continue to be essential to minimising the toll of tobacco, especially in the world's poorer countries.

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