$20 Million Grant Will Fund Continued Research by Yale Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science

The National Institutesof Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have renewed a $20 million grant for the Yale Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) to continue to investigate the influence of flavors and sweeteners, and other constituents, on the appeal and addictive potential of traditional tobacco products and newer products like e-cigarettes.

TCORS was formed at Yale in 2013 under an original $20 million, five-year federal grant to research the influence of flavors, including menthol, on tobacco addiction. The work at Yale and other federally funded research centers has provided science-based knowledge to the FDA, which regulates tobacco. The new grant is also for five years.

The Yale center is led by co-directors Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, and Stephanie O’Malley, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry. The multidisciplinary research team includes experts in nicotinic receptor biology and pharmacology, flavor and irritant receptor biology and pharmacology, sensory perception, tobacco/nicotine use behaviors and addiction, adolescent tobacco use, and analytical chemistry. The center research uses varied methodology including surveys and focus groups, neuroimaging, analytical chemistry, decision making experiments, statistical modeling, and clinical trials methods.

Yale scientists will conduct three projects under the new grant:

  • Project 1 will examine whether preconditioning to flavors and sweeteners influences nicotine use behaviors and addiction, and will evaluate the influence of novel cooling agents, which may ultimately replace menthol in tobacco products.
  • Project 2 will examine the influence of sweet and cool flavors among youth who are susceptible to future use. It will also evaluate whether sweet and cool flavors have different impacts on nicotine reward and switching behaviors in both younger and older users of combustible tobacco.
  • Project 3 will determine the optimal delivery rate needed by tobacco users to relieve nicotine withdrawal while producing minimal positive effects, and whether the influence of this delivery rate is altered if combustible tobacco users switch from using mentholated to non-mentholated products.

Other core faculty include Nii Addy, PhD; Tore Eid, MD, PhD; Barry Green, PhD; Marina Picciotto, PhD; Mehmet Sofuoglu, MD, PhD; and Julie Zimmerman, PhD, from Yale University; and Sven-Eric Jordt, PhD, from Duke University.

The FDA began to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products in 2009 with the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. That law prohibits the addition of most artificial and natural flavors to tobacco cigarettes, although menthol is exempt.

Further regulation of flavors by the FDA will be influenced by the research performed at Yale and other science centers.

This article was submitted by Christopher Gardner on September 17, 2018.