A team of researchers, led by the University of Stirling, has been awarded £3.4 million from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Research Councils UK Collective Fund to reduce tobacco-related harm in low and middle income countries in Asia and Africa.
Led by Professor Linda Bauld, the multi-disciplinary four-year project involves six UK universities from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, eight overseas partners in seven countries and Cancer Research UK.
The scheme is part of one of the most ambitious international research programmes ever created, with £225 million invested across 37 interdisciplinary projects.
Professor Bauld, Director of the University’s Institute for Social Marketing and Cancer Research UK Prevention Champion, said: “Smoking kills more people every year than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined. As smoking dwindles to a minority activity in the UK, the number of smokers is still increasing elsewhere. By 2030, it’s predicted that more than 80 per cent of tobacco-related deaths will occur in low and middle income countries.
“The tobacco epidemic was created in the developed world, where smoking rates sky-rocketed in previous decades. It took us many years to work out how to bring them down, through research, advocacy, communicating health risks, and introducing evidence-based policies.
“We are proud that the Institute of Social Marketing, as part of the multi-UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, has been at the centre of driving these positive changes. This vital funding will allow us to work with developing countries to help combat one of the world’s biggest preventable causes of death and continue to make a real difference to global health.”
Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “We have a thriving, world-leading community of researchers at Stirling committed to improving the lives of others. This significant investment from RCUK recognises the quality and importance of the work carried out within the Institute of Social Marketing to reduce tobacco-related harm around the world.
“We have outlined major ambitions for Stirling research in our Strategic Plan and Professor Bauld is to be congratulated on this impressive grant. Securing the funding to lead this collaborative, international team of researchers is a fantastic achievement. I have no doubt it is just the first of many major research grants for the University over the coming years.”
Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “From healthcare to green energy, the successful projects receiving funding today highlight the strength of the UK’s research base and our leadership in helping developing countries tackle some of the greatest global issues of our time.
“At a time when the pace of scientific discovery and innovation is quickening, we are placing science and research at the heart of our Industrial Strategy to build on our strengths and maintain our status as science powerhouse.”
Andrew Thompson, RCUK GCRF Champion, said: “The 37 projects announced today build research capacity both here in the UK and in developing countries to address systemic development challenges, from African agriculture to sustainable cities, clean oceans, and green energy, to improved healthcare, food security, and gender equality.”
According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year, with the majority of tobacco-related deaths occurring in low and middle income countries.
The researchers hope to bring down smoking rates in less well-off countries by conducting research to inform tobacco taxation, tackle the illicit trade in tobacco and target tobacco companies’ efforts to undermine governments’ attempts to reduce smoking
They will work with researchers in the South Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries of India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia, The Gambia and Ghana to offer training and research support.
The team will also partner with local academics to develop and implement approaches to address Asian and African nations’ tobacco consumption.