Podcast: Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group - Priority setting Report

The Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group at the University of Oxford in the UK is one of the oldest groups working on Cochrane Reviews. It has produced dozens of these during the last two decades and, in 2016, it embarked on a project to identify the top priorities for future research into tobacco control. After an extensive and intensive period of information gathering and processing, the findings were published in September 2017. We asked Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Senior Researcher and Managing Editor in the Cochrane group to tell us about the global importance of what they found.

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John: Hello, I'm John Hilton, editor of the Cochrane Editorial unit. The Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group at the University of Oxford in the UK is one of the oldest groups working on Cochrane Reviews. It has produced dozens of these during the last two decades and, in 2016, it embarked on a project to identify the top priorities for future research into tobacco control. After an extensive and intensive period of information gathering and processing, the findings were published in September 2017. We asked Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Senior Researcher and Managing Editor in the Cochrane group to tell us about the global importance of what they found.

Jamie: In recent years, the range, appearance and accessibility of tobacco products has changed significantly. Technology has given rise to new ways of delivering nicotine that can help reduce the harms associated with traditional cigarettes, and we felt that it was important to know what a wide variety of people would want from our reviews in the future. This prioritisation exercise gives us the evidence to move forward.
We consulted with doctors, stop smoking advisers, health service commissioners, researchers, funding bodies, policymakers, charities and members of the public, both smokers and ex-smokers, from nearly 30 countries; using two a two phase online survey and then a face to face workshop here in Oxford. 
More than 300 people contributed their ideas to the survey, identifying a total of 183 unanswered research questions. Then, survey respondents and the 43 participants in the workshop whittled these down to 24 priority questions. These fit within eight priority research themes that provide a framework for us to address in the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, but also to underpin the work of tobacco control researchers across the world in the coming years. 
The eight themes cover inequalities in tobacco use, delivery of smoking cessation treatments, the impact of electronic cigarettes, triggers that prompt smokers to try to quit, preventing tobacco use in young people, the use of tobacco by people with mental health problems or substance abuse issues, population-wide interventions and quitting during pregnancy.
Our project has highlighted the key areas of ongoing uncertainty in the field of tobacco control. The participants have provided a rich source of information on how these should be prioritised, and we will now use this information to maximise the likelihood that findings of research are useful and implemented. We hope that other researchers and funders will also use the priorities to inform their future plans and thereby ensure that research delivers the answers that practitioners, policy makers and the public want. 

If you’d like to learn more, please see our article in the journal Addiction or read our full report, available free from our website tobacco dot Cochrane dot org.

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