Roberta Freitas-Lemos of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech university has received $680,000 award from the National Cancer Institute to study the interplay of tobacco policies and health disparities.
While taxes are widely used to reduce tobacco use, they can also exacerbate socioeconomic disparities. Freitas-Lemos is testing a tax proposal designed to reduce tobacco dependence and tobacco-related disparities in cigarette smokers from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
She plans to develop a new tax proposal based on the abuse liability of tobacco products and investigate its effects on purchase behavior using the Experimental Tobacco Marketplace, a tool developed at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. Her proposal uses an abuse liability assessment model, which predicts the likelihood of tobacco addiction or harmful use.
Freitas-Lemos will recruit a diverse group of tobacco users who will use an experimental account to purchase tobacco and replacement therapy products through the marketplace. By adjusting the product mix and pricing, scientists can better predict purchase behavior.
“My long-term research goal is to become an independent researcher investigating the differential impact of policies on tobacco initiation, use and cessation among individuals who experience tobacco-related cancer disparities,” Freitas-Lemos said in a statement.
Freitas-Lemos studied psychology at the Pontifical Catholic University in Sao Paulo, Brazil, before earning a doctorate from the University of Brasilia. She joined the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute as postdoctoral fellow in 2019.