Cochrane TAG was established in 1996 and forms part of Cochrane, an international not-for-profit and independent organization, dedicated to producing and disseminating up-to-date, accurate information about the effects of healthcare worldwide. The major product of Cochrane is the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews that is published quarterly as part of The Cochrane Library.
The research exercise initially engaged with 304 stakeholders; it included researchers, health professionals, smokers and ex-smokers. At the outset it produced 183 unanswered questions in tobacco control. The initial process involved two online questionnaires and then a workshop. By the end of this phase they had narrowed down the number of questions to a priority list of 24.
The workshop had to consider reasons for and against research in a number of categories, in respect to vaping the topics included:
- Safety: any long-term health effects still need to be established
- Due to safety queries health professionals are unsure how to advise patients
- Potential use as a smoking reduction and cessation aid still needs to be investigated
- Electronic cigarettes may be more attractive cessation aids than pharmaceuticals, especially in young people
- A great deal of misleading information is currently circulated on the topic
- Potentially a gateway to tobacco use—needs to be investigated
In the recently published paper, the team have narrowed the research categories down to eight priority areas, having analysed all of the information obtained from the workshop. They are as follows:
- To address inequalities: Aiming to reduce tobacco use behaviour so that some groups do not have higher risks than others.
- Treatment delivery: To focus research on the best ways to treat tobacco dependence.
- Ecigs: Answering questions of safety, public education, and efficacy.
- Initiating quitting: to discover how to make people quit, why they choose to and why the number attempting to quit has dropped.
- Mental health and substance abuse: to discover what works best and how to support this group of stakeholders.
- Young people: To discover effective interventions, best methods to aid quitting and especially targeting hard-to-reach groups.
- Pregnancy: The safety of vaping, the most cost-effective strategies, and the efficacy of ecigs.
- Whole population interventions: Focus on interventions related to tobacco use.
Professor Robert West, University College London, said: “It is important that research designed to evaluate tobacco control interventions is aimed at the people that need it most, and investigates the latest products and services to understand their potential to make a difference at both the individual and population level. This new set of research priorities has relevance to the entire research community and can support the design of future studies in tobacco control, helping to maximise the likelihood that research findings are useful in reducing the harms associated with tobacco use.”