MRCG to Undertake Tobacco Research Following Grant Award

MRC Unit The Gambia is to conduct research into tobacco control as part of one of the most ambitious international research programmes ever created. £225 Million has been invested across 37 interdisciplinary projects to address challenges in fields such as health, humanitarian crises, conflict, the environment, the economy, domestic violence, society, and technology by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Research Councils UK Collective Fund.

MRCG is a collaborator on this 4 year, £3.4million grant from Research Councils UK. MRCG’s contribution is led by Professor Umberto D’Alessandro who will support two researchers at MRCG to conduct tobacco control research in The Gambia. One of these will be a new post-doctoral researcher who will benefit from a tailored training programme in The Gambia and the UK on the epidemiology of tobacco, tobacco control policies, research methods and implementation science.

The main focus of the research in The Gambia to be conducted as part of this GCRF grant will be demographic surveillance to better understand patterns of tobacco use across the whole population. This will be done by adding a tobacco unit to the existing MRCG HDSS surveys in Keneba, Farafenni and Basse. In addition, we aim to conduct research on the role of the tobacco industry in influencing policy in The Gambia, particularly efforts to stop effective tobacco control measures being implemented. Finally, we will explore the scope for future research on health warnings on tobacco products and smoking cessation in The Gambia.

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Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the world, accounting for 7 million deaths globally per year. Although rates of smoking amongst women in The Gambia remain very low, one in four men (24%) are smokers which is higher than in many other countries including the UK.

Although some declines have occurred in recent years, due to demographic change the number of smokers has doubled since 1980, to over 100,000. A particular concern is smoking amongst youth, with smoking in 13-15 year old girls at 9% and amongst boys at 13%. Considering these figures, The Gambia faces a growing epidemic of morbidity and premature mortality from tobacco use over the coming decades, and thus this is a priority area for research and policy