Richard J. O’Connor, PhD
| Associate Professor of Oncology, Department of Health Behavior, Roswell Park Research Associate Professor, Community Health and Health Behavior, University at Buffalo Research Associate Professor, Social and Preventive Medicine, University at Buffalo
322 Carlton House,
Roswell Park Cancer Institute
|EducationPhD, Biobehavioral Health, The Pennsylvania State University,
2004 BA, Psychology, The George Washington University, 1999
The interplay of tobacco product design and users’ behaviors is the major focus of Dr. O’Connor’s work, with a particular focus on the translation of research findings into policy. His laboratory maintains an International Tobacco Products Repository, where samples of cigarettes and other tobacco products from 20 countries are archived. This resource, unique in the United States, serves as a platform for examining between-country and between-brand differences in cigarette construction, tobacco characteristics, and smoke chemistries. This work has produced substantial data that in the past would have been nearly inaccessible to scientists outside the tobacco industry, and have confirmed filter ventilation as they key driver of cigarette emissions under standard machine testing regimens. Dr. O’Connor also led an NCI-funded project to evaluate the impact of New York State’s pioneering cigarette fire safety regulations on smoker behaviors and exposures (now adopted by 49 other states, Canada, Australia, and the European Union). Data collected in surveys and laboratory studies shows that the law has not led to more careless behaviors among smokers, no increases in exposure to nicotine or carbon monoxide, nor changes in puffing patterns. An emerging offshoot of the product analysis work has been the issue of contraband and counterfeit products, which may contain contaminants (such as heavy metals) that represent previously unaddressed public health issues. Dr. O’Connor’s work increasingly turns toward novel nicotine delivery systems introduced for use by smokers when they are unable to smoke, such as electronic cigarettes, snus (Swedish-style smokeless tobacco), dissolvable tobacco products, and electronic cigarettes. These products, while theoretically less hazardous to individual users, may have untoward population health impacts that need to be examined. Dr. O’Connor was awarded an NCI grant to study novel approaches to gauging current smokers interest in using smokeless tobacco products as substitutes for cigarettes. Dr. O’Connor’s expertise has been recognized nationally and internationally. He serves as an associate editor for BMC Public Health, an international open-access peer-reviewed journal (Impact Factor = 2.22). He has prepared several white papers for the World Health Organizations’s Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation and the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. He has served as a consultant to the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (Tobacco Constituents Subcommittee). In 2010, the Institute of Medicine appointed him to an expert committee commissioned to produce a report on Scientific Standards for Studies of Modified Risk Tobacco Products.
Dr. O’Connor’s research focuses on the interaction between tobacco products and consumers, from how cigarettes are designed and how those designs affect smokers’ perceptions and use of the product, to how best to inform policymakers crafting tobacco product regulations. Ongoing work includes developing and applying filter-based methods for assessing cigarette smoke exposure, characterizing physical properties and design features of international tobacco products, assessing smokers’ interest in alternative nicotine delivery systems (e.g., snus, medicinal nicotine), and smokers’ reactions to novel tobacco products.
Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco,
Association for Psychological Science,
American Society for Preventive Oncology