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
716-845-1265 (fax)
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.

Research Interests

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.

Selected Publications

  • Thrasher JF, Villalobos V, Barnoya J, Sansores R, O’Connor RJ. Consumption of single cigarettes and quitting behavior:  A longitudinal analysis of Mexican smokers.  BMC Public Health 2011, 11:134.  PMID: 2135252
  • Licht AS, Hyland AJ, O’Connor RJ, Chaloupka FJ, Borland R, Fong GT, Nargis N, Cummings KM.  Socio-economic variation in price minimizing behaviors:  Findings from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four Country Survey.  Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2011 Jan;8(1):234-52. Epub 2011 Jan 20. PMID: 21318026; PMCID: PMC3037072.
  • Yang J, Hammond D, Driezen P, O’Connor RJ, Li Q, Yong H-H, Fong GT, Jiang Y. Smoking cessation method use among Chinese smokers: Findings from ITC China Survey.  BMC Public Health2011 Feb 2;11(1):75.  PMID: 21288361 .O’Connor RJ, Norton KJ, Bansal-Travers M, Mahoney MC, Cummings KM, Borland R.  US smokers’ reactions to a brief trial of oral nicotine products.  Harm Reduct J. 2011 Jan 10;8(1):1. PMID: 21219609.  PMCID: PMC3032705O’Connor RJ, Fix BV, Hammond D, Giovino GA, Hyland A, Fong GT, Cummings KM. The impact of reduced ignition propensity cigarette regulation on smoking behaviour in a cohort of Ontario smokers. Inj Prev. 2010 Dec;16(6):420-2.   PMID:20643872.O’Connor RJ, Wilkins KJ, Caruso RV, Cummings KM, Kozlowski LT. Cigarette characteristic and emission variations across high-, middle- and low-income countries. Public Health. 2010 Dec;124(12):667-74  PMID:21030055.King B, Yong HH, Borland R, Omar M, Ahmad AA, Sirirassamee B, Hamann S, O’Connor RJ, Bansal-Travers M, Elton-Marshall T, Lee WB, Hammond D, Thrasher J. Malaysian and Thai smokers’ beliefs about the harmfulness of ‘light’ and menthol cigarettes. Tob Control. 2010 Dec;19(6):444-450.  PMID:20852322.

    Elton-Marshall T, Fong GT, Zanna MP, Jiang Y, Hammond D, O’Connor RJ, Yong HH, Li L, King B, Li Q, Borland R, Cummings KM, Driezen P. Beliefs about the relative harm of “light” and “low tar” cigarettes: findings from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) China Survey. Tob Control. 2010 Oct; 19 Suppl 2:i54-62. PMID:20935197.

    O’Connor RJ, Li Q, Stephens WE, Hammond D, Elton-Marshall T, Cummings KM, Giovino GA, Fong GT. Cigarettes sold in China: design, emissions and metals. Tob Control. 2010 Oct; 19 Suppl 2:i47-53.  PMID:20935196.

    Borland R, Yong HH, O’Connor RJ, Hyland A, Thompson ME. The reliability and predictive validity of the Heaviness of Smoking Index and its two components: findings from the International Tobacco Control Four Country study. Nicotine Tob Res. 2010 Oct; 12 Suppl:S45-50.  PMID:20889480.

    Ashley DL, O’Connor RJ, Bernert JT, Watson CH, Polzin GM, Jain RB, Hammond D, Hatsukami DK, Giovino GA, Cummings KM, McNeill A, Shahab L, King B, Fong GT, Zhang L, Xia Y, Yan X, McCraw JM. Effect of differing levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines in cigarette smoke on the levels of biomarkers in smokers. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jun; 19 (6) :1389-98.  PMID:20501750.

    Fix BV, O’Connor R, Hammond D, King B, McNeill A, Thrasher J, Boado M, Cummings KM, Yong HH, Thompson ME, Hyland A. ITC “spit and butts” pilot study: the feasibility of collecting saliva and cigarette butt samples from smokers to evaluate policy. Nicotine Tob Res. 2010 Mar; 12 (3) :185-90.  PMID:20081040;   PMCID: PMC2825096.

    O’Connor RJ, Hammond D, McNeill A, King B, Kozlowski LT, Giovino GA, Cummings KM. How do different cigarette design features influence the standard tar yields of popular cigarette brands sold in different countries?. Tob Control. 2008 Sep; 17 Suppl 1:i1-5. PMID:18768453.

    O’Connor RJ, McNeill A, Borland R, Hammond D, King B, Boudreau C, Cummings KM. Smokers’ beliefs about the relative safety of other tobacco products: findings from the ITC collaboration. Nicotine Tob Res. 2007 Oct; 9 (10) :1033-42.  PMID:17943619.

    O’Connor RJ, Cummings KM, Giovino GA, McNeill A, Kozlowski LT. How did UK cigarette makers reduce tar to 10 mg or less?. BMJ. 2006 Feb 4; 332 (7536) :302.  PMID:16455737;   PMCID: PMC1360411.

    O’Connor RJ, Giovino GA, Fix BV, Hyland A, Hammond D, Fong GT, Bauer U, Cummings KM. Smokers’ reactions to reduced ignition propensity cigarettes. Tob Control. 2006 Feb; 15 (1) :45-9. PMID:16436405;   PMCID: PMC2563630.

Professional Affiliations

Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco,

Association for Psychological Science,

American Society for Preventive Oncology

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