December 11, 2019

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Pete and Devon Briger endow a fellowship to help fight the global tobacco epidemic

“I am furious that the tobacco industry is targeting children yet again and profiting from their addiction.”

-Pete Briger

We are grateful to Pete and Devon Briger for endowing an international postodoctoral fellowship at the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.  Here is the story UCSF just released about the gift:

Fighting the Global Tobacco Epidemic

Is the U.S. winning the war on tobacco? If you had asked Pete and Devon Briger this question in 2015, their answer would have been a resounding “yes.” They, like most Americans, saw a mountain of evidence pointing to a one-time public health crisis taking its last gasping breaths. 

But in a few short years, they have watched as this hard-won gain took a troubling turn. An epidemic of teen e-cigarette use has emerged, growing by 135 percent among high school students between 2017 and 2019.  Now, one in four high school students report using e-cigarettes.

The Brigers take these trends to heart. “I am furious that the tobacco industry is targeting children yet again and profiting from their addiction to these products,” Pete says. “And I recognize that this epidemic isn’t isolated to teens in the U.S. – it’s impacting people of all ages, from around the world.”

As the Brigers well know, global statistics related to smoking and its intersection with inequity are startling. Eighty percent of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries, and few people in these countries understand the specific health risks of tobacco use. (Here’s a powerful example: in a recent survey of Chinese adults, only one in four people believed that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.)

Now the Brigers are tackling the issue directly, with a $1.65 million gift to UCSF’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, the world’s largest and most diverse academic tobacco research enterprise. Their gift will support the Center’s first-ever Briger Fellow, a position that will leverage research to energize education and policy to end the global tobacco epidemic. The Center has educated 90 fellows since its training program began in 2001.

The Brigers’ gift fills a crucial void in tobacco research fellowship funding, which often excludes international students from the pool of eligible applicants because of citizenship and residency restrictions from major government funding bodies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). By welcoming these applicants, leaders at the Center aim to build a pipeline of international researchers who can use their UCSF education to help eradicate smoking in their home countries.  International trainees have come to the Center from Guatemala, Argentina, India, Ghana, China, Korea, Germany, Poland, Nigeria, Nepal, and Thailand.

“It’s a privilege to support the Center and a team that has contributed so much to advancing science and regulation around tobacco addiction, exposure, and eradication,” says Pete, a member of UCSF’s Board of Overseers. “I’m confident that we can undo these devastating trends and create a healthier local and global community.”

There’s arguably no better place to do it: The UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education is a World Health Organization Coordinating Center on Tobacco Control Policy and its NIH-supported Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science was recently awarded a $20 million grant renewal. 

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