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Click  here to watch a short video of Center Director Stephen T. Higgins, Ph.D., discussing the work of UVM TCORS. 

Recent Publications

Chaarani, B., Spechler, P.A., Ivanciu, A., Snowe, M., Nickerson, J.P., Higgins, S.T., Garavan, H., In press.  Multimodal neuroimaging differences in nicotine abstinent vs. satiated smokers.  Nicotine Tob Res. 2018 Apr 6. doi: 10.1093/ntr/nty070. PMID: 29660044

Doogan NJ, Roberts ME, Wewers ME, Stanton CA, Keith DR, Gaalema DE, Kurti AN, et al. A growing geographic disparity: rural and urban cigarette smoking trends in the United States. Prev Med. 2017.

Gaalema DE, Pericot-Valverde I, Bunn J, Villanti AC, Cepeda-Benito A, Doogan NJ, Keith DR, Kurti AN, Lopez A, Nighbor T, Parker M, Quisenberry A, Redner R, Roberts ME, Stanton CA, Ades PA, Higgins ST. Tobacco use in cardiac patients: Perceptions, use, and changes after a recent myocardial infarction among US adults in the PATH study (2013-2015). Prev Med. 2018 May 7.  doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.05.004. PMID: 29746974.

Henningfield JE, Higgins ST, Villanti AC.  Are we guilty of errors of omission on the potential role of electronic nicotine delivery systems as less harmful substitutes for combusted tobacco use?  Prev Med. In press.

Higgins ST, Heil SH, Sigmon SC, Tidey JW, Gaalema DE, Stitzer ML, et al. Response to varying the nicotine content of cigarettes in vulnerable populations: an initial experimental examination of acute effects. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2017.

Higgins, S.T., Bergeria, C.L., Davis, D.R., Streck, J.M., Villanti, A.C., Hughes, J.R., Sigmon, S.C., Tidey, J.W., Heil, S.H., Gaalema, D.E., Stitzer, M.L., Priest, J.S., Skelly, J.M., Reed, D.D., Bunn, J.Y., Tromblee, M.A., Arger, C.A., Miller, M.E., 2018. Response to reduced nicotine content cigarettes among smokers differing in tobacco dependence severity.  Prev Med. 2018 Apr 4. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.04.010.  PMID: 29626557

Kurti, A.N., Bunn, J.Y., Villanti, A.C., Stanton, C.A., Redner, R., Lopez, A.A., Gaalema, D.E., Doogan, N.J., Cepeda-Benito, A., Roberts, M.E., Phillips, J.K., Quisenberry, A.J., Keith, D.R., Higgins, S.T., In press. Patterns of single and multiple tobacco product use among U.S. women of reproductive age. Nicotine Tob Res.

Miller ME, Tidey JW, Rohsenow DJ, Higgins ST. Electronic cigarette expectancies in smokers with psychological distress. Tob Regul Sci. 2017.

Parker, M.A., Streck, J.M., Bergeria, C.B., Bunn, J.Y., Gaalema, D.G., Davis, D.R., Barrows, A.J., Sigmon, S.C., Tidey, J.W., Heil, S.H., & Higgins, S.T. Reduced Nicotine Content Cigarettes and Cannabis Use in Vulnerable Populations. Tob Reg Sci. In press.

Parker, M.A., Streck, J.M., Sigmon, S.C., 2018. Associations between opioid and nicotine dependence in nationally representative samples of United States adult daily smokers. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2018 May 1;186:167-170. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.01.024. PMID: 29579724

Tidey JW, Pacek LR, Koopmeiners JS, Vandrey R, Nardone N, Drobes DJ, et al. Effects of 6-week use of reduced-nicotine content cigarettes in smokers with and without elevated depressive symptoms. Nicotine Tob Res. 2017.

Villanti, A.C., Gaalema, D.E., Tidey, J.W., Kurti, A.N., Heil, S.H., Sigmon, S.C., Hughes, J.R., Higgins, S.T., In press. Co-occurring vulnerabilities and menthol use in U.S. young adult cigarette smokers: findings from Wave 1 of the PATH Study, 2013-2014. Prev Med.


The UVM Tobacco Center on Regulatory Science (TCORS) is one of nine such centers in the U.S. that are supported through a cooperative agreement of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act has given the federal government (i.e., FDA) the authority to bring science-based regulation to the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products. UVM and the other TCORS centers will provide scientific expertise relevant to the FDA’s regulatory mission. 

UVM's Center addresses one of the crosscutting and two of the specific research priorities of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products in carrying out its charge of regulating tobacco products. We approach these priorities using the concepts, principles, and methods of behavioral economics and behavioral pharmacology. The center is located at the University of Vermont but works closely with collaborators and consultants from Brown University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Minnesota, and University of Pittsburgh. 

We will continue our crosscutting integrative theme of vulnerable populations focusing on two FDA CTP Scientific Domains: addiction and behavior. More specifically, we plan to expand on our Center's research on nicotine standards for cigarettes and addiction risk in populations at an increased risk for cigarette smoking, addiction, and smoking-related adverse health outcomes, including socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, individuals with other substance use disorders, and individuals with mental illness. We will extend our research applying the principles and methods of behavioral economics, behavioral pharmacology, and neuroimaging to examine the effects of reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes on cigarette smoking in vulnerable populations with and without substitute non-combusted nicotine products readily available. We will also examine whether flavors enhance appeal of the non-combusted alternative. 

Primary Aims


Continue our Administrative Core to provide the administrative and fiscal oversight and infrastructure necessary to successfully complete the proposed and FDA CTP initiated research projects, and support this vibrant multidisciplinary center of research and mentoring excellence in tobacco regulatory science.


Complete three multi-site clinical trials evaluating the effects of very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarettes on smoking rate, dependence severity, neurobiological impacts, and toxin exposure using betweensubject, parallel group, research designs. Participants in each trial will be randomly assigned to 16 weeks of exposure to (1) normal nicotine content cigarettes (NNC) alone, which will serve as the control condition, (2) VLNC cigarettes alone, (3) VLNC’s + tobacco flavored nicotinized e-cigarettes (TF e-cigs), or (4) VLNC’s + nicotinized e-cigarette + preferred e-cigarette flavorings (PF e-cigs). We chose this design to be of potential direct practical utility to the FDA CTP by modeling possible market scenarios in which a reduced nicotine content policy may be implemented.


Conduct a two parallel groups, 12-week multi-site, randomized clinical trial in which pregnant women will be assigned to continue smoking their usual brand or to use a VLNC cigarette. We will assess smoking rate, dependence severity, toxin exposure, and pregnancy-specific measures. Use of noncombustibles will be recorded as a dependent variable but will not be examined as an independent variable. 


Conduct pilot studies and rapid-response projects related to vulnerable populations in coordination with FDA CTP. Through our main research projects, pilot studies, and participation in TCORS workgroups during the current funding period, the UVM TCORS has developed a strong infrastructure and toolkit to be maximally responsive to FDA’s priority research areas. We will collaborate closely with FDA CTP


Continue our Career Enhancement Core mentoring early career investigators (predoctoral and postdoctoral mentees) in tobacco regulatory science. The program will continue to be primarily located at UVM, but also include postdoctoral mentoring at our collaborating institutions, Brown University, and Johns Hopkins University. At each institution, the career enhancement program will continue to be integrated with their respective longstanding and highly regarded T32 training programs in addictions research.