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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Janet Hoek

“We are all trying to make a difference, and attending IAS seminars and lectures has shown how, by drawing on others’ knowledge and expertise, those differences could happen more quickly and have more profound impacts. ”

Professor Janet Hoek, University of Otago

IAS Fellow at Stephenson College, Durham University (October - December 2019)

Professor Janet Hoek holds a joint appointment in the Departments of Public Health and Marketing at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. She is also co-director of ASPIRE2025, one of the University’s inter-disciplinary research themes where she and her colleagues explore and test measures that could realise the New Zealand Government’s Smokefree 2025 goal.

Professor Hoek’s recent work has explored standardised (‘plain’) packaging of tobacco, the management of tobacco supply, tobacco product innovation, and e-cigarettes (electronic nicotine delivery systems - ENDS – known colloquially as ‘vapes’). Her wider interests include food marketing and obesity, and commercial determinants of health.

Professor Hoek has received four grants from the New Zealand Health Research Council for studies of plain packaging; on-pack warnings; ENDS labelling, and transitions from smoking to vaping. She has also received two grants from the New Zealand Royal Society Marsden Fund to examine smoking as an ‘informed choice’ and the transition of smokers from smoking to vaping. Professor Hoek is a co-investigator on Health Research Council grants examining food marketing in sports, children’s exposure to food marketing, and the impact of tobacco control policies on smoking attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. She is also a CI on two Australian National Health and Medical Research Council projects examining alcohol labelling and tobacco warnings.

Professor Hoek received a Fulbright Travel Award in 2013; she has received several international awards for research excellence and her contributions to the research environment. She recently served as Deputy Chair of the Business and Economics panel in New Zealand’s major research quality evaluation (the Performance Based Research Fund). Professor Hoek has provided expert evidence in tobacco and intellectual property litigation, served on several advisory groups that supported plain packaging policy, social marketing campaigns, and food policy. She is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, a Deputy Editor of Drug and Alcohol Review, and has just been appointed to an editorial role at Tobacco Control.

While at Durham University, Professor Hoek will develop a new collaboration with Dr Andrew Russell (Associate Professor, Anthropology of Health Research Group) and Professor Jane Macnaughton (Institute of Medical Humanities). Their project will examine a key public health challenge – reducing smoking prevalence – by probing uptake of e-cigarettes and other forms of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), which offer a reduced-harm alternative to smoking. While many studies have assessed how effectively ENDS deliver nicotine relative to smoked tobacco, few have explored whether and how smokers recreate ritualistic practices associated with smoking, or manage shifting identity positions as they transition from smoking to vaping. Comparative studies that probe the social dimensions of smoking and vaping will contribute to emerging theory on smoker identities, explore whether and how movement from smoking to vaping to becoming vape-free occurs, and help identify how smoking to vaping transitions may be facilitated.

Public Lecture - Transitions to vaping in the land of the long white cloud

E-cigarettes, or vapes, are variously described as a disruptive technology that could dramatically reduce smoking and ‘a weapon of mass distraction’ that will prolong the smoking epidemic. The public health benefits these novel devices offer remain vigorously contested. Yet, how can such radically different perspectives co-exist? Addressing this question requires us to move beyond dominant biomedical addiction discourse and consider vaping as a social practice and not merely an alternative nicotine delivery system.

To explore how e-cigarettes, a disputed and ambiguous innovation, could improve health and well-being, we must first discover how people who smoke negotiate new identity positions as they attempt to transition to vaping. By probing the retention, creation or relinquishment of rituals formerly paired with smoking, we may gain new insights into these fundamentally different views on vaping and its likely impact on population health.

Listen to the lecture in full.