Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR)

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The Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR) is based in Glasgow, Scotland and conducts consultancy and research for tobacco and e-cigarette companies. It has also received funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.


Neil McKeganey founded the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow in 1994 to carry out research on Scotland’s drug problem. Its projects were funded by UK research councils and the UK government, among others. In 2011, the Centre became entirely independent of the University1 and was renamed the Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR) in November 2015.2

In 2016, the University confirmed it was not in any way affiliated with the CSUR and McKeganey no longer held any position there, honorary or otherwise.3

On its website, until early 2021, the CSUR describes itself as “a specialist agency undertaking research within the substance use field within the U.K., E.U., and the U.S.”4 As of June 2021, it stated:

Centre for Substance Use Research Ltd is a “multi-disciplinary research agency providing behavioural science support to companies submitting applications for PMTA, MRTP and TPD approval.” (bold original)5

Pre-Market Tobacco Applications and Modified Risk Tobacco Product applications are specific to the US,6 and the Tobacco Products Directive to the European Union.


Neil McKeganey is Director of CSUR (also referred to as CSURES as of February 2021).7

The website states that “The team within CSUR comprises post-doctoral researchers in behavioural science, experts in marketing, cyber security, and media.”7

For a list of staff see the CSUR website.

Links to Tobacco Companies

Image 1: CSUR funding (Source: CSUR website, accessed June 2021)

CSUR has undertaken work for tobacco companies including Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT), Nicoventures, a subsidiary of BAT, Imperial Brands and Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of Imperial (see Image 1).

CSUR also works with JUUL Labs, in which Altria has a share, and has received funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (see below for details).8

Opposed Plain Packaging in the UK

In 2014, McKeganey helped BAT oppose the introduction of Plain Packaging in the UK. McKeganey prepared a 82 page report for BAT which was included in BAT’s submission to the UK’s second public consultation on plain packaging in 2014.910 In the report, McKeganey supports BAT’s view that there is no evidence to suggest that plain packaging will reduce smoking prevalence, and that packaging is not “a factor that influences people’s decisions to start, stop, or re-start smoking”.910

In May 2016, dismissing the legal challenges to the UK’s plain packaging legislation brought by the big four tobacco companies, the High Court of Justice’s ruling criticised McKeganey’s findings and the methodology they were based on:10

“What I find unacceptable is the preparation of a report which by its total refusal to engage with any of this contramaterial simply conveys the impression that it does not exist and that the best way to refute it is to ignore it. Yet, at the same time and inconsistently, Professor McKeganey accepts that the principles of transparency and openness are “foundational tablets of the scientific enterprise”. Had Professor McKeganey confronted head-on the contrary evidence, including that from the tobacco companies, then it is hard to see how he could have advanced the opinions that he did; at the very least he would have been compelled to provide a proper rationale for why his opinion could be sustained in the light of this inconsistent evidence.”

Work with JUUL Labs

More recently, McKeganey and CSUR have been working for e-cigarette company JUUL Labs. Altria has held a 35% share in JUUL since December 2018. A number of outputs written with CSUR are published on the JUUL Labs website.11 Some have been co-authored by PinneyAssociates, which also works with JUUL Labs and tobacco companies.11

In March 2019, JUUL Labs promoted a study by CSUR (funded by JUUL) which found that the JUUL e-cigarettes “dramatically” cut adult smokers’ cigarettes consumption.12 This paper was published in the Journal of Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine, which has been described as a “predatory journal”.1314

In 2021, CSUR contributed a paper to a special issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior, sponsored by JUUL Labs.1516 The paper was co-authored with JUUL Labs and PinneyAssociates. There was criticism of the journal, which defended the publication of the special issue.17

Received Funding from the Foundation for A Smoke-Free World

The Foundation for A Smoke-Free World (FSFW), which is wholly funded by Philip Morris International, awarded US$96,063 in May 2018 to CSUR“to develop a centre of excellence in behaviour research related to smoking cessation”.18 As of May 2019 US$92,941 had been paid out.18

The Centre did not receive further funding from FSFW in 2019 or 2020.1920

Annual Study on E-cigarette Use

CSUR’s website states that in 2021 it will be conducting the first of an annual study of “Real-World ENDS Use”, stating that:

“What has been missing in this [ENDS, or e-cigarette research] are studies assessing the relative impact of different brands and types of ENDS devices. In 2021 CSURES [sic] will undertake research assessing 9 of the top ENDS devices on sale in the U.K. comparing the relative rates with which  these devices are enabling adult smokers in the US and U.K. to quit and reduce their cigarette consumption”.21

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  1. Centre for Drug Misuse Research, Letter Re: Impact of Suboxone and Methadone on the Recovery from Opiate Dependency, 3 February 2012, Document released by Scotland A research Ethics Committee following Freedom of Information request from Action for Smoking and Health (ASH) May 2016
  2. Companies House, Centre for Substance Use Research, Name Change registered 24 November 2015
  3. University of Glasgow response to Freedom of Information request from ASH, 23 June 2016
  4. CSUR, About CSUR, undated, accessed January 2021
  5. CSUR, About CSUR, undated, accessed June 2021
  6. US Food and Drug Administration, website, accessed June 2021
  7. abCSUR, About us, website, accessed June 2021
  8. CSUR, Funding, accessed June 2021
  9. abBritish American Tobacco, Consultation on the introduction of regulations for the standardised packaging of tobacco products. Response of British American Tobacco UK Limited, BAT website, 7 August 2014, accessed May 2019
  10. abcBritish American Tobacco, Philip Morris, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco against Secretary of State for Health, Royal Courts of Justice, 19 May 2016, accessed July 2016
  11. abJUUL Labs, Publication Library, Search results for “Centre for Substance Use Research”, JUUL Labs Science website, accessed June 2021
  12. JUUL Labs, Peer-Reviewed Study: Adult Smokers Using Juul Dramatically Cut Quantity of Cigarettes Smoked, JUUL Labs website, 1 March 2019, archived September 2020, accessed June 2021
  13. A. Ault, E-Cig Giant Juul Touts Positive Study in a Questionable Journal, Medscape, 20 March 2019, accessed March 2019
  14. A. Severin, N. Low, Readers beware! Predatory journals are infiltrating citation databases, Editorial,  Int J Public Health, July 2019, 64, 1123–1124, doi:10.1007/s00038-019-01284-3
  15. American Journal of Health Behavior, JUUL Special Issue, Volume 45, Number 3, May 2021
  16. S. Shiffman, M.A.  Sembower, E.M. Augustson, et al, The Adult JUUL Switching and Smoking Trajectories (ADJUSST) Study: Methods and Analysis of Loss-to-Follow-Up, American Journal of Health Behavior, Volume 45, Number 3, May 2021, doi:10.5993/AJHB.45.3.3
  17. I. Torjesen, Academic journal is criticised for publishing special issue funded by tobacco industry, BMJ, 14 May 2021; 373:n1247 doi: 10.1136/bmj.n1247
  18. abFoundation for a Smoke-Free World, Form 990-PF, 2018 Tax Return, 13 May 2019, accessed May 2019
  19. Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Form 990-PF, 2019 Tax Return, 15 May 2020, accessed May 2020
  20. Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Form 990-PF, 2020 Tax Return, 17 May 2021, accessed May 2021
  21. CSUR, Areas of research expertise: Flagship Study: Comparative Assessment Of Real-World ENDS Use (CARE Study), website, accessed June 2021
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