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.”5

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


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

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

Christopher Russell, previously Deputy Director of CSUR,8 was listed as a Special Advisor of CSUR in 2023.9 He has been a director of Russell Burnett Research and Consultancy Ltd since 2019,10 which has “received funding from e‑cigarette/tobacco product manufacturers” to conduct research relating to nicotine and tobacco products.11

McKeganey and Russell have been listed as speakers at tobacco industry events including the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF)121314 and the Tobacco Science Research Conference.15

Russell was also listed as a speaker at the 2023 ‘New Approaches’ conference, held at the Harvard Club of New York City, in the same week as the United Nations General Assembly. 16

For a list of staff see the CSUR website.

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

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).17 CSUR has published multiple academic papers which declare support from either tobacco companies or tobacco company subsidiaries.1819

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 2014.2021 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”.2021

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:21

“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.22 Others are listed on the CSUR website.18 Some have been co-authored by PinneyAssociates, which also works with JUUL Labs and tobacco companies.22

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.23 This paper was published in the Journal of Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine, which has been described as a “predatory journal”.2425

In 2021, CSUR contributed a paper to a special issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior, sponsored by JUUL Labs.2627 The paper was co-authored with JUUL Labs and PinneyAssociates. There was criticism of the journal, which defended the publication of the special issue.28

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 two grants to CSUR in May 2018 totalling US$189,004. One grant for US$96,063 was provided to “develop a centre of excellence in behaviour research related to smoking cessation”, another for US$92,941 was provided for research on the “determinants and impact of switching to reduced risk products”.29

In 2022 CSUR received another grant from FSFW of US$154,564 to “Develop a protocol for an intervention trial to assess the long-term health effects of switching from combustibles to tobacco harm reduction products among Type 2 diabetic smokers in Bangladesh”.30

Advocacy and research organisation PROGGA, expressed concerns around the study, stating “The timing of this campaign is particularly concerning, as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is currently working on amending the tobacco control law, which could potentially ban e-cigarettes and vaping altogether”.31

“Flagship” Studies

Annual Study on E-cigarette Use

CSUR’s website stated that in 2021 it would 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”.32

Tobacco Products Prevalence Study

In 2021, CSUR launched a study on prevalence and patterns of use of different e-cigarette brands and products in the US.33 Its website stated that the study aimed “to estimate the prevalence and patterns of use of 20 ENDS brands and over 200 ENDS devices sold in the United States. This research is designed to provide ENDS manufacturers with population-level use data on their products for submission to FDA in seeking PMTA approval.”33

In 2023, the study was expanded to include heated tobacco products and nicotine pouches.34 Brands monitored in the study include those owned by JTI, Altria, BAT and Imperial Brands.

Paper on single-use e-cigarettes

CSUR received funding from BIDI (Kaival Brands), towards the publication of a paper on the prevalence of the use of single use, or ‘disposable’ e-cigarettes in the US.35 The paper was cited by Bidi Vapour in a press release published in July 2023, which stated that its ‘disposable’ products were “not implicated in the recent growth in the use of disposable e-cigarettes by U.S. youth”.36 PMI began marketing Kaival’s single use e-cigarette, outside of the US, in July 2022, as VEEBA, later renamed VEEV NOW.37

TobaccoTactics Resources

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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. ab
  8. CSUR, About Us, website, undated, archived February 2021, accessed October 2023
  9. CSUR, About Us, website, undated, archived June 2023, accessed October 2023
  10. RUSSELL BURNETT RESEARCH & CONSULTANCY LTD, Companies House, website, undated, accessed October 2023
  11. K. Farsalinos, C. Russell, R. Polosa, G. Lagoumintzis, A. Barbouni, Patterns of flavored e-cigarette use among adults vapers in the United States: an online cross-sectional survey of 69,233 participants (Preprint), 10 March 2023, doi: 10.21203/rs.3.rs-2658498/v1
  12. GTNF, Seoul 2023 Speakers, website, undated, accessed October 2023
  13. Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum 2018, Look Who’s Talking, archived August 2018, accessed May 2021
  14. Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum, 2019 Speakers and Panelists, 2019, accessed September 2019
  15. 74th Tobacco Science Research Conference: Program Booklet and Abstracts, August 29-31 2021, accessed October 2023
  16. New Approaches Conference, Speakers 2023, website, undated, accessed October 2023
  17. CSUR, Funding, accessed June 2021
  18. abCSUR, Publications, website, undated, accessed October 2023
  19. N. McKeganey, S. Notley, J. Coyle, G. Barnard, Why Do Some Adults Who are Smoking Perceive E-cigarettes to be More Harmful than Combustible Cigarettes? (Preprint), 23 August 2023, doi: 10.21203/rs.3.rs-3273011/v1
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. abJUUL Labs, Publication Library, Search results for “Centre for Substance Use Research”, JUUL Labs Science website, accessed June 2021
  23. 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
  24. A. Ault, E-Cig Giant Juul Touts Positive Study in a Questionable Journal, Medscape, 20 March 2019, accessed March 2019
  25. 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
  26. American Journal of Health Behavior, JUUL Special Issue, Volume 45, Number 3, May 2021
  27. 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
  28. 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
  29. Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Form 990-PF, 2018 Tax Return, 13 May 2019, accessed May 2019
  30. Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Form 990-PF, 2022 Tax Return, 15 May 2023, accessed May 2023
  31. Progga expresses concern over e-cigarette research in Bangladesh, New Age, 24 May 2023, accessed October 2023
  32. CSUR, Areas of research expertise: Flagship Study: Comparative Assessment Of Real-World ENDS Use (CARE Study), website, accessed June 2021
  33. abCSUR, Areas of Research Expertise: Flagship Study: ENDS Prevalence, website, undated, archived September 2021, accessed October 2023
  34. CSUR, Tobacco Products Prevalence Study, website, undated, accessed October 2023
  35. N. McKeganey, A. Patton, V. Marza, G. Barnard, When it comes to assessing the impact of e-cigarettes, estimates of device prevalence matter: the BIDI Stick disposable device, Harm Reduction Journal, 5 July 2023, 20(85), doi: 10.1186/s12954-023-00820-y
  36. Bidi Vapor, Not All Flavored Disposable Vape Tied to Youth Use, Study Finds, press release, 19 July 2023, accessed October 2023
  37. Kaival Brands, Kaival Brands Reaches Agreement with Philip Morris International for International Electronic Nicotine Delivery System Product Distribution, 13 June 2022, accessed October 2023