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News | Otago Medical School Award for Best Research Paper

The ASPIRE 2025 Co-Directors congratulate Mei-Ling Blank, a Research Fellow in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, who last week received the Otago Medical School Award for “Best Research Paper”. Mei-Ling’s paper, entitled: Roll-your-own smokers’ reactions to cessation-efficacy messaging integrated into tobacco packaging design: A sequential mixed-methods study, was published in Tobacco Control.

This prestigious award recognises Mei-Ling’s work addressing an important topic that has received surprisingly little research attention: roll-your own (RYO) tobacco. RYO use is disproportionately high in Aotearoa / New Zealand with highest use occurring among Māori and people experiencing greater deprivation. Mei-Ling identified an opportunity within existing tobacco packaging design to feature efficacy messages and thus deliver a just-in-time intervention. Her work uses positive messaging and recognises that many people who smoke feel weary of messages exhorting them to quit smoking, particularly if they have tried many times to quit and not yet become smoke-free. Rather than contribute to this pressure, she developed and tested approaches to increase self-efficacy and belief in the benefits people would gain by becoming smoke-free (response efficacy).

Mei-Ling’s mixed-methods approach involved in-depth interviews that enabled her to see her proposed intervention from users’ perspective and provided a robust platform for the survey she went on to undertake. The findings not only have high practical relevance, but also recognise the importance of empowering people to quit could benefit groups most disadvantaged by tobacco use.

Mei-Ling’s article is available here: https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/tobaccocontrol/early/2020/05/13/tobaccocontrol-2019-055570.full.pdf