Grantee: Dan Romer

Dan Romer

Dan Romer, Ph.D.

Psychologist and Behavioral Scientist
  • University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Romer's research focuses on risks to adolescent mental and behavioral health. Dr. Romer is passionate about identifying strategies that can guide efforts to reduce risks to healthy adolescent development. In the realm of smoking this has meant championing the use of warning labels to educate the public, particularly adolescents, about the harms that the product produces.

Smoking has been a long-time concern of Dr. Romer's since it is the largest risk to health that develops during adolescence. Dr. Romer's early work on smoking attitudes and risks found that adolescents think smoking is something you can try and discontinue at will. Adolescents don't realize how hard it will be to quit. As a result, they start and then discover when it's too late that it's not that easy to give up. This produces what has been called the "Catch 22 of Stopping and Starting": one has to think one can quit in order to do so, but believing that one can quit is also a precursor to starting. This leads to problems in designing messages for the entire population because telling everyone that quitting is not only possible but greatly reduces the health risks motivates those who are already addicted, but it may also mislead those who have not yet started to think that it will be easy to avoid its harmful effects.

Dr. Romer's current work on smoking focuses heavily on understanding the psychological and neurobehavioral underpinnings of starting and stopping an addictive habit like smoking. The longitudinal research he is doing with a cohort of adolescents in Philadelphia examines the neuropsychological precursors of drug use, including smoking, in early adolescence and how those factors continue to influence risks to addiction as adolescents age. He is also studying the effects of cigarette warning labels in both adolescents and adults to learn how their effectiveness can be maximized on a population level.

I discovered that efficacy for quitting a habit like smoking is a double-edged sword. It helps people to try to quit, but it also creates complacency by allowing smokers to think they can always do it (later).”

Selected Grants

Project Title Grant Number Program Director
Communicating Smoking Risks Through Graphic Warning Labels 1R01CA157824-01A1 Kelly Blake