Hollings chief of Tobacco Cessation and Health Behaviors named president of the Society for Research on Nicotine & Tobacco

January 18, 2023
portrait of man in garden
Dr. Benjamin Toll is excited about the opportunity to try to increase funding for research into tobacco and nicotine. Photo by Kristin Lee

As a young researcher fresh out of graduate school, MUSC Hollings Cancer Center’s Benjamin Toll, Ph.D. was thrilled to be among like-minded talent and present his research at the annual conference of the Society for Research on Nicotine & Tobacco (SRNT) in 2002. Fast forward 21 years and he’s now taking the helm. Toll was recently elected president-elect of SRNT and will serve a three-year term beginning this month.

“I’m just so excited to have this role – that I’m going to go to the Hill. I’m going to go to the FDA. I’m going to be working nationally to increase our tobacco science,” said Toll. “I’ll have the chance to work more closely with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to try to increase funding of this science. That’s really exciting to me.”

During his first year, Toll will be the president-elect and will have several duties, including working with the awards committee to ensure a rigorous peer-reviewed system for granting awards to scientists. This first year will also give Toll time to formulate his plans for 2024 when he becomes sitting president.

“One of the things that I thought about that COVID really made me reconsider is just making sure that we’re financially stable. That’s something that all institutions are facing – being sustainable,” said Toll. “So, as sitting president I want to make sure that we can continue to grow and thrive as a society through new initiatives that create financial stability and by growing our memberships.”

In his final year, Toll will become past president with important duties including nominating the slate of candidates to run in the election of its next officers.

The SRNT includes researchers from all over the world, with a strong membership in the U.S., Europe and Oceania and a presence in over 40 countries. Members are a mix of professionals from cancer centers, medical schools and universities. The organization focuses exclusively on tobacco and nicotine research and publishes a journal called Nicotine & Tobacco Research, to which Toll has been a constant contributor over his 20 years of service.

Toll is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of Public Health Sciences and Psychiatry, co-director of the Lung Cancer Screening Program and chief of Tobacco Cessation and Health Behaviors at Hollings. He has received grants from the NIH and NCI and is the author of more than 130 publications related to the science and psychology of nicotine and tobacco. Toll’s NCI-funded research has focused on testing novel smoking cessation treatments and he has conducted numerous clinical trials on the topic. Many of his studies have also investigated the promotion of smoking cessation through new messaging and motivational interventions.

“As a member of a really outstanding group of tobacco researchers at Hollings, I think this new appointment as president will elevate our stature nationally,” said Toll. “I also think it’s going to enhance our grants, our connections and our reputation. I’m excited to get started."