Introduction: Cigars are a popular tobacco product of choice for youth and young adults. Despite growing interest in cigar research, there are gaps in the available literature limiting an ability to set evidence-based policies. Too small research samples, the heterogeneity of types of cigars when asking a single question about use, makes analyzing data difficult. Given the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) authority granted in 2016 to regulate cigars, and its popularity, data to better understand use and preference for cigars will help FDA set appropriate regulatory policies.
Methods: We harmonized cigar survey data previously collected by five independent tobacco regulatory science survey research projects. Data supplying participants included three Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science, one Center for Tobacco Products grantee, and data from Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study's public use dataset.
Results: Analyzing 92 data variables from across five studies, and applying a rigorous data harmonization protocol, we report findings on 24 key cigar use variables. The step by step protocol for harmonizing is presented. Selected findings showing strict reproducibility across all five studies reveal youth 17-19 years at highest risk for cigar initiation; relative reproducibility shows males more likely to try cigars than females but with significant differences in magnitude across studies; and areas of inconsistent reproducibility are revealed when evaluating brand preferences.
Conclusion: Harmonizing data from multiple sources fosters a broader view of the robustness and generalizability of survey data than that from a single source. These observations raise awareness to look for the highest degree of reproducibility among and across data sources to inform policy.
Implications: Harmonizing data from discrete datasets provides insights into cigar initiation and use and is presented showing opportunities, challenges, and solutions. Comparing observational data from PATH and four independent research studies provides a best-practices approach and example of data synthesis for the tobacco research community. The dataset of five studies offers a look at the degree of confidence in analyzing harmonized survey results. Variable conclusions raise the need to strive for the highest degree of reproducibility, to best understand the behaviors of cigar users, and allow for the future development of the most effective interventions to alter tobacco use patterns.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.