Cutting Through the Smoke

A new, multi-disciplinary center at Penn
is untangling the biological and environmental
threads of nicotine addiction.
By Samuel Hughes


Every now and then, when she’s hard against a deadline for some complex grant proposal involving genes and tobacco, Dr. Caryn Lerman will reach into her desk drawer and pull out a Chiclet-size piece of gum. It’s Nicorette, a gentle, legal, not particularly swell-tasting form of Nicotine Replacement Therapy. Like a hanging, it concentrates the mind. But its potency pales against the ultimate nicotine delivery device—a cigarette.

Lerman hasn’t smoked for years now, though she can speak first-hand to tobacco’s allure. And as director of the Penn/Georgetown Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC), she knows better than almost anyone on the planet what smokers are up against.

“The more I learn, the more I realize that it’s extremely complicated,” she says quietly, sitting in her office in the TTURC complex, on the fourth floor of a generic office building at 36th and Market streets. “I realize how hard it will be, and how long it will take, to really get to the point where we have a very comprehensive understanding of addiction—and a sufficient understanding that we can actually be designing better prevention and treatment strategies based on that. It’s a long process.”

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Photo by
Bill Cramer





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Copyright 2003 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 01/05/03