Our scholars are making a real difference to the lives of smokers all around the world. We have a similar ambition to make a difference to our scholars. That’s why we invest so much into their development. Here are some of the key features that we have developed that make our programme unique and so successful.
This takes place at the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in Warsaw, Poland each June https://gfn.events. Return economy travel to the conference, hotel accommodation and conference fees form part of the scholarship award. We also assist scholars with obtaining visas where necessary.
GFN is the only international conference to focus on the role of safer nicotine products that help people switch from smoking. Safer nicotine products include nicotine vapes (e-cigarettes ), nicotine pouches, oral tobacco products such as Swedish snus, and heated tobacco products. This is a rapidly evolving area, with many new non-combustible products emerging over the past ten to fifteen years.
The rapid development and use of safer nicotine products raises a number of challenging scientific questions about their safety, who uses them and why, and their impact on smoking. These products also raise challenges for governments who seek to provide appropriate policy and regulation. GFN examines the rapidly developing science in relation to nicotine and its use, including policy and regulatory responses.
For our scholars to get the most out of their projects it is crucial that they begin with a baseline knowledge of THR. We have devised an induction programme that takes place at GFN and provides an essential level of knowledge and is further strengthened by the online KAC Academy (see below) and a monthly online seminar programme with acknowledged THR experts.
Attendance at GFN also gives the opportunity to:
- Experience an essential THR conference
- Meet your peers
- Have a 1 to 1 session with your manager
- Network with experts in the field
- Where possible, meet your mentor
A short video of the first Induction Programme can be found here
The K•A•C Academy – A Response to COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the early months of 2020, it became clear that the face-to-face Induction Programme enjoyed by the first two cohorts of Scholars would not be possible. It was therefore necessary for us to quickly design an online platform to deliver this part of the Programme for our third cohort.
As with many unanticipated problems, we arrived at an innovative product which not only provided Scholars with an induction, but was also a much more interactive and in-depth resource. Rather than merely filming the experts’ presentations and holding Q&A sessions, we developed a multimedia approach to be completed over a longer period of time. We also designed a bespoke new website, The K•A•C Academy. This platform is open only to Scholars, K•A•C personnel and Mentors, and it now offers various features and functions that go beyond our original provision.
Moving beyond our aim of compensating for the absence of face-to-face interactions, this online platform has continued to develop into a dynamic and ever-growing hub for learning and engagement. It provides a diverse and enriching scholarly experience, making it a vibrant platform for growth and communication.
The Induction Programme is divided into three streams. One focuses on the Scholarship process itself, introducing Scholars to each other and providing frameworks for them to start their 12-month projects. The second stream focuses on basic tobacco harm reduction, while the third takes a deeper dive into some of the more complex aspects of the field. Each stream consists of videos and conference presentations, academic articles, news reports and questionnaires, against which Scholars and Mentors could measure their learning and progress.
The website contains a variety of features:
- the Induction Programme itself;
- a noticeboard for news and announcements;
- a feature enabling Scholars to talk to each other to provide mutual support, help and guidance;
- a resource library of key tobacco harm reduction research papers;
- a help desk.
Where possible, the Mentor Scheme aims to match each of our Scholars with an acknowledged expert from their area of study. Each Scholar is assigned a Mentor early in their Programme. The role of our Mentors is to help the Scholar to achieve their aims and objectives by providing support and guidance where necessary.
The scheme itself is very flexible to ensure that every Scholar’s needs are best met and that the project is well served. For example, one of our Scholars who undertook a demonstration project supplying safer nicotine products to homeless smokers worked with two Mentors. One was a social scientist who assisted with the more academic aspects of the project. The other was an experienced consumer of safer nicotine products who ensured the equipment used in the project was robust enough to be of use to the homeless population in question. This example illustrates the breadth of knowledge and experience required from our Mentor cohort.
But with such a wide-ranging Programme, it is neither possible nor useful to prescribe exactly how the Mentor process should be approached to meet the diverse needs of our Scholars. The onus is therefore placed on the Scholar to utilise their Mentors as required and this approach has proved successful during to date of the Programme.
We currently have 26 Mentors supporting a total of 40 Scholars (not all Mentors are active at any one time). In order to ensure a sustainable workload and maximise support for each individual, we aim to have no more than three Scholars supported by a single Mentor.
There is unanimity among the Scholars who have completed the Programme that their relationships with Mentors have been useful and fruitful. For several Scholars this has been extended to offers of employment when their Scholarships have completed. Some of our Scholars have also gone on to become Mentors themselves.