Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., M.P.H

Stadtman Investigator

Social and Behavioral Group


Building 3, Room 5W05
3 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20814


Research Topics

Behavioral health is an important factor in population health and health disparities. A particular area of concern is tobacco use. Tobacco use remains a public health problem in the US. The 2014 Surgeon General’s report stated that tobacco use claims over 480,000 lives every year in the US. There are also significant disparities in tobacco use by demographics and socioeconomic characteristics, e.g., the prevalence of smoking in adults varies greatly by education, and the majority of smoking related diseases and deaths are among those with low education. Therefore, it is important to address tobacco use disparities as a means to reduce health disparities in the US. Dr. Choi’s research uses a marketing research perspective to better understand tobacco use and develop interventions to reduce and eliminate such disparities. Marketing research integrates social and behavioral epidemiology, economics, health communication/advertising, and consumer research, and allows the expansion of social and behavioral research from the individuals to the dynamics between all involved players (e.g., smokers, health care providers, policymakers, and tobacco companies). It also has very clear action strategies to promote social and behavioral changes. Currently, Dr. Choi’s research focuses on the following areas:

Inter-relationships between social determinants and tobacco use
Dr. Choi and his group analyze population-based databases to investigate disparities in tobacco use and tobacco product use pattern. For example, it was found that Hispanic youth are more likely than non-Hispanic White youth to be susceptible to cigarette smoking, and are less likely than non-Hispanic White youth to believe that tobacco products are dangerous to their health. To better understand the disparities in tobacco product use pattern, the Choi group developed the Tobacco Product Use Pattern (T-PUP) Model, which classifies tobacco users in seven distinct T-PUPs. The group continues to explore how intersectionality of social determinants is associated with tobacco use. Another novel area of Dr. Choi’s research examines how tobacco use influences the social determinants of health using a life course perspective. For example, it was found that smoking influences the sleep quality in youth, which can affect their academic performance and college enrollment subsequently.

Tobacco marketing and other risk factors of tobacco use disparities
Dr. Choi and his group examines how tobacco marketing (including price, placement, promotion, and products) influence tobacco use disparities. For example, it was found that magazines with higher young adults and low-income adult readership have higher number of cigarette advertising, suggesting that tobacco companies are potentially targeting these sub-populations. Additionally, Dr. Choi and his collaborator made the observation that youth with asthma have higher prevalence of e-cigarette use than youth without asthma, and the disparity is worse in non-metropolitan areas than metropolitan areas. They also found that e-cigarette use is associated with susceptibility to smoking, and also having asthma attacks, among youth with asthma.

Using marketing approaches to reduce tobacco use disparities
Dr. Choi and his group investigate how to leverage marketing approaches to reduce tobacco-use disparities, particularly among young adults. For example, he is currently examining how tobacco tax increase may influence purchasing and smoking cessation behaviors and their variabilities by social determinants. Additionally, his group is studying the physiological and neurological responses to tobacco marketing materials among smokers, to inform how best to regulate these materials, and at the same time how best to design anti-tobacco messages. Dr. Choi is currently working with collaborators to develop a computational simulation model to forecast the potential impact of tobacco marketing regulations on tobacco use disparities.


Dr. Kelvin Choi is a tenure-track investigator and Acting Head of the Social and Behavioral Group at the Division of Intramural Research at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Prior to joining the NIMHD in 2013, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota Division of Epidemiology and Community Health. He received his M.P.H. in Community Health Education and Ph.D. in Social and Behavioral Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. He was an invited attendee of the NIH Institute on Systems Science and Health 2011, Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health 2012, and National Science Foundation workshop on Fundamentals of Team Science and the Science of Team Science. He was recruited to NIMHD as an Earl Stadtman Investigator for his innovative research on marketing of health risk behaviors and health promoting behaviors, particularly using this research perspective to examine and reduce tobacco use disparities. He currently serves as the advisor committee member of the Society for Nicotine and Tobacco Research Health Disparities Network.

Selected Publications

  1. Bellatorre A, Choi K, Lewin D, Haynie D, Simons-Morton B. Relationships between Smoking and Sleep Problems in Black and White Adolescents. Sleep. 2016.

  2. Choi K, Bernat D. E-Cigarette Use Among Florida Youth With and Without Asthma. Am J Prev Med. 2016;51(4):446-53.

  3. El-Toukhy S, Choi K. A Risk-Continuum Categorization of Product Use Among US Youth Tobacco Users. Nicotine Tob Res. 2016;18(7):1596-605.

  4. El-Toukhy SM, Choi K. Magazine hyped: Trends in tobacco advertising and readership characteristics, 2010-2014. Prev Med. 2016;91:132-137.

  5. El-Toukhy S, Choi K. Smoking-Related Beliefs and Susceptibility Among United States Youth Nonsmokers. J Adolesc Health. 2015;57(4):448-50.

This page was last updated on January 9th, 2017