Johns Hopkins Institute for Global Tobacco Control

Development of an International Tobacco Packaging Online Research Tool

  • JHU IGTC
  • JHU IGTC
  • JHU IGTC screenshot

TBG & Johns Hopkins Institute for Global Tobacco Control

Public health benefits from reductions in smoking. To this end, countries around the world have, to varying extents, enacted laws requiring that tobacco manufacturers inform consumers of the health risks of smoking by including graphic warnings on their product’s packaging. This technique has proven to reduce smoking around the world. In fact, many countries’ package warnings are substantially stronger and more graphic than those found here in the United States. However, in many countries, anti-tobacco advocates have found that legislated tobacco warnings on packaging are not properly implemented, or in some cases, not implemented at all.

To combat this misalignment between regulation and reality, The Institute for Global Tobacco Control (IGTC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health worked with TBG (The Berndt Group) to develop a Web-based global packaging clearinghouse to document the types of tobacco packaging found, information about existing health warning laws, and IGTC’s compliance analysis for 14 different countries. Funded by a grant from Michael Bloomberg’s foundation, the site aspires to be a leading edge, global clearinghouse for up-to-date tobacco packaging requirements and compliance that serves as a tool for real behavior change around the world.

Working with TBG, IGTC developed a model for the site based on the needs of researchers, allowing for complex search and filtering of the site’s content. Search can mean many things and in this case, the site supports a robust approach including, geographic, full-text, and metadata-based faceted search. Despite its academic orientation, the site is highly visual and shows geography with an interactive map, rich search results, and elegant design. TBG designed the site with overall usability and easy maintenance in mind, using the WordPress content management system to showcase the various tobacco product packaging, and upload and manipulate data in bulk. The system is also fundamentally multi-lingual, allowing for future versions of the site to address a broad range of language representation.

This site combines not only accessible and approachable design and the richness of the content itself, but also a sophisticated use of widely available Open Source technology for complex localization, administration, and search—all in the service of an important global public health initiative.

Live Site

What We Did

Technology Partners

World Map Interface

World Map Interface

Building on a broadly available Open Source CMS platform, WordPress, TBG worked with IGTC to develop a unique world map design that allows the positioning of search filters geographically. Site administrators can add coordinates to data items and create the appropriate visualizations automatically. This allows users to immediately move from the homepage to the geographic regions that are most important to them.

Free Text & Faceted Search

Free Text & Faceted Search

As a research tool, many users will use the Tobacco Packaging Clearinghouse site and the quality of search is crucially important. Working with IGTC, TBG developed an approach to faceted text that allows users to filter search results by year of collection, manufacturer, product type, and alphabetical name. On the back-end, this functionality is supported by complex tagging.

Data Transparency

Data Transparency

Researchers around the world can easily download the complex data analysis from the site on packaging compliance as a CSV file, making it easy for them to utilize the information in other research contexts.