Research Summary

Valerie B. Yerger is trained as a naturopathic doctor and is a nationally acclaimed health policy researcher with unique training and expertise in community-based research and engagement, and mixed qualitative and quantitative research methods to examine the contribution of tobacco industry marketing and use of menthol cigarettes to the disproportionate smoking rates among African Americans. Dr. Yerger’s research activities have included searching tobacco industry document archives, conducting exploratory focus group studies, and collaborating with community partners in community-based participatory research projects.

Her established research program focuses on framing the disproportionate burden of tobacco among marginalized communities as a social justice issue. Her research of previously secret tobacco documents uncovered 1) the tobacco industry’s relationships with African American leadership groups, 2) the accumulation of nicotine in tissues containing melanin, 3) the disproportionate marketing of menthol cigarettes in inner-city communities, and 4) tobacco companies’ in-house research on the use of menthol as a flavor additive in cigarettes. The goal of her research program is to expose the tobacco industry targeting of marginalized communities and inform public health policies that effectively reach these communities. To accomplish this goal, she combines her experience collecting and analyzing qualitative data, while building community partnerships.

Since 2010 Dr. Yerger has participated in a number of initiatives related to menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. As the focus on regulating these products has shifted from the federal level (US Food and Drug Administration) to local and state efforts, Dr. Yerger has been sought to help educate the constituents and key stakeholders in many, if not most, of these jurisdictions.

In 2014, Dr. Yerger assumed the leadership and responsibility of the California Tobacco Control Program’s (CTCP) “Capacity Building Network” and rebranded it as “The LOOP.” Located at UCSF, The LOOP is a centralized one-stop delivery system that delivers several services for CTCP funded projects, including trainings, “tailored assistance,” and e-blast newsletters designed to increase the competencies, confidence, and abilities of CTCP grantees and their community partners to expand their reach and service to California’s priority populations.


University of California, Berkeley, B.S., 06/1981, Natural Resources
John F. Kennedy University, M.A., 06/1985, Health Education
Bastyr University, N.D., 06/1992, Naturopathic Medicine
University of California, San Francisco, Fellowship, 05/2005, Health Policy Research

Honors & Awards

  • Inaugural Cohort of the National P.E.A.R.L. Program, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., 2019-2020
  • Certificate of Recognition, Eric Garcetti, Mayor Los Angeles, CA, 2019
  • Game Changer, Public Health Law Center, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, 2019
  • Exceptional Leadership Award, Society of Research on Nicotine and Tobacco Disparities Network, 2019
  • Phenomenal Woman Award, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, 2019
  • Exceptional Commitment to Community Engagement, Abundant Life Health Ministries Program, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center Office, 2018
  • Chancellor Award for Public Service, University of California, San Francisco, 2018
  • Carol M. Russell Award for Leadership and Vision in Tobacco Control, Tobacco Control Program, California Public Health Department, 2017
  • Cornelius Hopper Diversity Award, Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, University of California Office of the President, 2015-2016
  • African Heritage Award, Black Student Health Alliance of UCSF, 2015
  • Cornelius Hopper Diversity Award, Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, University of California Office of the President, 2013-2014
  • Sybil G. Jacobs Award for Outstanding Use of Tobacco Industry Documents, Truth Initiative, 2012
  • Cornelius Hopper Diversity Award, Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, University of California Office of the President, 2008-2009
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Bastyr University, 2004
  • Health Disparities Scholar Award, National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, 2003-2010

Selected Publications

  1. Mills SD, Rosario C, Yerger VB, Kalb MD, Ribisl KM. Recommendations to advance equity in tobacco control. Tob Control. 2022 Dec 19.  View on PubMed
  2. Watkins SL, Pieper F, Chaffee BW, Yerger VB, Ling PM, Max W. Flavored Tobacco Product Use Among Young Adults by Race and Ethnicity: Evidence From the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study. J Adolesc Health. 2022 08; 71(2):226-232.  View on PubMed
  3. Romeo-Stuppy K, Huber L, Toebes B, Yerger V, Senkubuge F. Tobacco industry: a barrier to social justice. Tob Control. 2022 03; 31(2):352-354.  View on PubMed
  4. Soto C, Ramos G, Martinez D, Moerner L, Salinas E, Battle R, Yerger V. A qualitative assessment of the perceptions and attitudes towards commercial tobacco policies and education among tribal communities in California. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2022 01 02; 48(1):49-57.  View on PubMed
  5. Yerger V. What more evidence is needed? Remove menthol cigarettes from the marketplace-now. Tob Control. 2022 07; 31(4):493-494.  View on PubMed
  6. Mills SD, McGruder CO, Yerger VB. The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council: Advocating for a menthol cigarette ban in San Francisco, California. Tob Control. 2021 12; 30(e2):e150-e153.  View on PubMed
  7. Malone RE, Yerger VB. GOOD TROUBLE. Tob Control. 2020 09; 29(5):481-482.  View on PubMed
  8. Keeler C, Max W, Yerger VB, Yao T, Wang Y, Ong MK, Sung HY. Effects of Cigarette Prices on Intention to Quit, Quit Attempts, and Successful Cessation Among African American Smokers. Nicotine Tob Res. 2020 04 17; 22(4):522-531.  View on PubMed
  9. Choi K, Chen-Sankey JC, Merianos AL, McGruder C, Yerger V. Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Subsequent Academic Performance Among U.S. Youth. Am J Prev Med. 2020 06; 58(6):776-782.  View on PubMed
  10. Keeler C, Max W, Yerger V, Yao T, Ong MK, Sung HY. The Association of Menthol Cigarette Use With Quit Attempts, Successful Cessation, and Intention to Quit Across Racial/Ethnic Groups in the United States. Nicotine Tob Res. 2017 Nov 07; 19(12):1450-1464.  View on PubMed
  11. King G, Moolchan ET, Bendel RB, Yerger VB. Tanning Capacity and Nicotine Dependence Among African Americans. J Natl Med Assoc. 2018 Aug; 110(4):358-366.  View on PubMed
  12. Yao T, Ong MK, Max W, Keeler C, Wang Y, Yerger VB, Sung HY. Responsiveness to cigarette prices by different racial/ethnic groups of US adults. Tob Control. 2018 05; 27(3):301-309.  View on PubMed
  13. Lempert LK, Yerger V, Glantz SA. Letter by Lempert et al Regarding Article, "Menthol and Nonmenthol Cigarette Smoking: All-Cause Deaths, Cardiovascular Disease Deaths, and Other Causes of Death Among Blacks and Whites". Circulation. 2016 Aug 30; 134(9):e119-20.  View on PubMed
  14. McDaniel PA, Offen N, Yerger V, Forsyth S, Malone RE. "Tired of watching customers walk out the door because of the smoke": a content analysis of media coverage of voluntarily smokefree restaurants and bars. BMC Public Health. 2015 Aug 08; 15:761.  View on PubMed
  15. Carol B. Cunradi, Roland S. Moore, Robynn S. Battle, Valerie B. Yerger. Smoking, Work Stress, and Barriers to Participation in HMO Smoking Cessation Treatment Among Transit Workers: Focus Group Results. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health. 2015 Jul 3; 30(3):272-286.  View on PubMed
  16. Battle RS, Cunradi CB, Moore RS, Yerger VB. Smoking cessation among transit workers: beliefs and perceptions among an at-risk occupational group. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2015 May 13; 10:19.  View on PubMed
  17. Yerger VB, Battle RS, Moore RS. Evaluating the implementation process of a citywide smoke-free multiunit housing ordinance: insights from community stakeholders. Am J Public Health. 2014 Oct; 104(10):1889-91.  View on PubMed
  18. McDaniel PA, Offen N, Yerger VB, Malone RE. "A breath of fresh air worth spreading": media coverage of retailer abandonment of tobacco sales. Am J Public Health. 2014 Mar; 104(3):562-9.  View on PubMed
  19. Yerger VB, Cataldo JK, Malone RE. Older smokers could be the strongest supporters for U.S. government regulation of tobacco: a focus group study. Tob Induc Dis. 2013 Aug 17; 11(1):17.  View on PubMed
  20. Malone RE, McGruder C, Froelicher ES, Yerger VB. Being part of something: transformative outcomes of a community-based participatory study. Health Promot Pract. 2013 Mar; 14(2):205-12.  View on PubMed

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