M. Justin Byron
PhD Student, Health, Behavior and Society
Since his teens, the horrors of tobacco use have resonated with Justin Byron. The Connecticut native watched his aunt, a lifelong smoker, die of cancer.
After college, Byron volunteered at the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, a division of the state’s Department of Health, where he learned how with proper funding and creative, hard-hitting campaigns, real change could be made in reducing youth smoking rates.
Byron then went on to medical school, but took a leave of absence because he wasn’t sure the profession was the right fit. He next spent a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Bridgeport, Conn., and then several years managing campaigns and writing grants for two Boston-area nonprofits.
Byron says he loved the nonprofit setting and the chance to work “on large scales and in creative ways.” Yet, he knew that to make his greatest contribution he needed to focus his energies on one issue. “And when I reflected on it, my mind kept coming back to the tobacco problem–the dissonance between its stark lethality and its legal seduction,” he says.
He chose the Bloomberg School because of its strong behavioral science and tobacco control offerings. As a research assistant at the School’s Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Byron co-edited a practical guide for secondhand smoke monitoring and worked as a teaching assistant for an international tobacco control class.
As part of his master’s degree, Byron began a research fellowship at the American Legacy Foundation where he’s been examining Internet-based smoking cessation programs, the emerging problem of little cigars in urban cities, and controversial new products such as electronic cigarettes. He also founded the JHSPH Tobacco Action Group.
Byron plans to focus his doctoral studies on how best to apply behavior change theory in international tobacco control.