Nigar Nargis, PhD

Scientific Director, Economic and Health Policy Research


“I focus my research on preventing cancer so that I can focus my days counting the number of people living as opposed to counting the number of dead.” 

At ACS since 2015

As Scientific Director in the  Economic and Health Policy Research (EHPR) unit, Nigar Nargis, PhD, leads and collaborates on research projects about using economic and health policies—such as increasing excise tax for tobacco products to reduce their affordability and consumption—to help reduce the risk of cancer in US and international populations. She also provides technical support to build the capacity for research in low-resource settings and develops strategies to influence policy decisions.

Nargis serves as a subject matter expert in economic and health policy research within the American Cancer Society (ACS) and for other organizations. She has extensive experience:

  • Leading and managing research projects
  • Developing grant proposals
  • Designing large-scale, nationally representative sampling-and-survey methods
  • Implementing primary data collection procedures (including training field staff, data management and analysis)
  • Publishing and disseminating research findings that are tailored for a wide range of readers—from cancer professionals to the average person.

She serves as the team lead in her unit and supports the Surveillance & Health Equity Science department leader in day-to-day management responsibilities, including supervision and mentoring of junior research staff.

Research focus and accomplishments

I’m most interested in incentivizing healthy behavior. My work promotes the prevention of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by helping people follow a healthy lifestyle through avoidance of tobacco use and unhealthy drinking habits.

I’m specifically interested in learning how effective fiscal policies, like increasing taxes on cigarettes and on alcoholic and sugar-sweetened beverages, can modify unhealthy behaviors that increase the risk for developing cancer and other health issues. I also find the reverse case interesting—understanding and mitigating how NCDs affect a population’s health and economy.

My research findings have been effectively used to inform policy decisions around the world. For example, during my tenure at the ACS, I’ve developed the Prevent20 model, which dynamically designs cigarette tax increases to help countries achieve a 30% relative reduction in smoking prevalence by 2025 compared to the 2010 level. Since 2016, this model has been applied to provide technical assistance to cancer organizations around the world and support tobacco tax increases to fight cancer along with other NCDs.


For a full list of Dr. Nargis’ publications, visit her Google Scholar page.





Work before ACS

  • World Health Organization; Geneva, Switzerland; Senior Economist, Tobacco Control
  • University of Dhaka; Bangladesh; Assistant Professor, Economics
  • University of Waterloo; Canada; Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Psychology
  • Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies; Dhaka; Research Associate, General Economics

Professional organizations

  • International Health Economics Association, Member
  • Institute for the Study of Labor Economics (IZA), Research Fellow
  • Global Labor Organization (GLO), Fellow


  • Post Doctoral Fellow: Economics of Tobacco Control, University of Waterloo, 2009
  • PhD: Economics, Cornell University, 2003
  • MA: Economics, Cornell University, 2002
  • MSS: Economics, University of Dhaka, 1996
  • BSS: Economics, University of Dhaka, 1994