Dr Frances Thirlway
Research Fellow



Until May 2019 I am Principal Investigator on the project ‘Electronic cigarettes, health inequalities and smoking cessation: a community study of take-up and market evolution in two high smoking prevalence areas of the North of England’ funded by Cancer Research UK. From June 2019 I am Principal Investigator on the project: 'Health inequalities and the use of cannabis and cannabidiol for pain relief: a study in two areas'I am Co-Investigator on the project: 'Tobacco smoking among people living with HIV in Uganda: understanding the problem to inform effective interventions'.

I am also working on a cross-national study of participation in working-class street parade and performance traditions; I co-founded the interdisciplinary Carnivals, Pageants & Street Parades Research Network and worked with three major museums to organise an international symposium in July 2018 on 'Representing popular culture in the museum

My PhD was awarded in 2016; I worked at Durham University as a Co-Investigator on an evaluation project before joining the University of York in 2017. Previous experience includes working on the World Health Organisation (WHO) Nutrition Friendly Schools Initiative (NFSI) and for Durham University Museums & Libraries. I have also been Head of Grants at County Durham Foundation and an Investigator for the Local Government Ombudsman. My teaching experience includes tutoring first and second year medical students at Durham University from 2009 to 2014.

I am a member of ECCE (European Centre for Cultural Exploration), the Sociology Department’s Culture, Values, Practices,  Science, Health & Technology and Gender, Sexuality & Inequalities research clusters as well as the interdisciplinary Men & Masculinities research network. Follow me on Twitter @fthirlway 



In the context of social and health inequalities my research interests are in health, class and culture. My specific areas of research include smoking cessation and electronic cigarette practices in former coalfields areas of the UK and France, and street parade and performance traditions in the former coalfields of the North East of England and Northern France. I am interested in how specific cultural practices are linked to moral identity. I had an advisory role on Episode 1 of the critically acclaimed Swan Films/Grayson Perry Channel 4 series on masculinity ‘All Man’

My doctoral research explored how decisions to quit or to continue smoking formed part of local moral worlds which I contrasted with the hegemonic privileging of aspiration, narrowly defined as social and geographical mobility, and the denigration of close family ties as atavistic. I used this wider framework to show how public policy frames individual health as a moral imperative as part of an individualised project of the self. I explored working-class cultural practices poised between resistance through the assertion of moral value and the experience of shame and loss.


Selected publications

Thirlway, F., Bauld, L., McNeill, A., Notley, C. (2018). Tobacco smoking and vulnerable groups: overcoming the barriers to harm reductionAddictive Behaviors, vol. 90, p. 134-135.

Thirlway, F. (2018). How will e-cigarettes affect health inequalities? Applying Bourdieu to smoking and cessationInternational Journal of Drug Policy, vol. 54 pp. 99-104

Thirlway, F. (2016). Everyday tactics in local moral worlds: e-cigarette practices in a working-class area of the UKSocial Science & Medicine, December 2016, vol. 170 pp. 106-103.

Thirlway, F. (2016). The persistence of memory: History, family and smoking in a Durham coalfield villagePhD, Durham University.

Thirlway, F. (2015). Re: Why e-cigarettes are dividing the public health community. Rapid response, BMJ, 8 July 2015. 

Thirlway, F. (under review). Nicotine addiction as a moral problem: barriers to e-cigarette use for smoking cessation in two working-class areas.

Thirlway, F. (accepted). Explaining the social gradient: smoking and quitting as symbolic practices.

Invited presentations

Thirlway, F. (2019). ‘A life course perspective on working-class smoking and quitting’. Opening plenary, Public Health England Expert Workshop on Reproductive Health & Smoking, 14 May 2019, Leeds.

Thirlway, F. (2019). ‘My mother smoked like a beagle in a laboratory to get the coupons she needed for a toaster’: tobacco companies and the working-class in post-war Britain.  Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 8 May 2019, London.

Thirlway, F. (2018). The kids are alright: halting the intergenerational reproduction of smoking means helping older adults to quit. The E-Cigarette Summit 2018, London, November 2018.

Thirlway, F. (2018). Poor smokers and tobacco harm reduction. Global Forum on Nicotine Conference, 14-16 June, Warsaw.

Thirlway, F. (2018). Working-class smoking and e-cigarette use in Northern England: a life course and gender perspective. UK E-cigarette Research Forum, 10 May 2018, York.

Thirlway, F. (2018). Jazz bands and the national imaginary: an autonomous working-class culture? Representing Popular Culture in the Museum symposium, 10-11 July 2018, University of York.

Thirlway, F. (2018). A grassroots enquiry into e-cigarette use in two working-class areas of North East & North West England. Edinburgh University Group for Research on Inequalities & Tobacco (GRIT), 5 June 2018, Edinburgh University.

Thirlway, F. (2017). Electronic cigarettes, health inequalities and smoking cessation. Global Forum on Nicotine Dialogues: Durham 2017: Understanding vaping: the pleasure principle, 2 November 2017, Durham.

Thirlway, F. (2017). E-cigarettes, smoking cessation and health inequalities: material cultures and moral panics in northern England. Sussex University Anthropology Department invited seminar, 24 Oct 2017, Brighton.

Thirlway, F. (2016). Smoking and health inequalities: insights from a community study in North East England. Scottish Tobacco-free Alliance Short-life Working Group on Smoking & Poverty, 29 February 2016, Edinburgh.

Thirlway, F. (2014). Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices: reducing or increasing the social gradient in smoking? Findings from an ethnographic study in the former mining villages of West Durham. Scottish Tobacco Control Alliance Research Group meeting, 12 Dec 2014, Edinburgh.

Thirlway, F. (2012). Life stories of ex/current/never-smokers. Strathclyde University Scottish Oral History Centre invited seminar, 3 Dec 2012, Glasgow.


Thirlway, F. (2018). What’s sociological about marching bands?University of York Sociology Department blog, 24 April 2018.

Thirlway, F. (2016). It's complicated: health inequalities and electronic cigarettesFUSE blog, November 2016.

Thirlway, F. (2016). Smokers in deprived area put off by cost and faff of electronic cigarettesSHA blog, November 2016.

Thirlway, F. (2018). Transnational working-class cultures and the politics of methods: a case study of marching bands in the UK and France. BSA Annual Conference, 10-12 April, Newcastle, UK.

Thirlway, F. (2016). Contre les inégalités de santé: Interview d'une anthropologue lancée sur les traces du vapotage populaire dans le Nord-Est anglais. Interview with Philippe Poirson, Vapolitique blogspot (Switzerland)

The editors, Vaping Post France (2016). La vape peut-elle dissiper les inégalités sociales du tabagisme ?(article about my research).

Contact details

Dr Frances Thirlway
Research Associate
Department of Sociology
University of York
North Yorkshire
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 32 3064