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18-19 Special Category

Round One of the 18-19 Conrad Challenge is Closed


Advancing Global Progress to End Smoking & to Reduce the Impacts of Smoking Decline on Tobacco-Dependent Economies

The negative impacts of smoking are well-known, and its global decline will result in many positive health outcomes worldwide. But, there are negative consequences for low-income countries that depend on tobacco farming as a thriving industry. FSFW’s mission is to eliminate cigarette smoking worldwide and to mobilize support for people who are disproportionately burdened by the rapid transition away from combustible tobacco. Here’s where YOU can make a difference. The Conrad Challenge is proud to partner with Foundation for a Smoke-Free World to create a special category for the 2018–2019 competition.

Request for Innovative Solutions to Address ONE of Three Key Problems:

  • Rise of youth vaping

  • Economic threat to smallholder tobacco farmers due to a decline in tobacco demand

  • High bidi use and production

NOTE: Discounted and waived registrations are being provided by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World for student teams from India, Malawi or any other additional locations based on need. Please contact for more information.

Students are invited to participate in ONE of the following sub-categories within the Smoke-Free category:

NOTE: Students teams do not have to live in the regions noted below to enter that category. Each region challenge is open to any team no matter their location. The region noted below only describes the area that is experiencing the detailed issue.

1. United States

To avoid a public health crisis in this generation, we challenge you to develop behavioral, social, and technological innovations – physical OR online – that prevent vaping among teens. Please focus your solution in a country with a high-prevalence of teen vaping. These efforts will complement efforts to prevent smoking conventional cigarettes among youth.

GRAND PRIZE: The finalist team named Pete Conrad Scholars during the Innovation Summit will be rewarded with an all-expense paid trip to Catania, Italy to meet the FSFW Grantee who is currently creating the Center of Excellence on Harm Reduction.

Recent articles framing the issue

Brainstorming ideas

2. Malawi

Ending smoking worldwide will save lives, but a reduced global demand for tobacco could bring devastating consequences to smallholder tobacco farmers, many of whom are economically dependent on tobacco as their livelihood crop. This means the livelihoods of many Malawi smallholder farmers are particularly vulnerable to this projected sharp decline in the demand for tobacco.

We’re looking to you to develop 21st century agricultural technology and business solutions to help these smallholder tobacco farmers transition to profitable alternative livelihoods.

GRAND PRIZE: The finalist team named Pete Conrad Scholars during the Innovation Summit will be rewarded with an all-expense paid trip to the World Food Prize 2019 Borlaug Challenge in Iowa, U.S.

Here are just a few recent articles and product examples surrounding this issue

Brainstorming ideas

3. india

India accounts for one-sixth of global deaths from cigarettes, and is home to 226 million smokers. However, only 13% of the country’s tobacco users smoke cigarettes. We know very little about the other tobacco products in this setting, like bidi, gutka, and khaini, even though they are more HARMFUL and widespread. For example, Bidi – a hand-rolled cigarette traditionally produced by women and children in their homes across rural India – is the preferred tobacco product of more than 100 million Indian smokers because of its affordability and accessibility. Bidi consumption is approximately nine times that of conventional cigarette consumption. The nicotine and tar in bidis is more concentrated than in conventional cigarettes, and could thus be more harmful to people who smoke them. Bidis pose a massive and largely unaddressed threat to public health in India. Further, across all tobacco products, public awareness in India about the harms of tobacco USE remain relatively very low, especially in rural India.

We are seeking innovative, low-cost business and technology solutions to educate the population of the harms of tobacco use, reduce cigarette consumption, or improve surveying and surveillance methods on tobacco consumption in India, especially among vulnerable populations susceptible to the adverse health effects of both tobacco use and production.

GRAND PRIZE: The finalist team named Pete Conrad Scholars during the Innovation Summit will be rewarded with an all-expense paid trip to India to meet the FSFW Grantee currently working to end bidi consumption in this region.

Here are just a few recent articles and product examples surrounding this issue


Brainstorming idea

Don't miss your chance to join this revolution! This special category gives you a seat at the table to help FSFW determine which alternatives are the most viable to addressing all three challenges. In the future, FSFW plans to bring together private, development and public players to invest in pilot solutions.  


  • While this special category has problems targeted to different countries, any team from any country can target any of the problem areas. For example, a team from India can choose to address U.S. teen vaping as outlined above.

  • The Smoke-Free World category will follow all of the traditional guidelines for all three rounds of the Conrad Challenge and will adhere to the same Challenge deadlines.

  • Teams entering ONLY the Smoke-Free World are subject to the full competition fee of $300.

  • Teams who are already registered in another category of the Conrad Challenge are encouraged to enter this special category. Teams entering in multiple categories must submit a registration form for each category. However, teams entering in two categories will receive a discount of $150 for the second category.

  • Smoke-Free World will be judged with the same criteria and a Pete Conrad Scholar will be selected within this category. Smoke-Free World will also have special judges from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World with the potential for additional prizes and awards.

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The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW) is an independent, nonprofit organization established in 2017. It funds research, promotes innovation, and supports collaborative initiatives to accelerate progress in reducing harm and deaths from smoking worldwide. The purpose of FSFW is to end smoking in this generation. FSFW’s areas of focus include smoking cessation and harm reduction, as supported by new technologies, therapies, alternative products, behavioral science, and other approaches. FSFW employs and promotes a human-centered approach to problem-solving. It builds tailored strategies that address the unique challenges faced by smokers and vulnerable populations affected by the elimination of the use of cigarettes and other forms of combustible tobacco. It is guided by an evidence-based research philosophy grounded in gender sensitivity and multiculturalism.