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A team of researchers from the UNC School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have received new funding to develop and test messaging to co-users of alcohol and tobacco products on the risk of associated cancers.

An image of Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH
Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH

The funding comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a $100,000 administrative supplement to an R01 grant received by Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH. Goldstein’s project, titled “Little Cigar and Cigarillo Warnings to Reduce Tobacco-Related Cancers and Disease,” was awarded $2.7 million from the National Cancer Institute. He and his colleagues will work to develop more effective health warnings for little cigars and cigarillos.

The newly received supplement will fund the development of similar health messages targeted to users of both knjilo;alcohol and tobacco products. The work will be led by Leah Ranney, PhD, MA, who directs the UNC Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program. Fellow researchers on the project are co-investigator Sarah Kowitt, PhD, MPH, and program manager Kristen Jarman, MSPH.

Leah Ranney, PhD, MA

“This project is exciting because it will be the first of its kind to develop messaging on the cancer risks of co-using tobacco and alcohol,” said Ranney. She says many are unaware that using alcohol and tobacco products together increases the risk of certain cancers, especially oral and laryngeal. “And when you’re using both products, it makes it more difficult to quit using either substance and co-users are more likely to heavily use both products.”

Their research will focus on adults but will oversample for young adults and Black or African American users, because alcohol and tobacco use is higher and especially problematic among young adults and while Black or African American consumption of alcohol is typically less than white users, they experience a higher mortality rate from moderate alcohol consumption.

“We will be developing and testing messaging to co-users on cancer risk to determine whether these messages influence tobacco quit intentions and decrease alcohol consumption.” By doing so, we will be filling a critical gap that exists in health messaging on the co-use of these products,” Ranney said. The study will run from September 2020 through August of 2021.

Leah Ranney, PhD, MA, is a Research Associate Professor in the UNC Department of Family Medicine. She has 19 years’ experience leading multiple public health research and evaluation projects. As Director of the Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program, she supervises research and evaluation projects that advance the field of program evaluation and tobacco control.

Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH, is a Professor and Director of Departmental Advancement at the UNC Department of Family Medicine and adjunct professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Goldstein is the Director of Tobacco Intervention Programs (Tobacco Treatment Program and Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program) at the UNC School of Medicine.