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Stark disparities remain in who uses tobacco products and their resulting health outcomes. The University of North Carolina has received a competitive, five-year $18,600,000 grant from the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration to be one of seven Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science nationwide. UNC’s Center, titled “Advancing Tobacco Regulatory Science to Reduce Health Disparities,” aims to address disparities in tobacco use through four interdisciplinary projects, an administrative core, and a career enhancement core. The Center, housed by UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, is led by Kurt Ribisl, PhD, and includes eight members from the UNC School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine: Adam Goldstein, MD MPH, M. Justin Byron, PhD, Sarah Kowitt, PhD, Chineme Enyioha, MD MPH, Leah Ranney, PhD, Nadja Vielot, PhD, Kristen Jarman, MSPH, and Sonia Clark, MHA. These researchers will work with a team of UNC experts in public health, communication, and patient-centered care as well as collaborators from other institutions. “This large Center grant shows the tremendous talent and collaboration at UNC to tackle persistently high rates of tobacco use among minorities, youth, and many more targeted groups,” said Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH, a project lead and Director of the UNC Tobacco Intervention Programs. The School of Medicine will have an active involvement with two of the four central projects, including:

  • Advancing Communication Science to Reduce Disparities in Young Adult Cigar Use: Led by UNC Family Medicine’s Adam Goldstein, MD MPH, and M. Justin Byron, PhD.
    • The project will develop theory-driven communication themes for reducing little cigar and cigarillo use among young adults, especially Black young adults. It will design and test digital ad campaigns for social media targeted at young adult users, striving to maximize attention and engagement.
    • Dr. Byron states, “This research can be a powerful catalyst for a national, evidence-based mass media campaign to reduce the emerging problem of cigar use among young adults, especially Black young adults. While cigarette use has fallen over the past 20 years, cigar use has more than doubled. More youth now use cigars than cigarettes.”
  • Understanding the Impact of Vaping Prevention Ads on Adolescents and Young Adults: Led by UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s Seth Noar, PhD, and Family Medicine’s Sarah Kowitt, PhD.
    • The project will first characterize message features used in vaping prevention video ads targeting adolescents and young adults. The project will then evaluate whether ads with promising features reduce susceptibility to vaping more than ads without these features.
    • “There are hundreds of vaping prevention video ads, but we don’t really know which ads or ad features are effective. This study can provide crucial knowledge about vaping prevention video ads and ad features that reduce susceptibility to vaping and ultimately lead to more impactful campaigns,” Dr. Kowit explains.

A Career Enhancement Core aims to enhance the recruitment of trainees across UNC with diverse racial, ethnic, gender, economic, geographic, and disciplinary backgrounds, with a focus on reducing tobacco-related disparities. The Career Core will train dozens of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior faculty through mentorship teams, individualized training planning/feedback, structured skill-building, and leadership. The Career Core is co-led by Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH, Director of the UNC Tobacco Interventions Programs and Goodwin Distinguished Professor of Family Medicine, and Shelley Golden, PhD, from the UNC Gillings School of Public Health. In addition to mentoring teams with over 17 faculty members, the Career Core will also award multiple pilot grants annually to help reduce tobacco-related disparities, consistent with the overall UNC Center theme.

This is the third round of five-year TCORS grants; UNC was also a TCORS site in 2013-2018.

To read all the TCORS project descriptions, see the official press release here.