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Dr. Robert Tarran was recently awarded one of 14 U.S. Food and Drug Administrartion (FDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants to establish a Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) in the School of Medicine. The award consists of nearly $4 million in funding annually for five years, during which time Tarran will examine, among other smoking research, the effects of emerging tobacco products on the lungs.

The UNC TCORS will assess the impact of new and emerging tobacco products (NETPs) on the lung’s innate defenses. The body’s innate defense system acts as a physical and chemical barrier against invading pathogens and is comprised of a variety of anatomical barriers, secretory molecules and cellular components. Previous studies have shown that exposure to cigarette smoke dehydrates airway surface liquid and mucus and results in an increased incidence of viral infections. While these findings are known for cigarettes, little is known about the effect of alternative tobacco products, such as little cigars and hookahs. As a result, these products are not subjected to the same level of marketing restrictions and taxes designed to protect public health. The UNC Center for Tobacco Regulatory Science and Lung Health is specifically designed to fill in this gap by systematically testing NETPs to determine their effect on lung health.