Grants boost researchers seeking to curb youth tobacco use in Virginia

Smoking_for_webThe Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth has awarded three grants of up to $450,000 each to researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University to conduct two studies and support a research coalition focused on preventing tobacco use among young people.

The grants were among five that were approved by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s Board of Trustees at its May 20 meeting. The foundation, which was established in 1999 by the Virginia General Assembly, seeks to empower Virginia’s youth to make healthy choices by promoting active, nutritious and tobacco-free living.

Clockwise, from top left: Barnes, Cobb, Langberg, Breland, Koch, Corona

Clockwise, from top left: Barnes, Cobb, Langberg, Breland, Koch, Corona

One of the projects, “Categorization and Effects of e-cigarette Ads on Attitudes, Intentions and Abuse Liability in Youth,” will explore the impact of electronic cigarette advertising on young people.

“Unlike combustible tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes can be and are marketed towards youth and nearly one in six high school seniors report using an e-cigarette in the past month,” said Andrew Barnes, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research in the School of Medicine, who is leading the study along with Caroline Cobb, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

“We [will] study a sample of youth in Virginia to understand how advertising messages influence attitudes about, intentions to use, and potential to abuse e-cigarettes in order to assist public health and policy efforts to mitigate the harms arising from alternative and traditional tobacco product use,” Barnes said.

Another project, “Integrating Tobacco Prevention Strategies into Behavioral Parent Training for Adolescents with ADHD,” will investigate strategies to curb tobacco use among young people with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a highly prevalent mental health disorder and adolescents with ADHD are at high risk to initiate tobacco use early and to progress to heavy use quickly,” wrote the research team – which is led by VCU psychology professors Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., and Joshua Langberg, Ph.D. – with the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development in the Department of Psychology. “This poses enormous health risks for adolescents with ADHD and can negatively impact brain development.”

As part of their study, the researchers will integrate evidence-based tobacco use prevention skills into an evidence-based behavioral training program for ADHD.

Corona said the team’s approach will be innovative because if successful, the potential for dissemination in “real world settings” will be high. Specifically, she said, behavioral parent training interventions are already being implemented across the country in community-based clinics and the goal of this proposal is to incorporate tobacco use prevention techniques without increasing therapist or family burden.

The potential for adopting the intervention in Virginia appears to be high given that the same organizations – such as community services boards – that provide publicly- funded ADHD services are also a major provider of tobacco and other substance abuse prevention services, Corona said.

The third grant, directed by VCU psychology professors J. Randy Koch, Ph.D., and Alison Breland, Ph.D., will support the Virginia Youth Tobacco Projects Research Coalition, established in 2002 to advance the prevention of youth tobacco use and nicotine dependence through an integrated program of basic and applied research, research translation and dissemination.

The award will help the coalition maintain and facilitate the growth of its statewide network of investigators conducting research on the causes and prevention of youth tobacco use, conduct a small grants program to encourage innovative research, disseminate the latest research on preventing youth tobacco use, and more.