Two new centers to lead research on tobacco and public health

Carolina will open two new research centers focused on the study of a wide range of tobacco products and their impact on public health, with approximately $39.4 million awarded to the University over five years from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that National Institutes of Health.

Although cigarette use has declined among Americans, new and highly engineered formulations of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products are flooding the market, with disturbing increases in their use by youth. This changing landscape has prompted the NIH and the FDA, as part of an interagency partnership, to create a new, first-of-its-kind science tobacco program whose goal is to generate research to inform how the FDA regulates tobacco products and reduce their use.

The new centers on campus are two out of 14 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) nationwide that have been selected to participate in this program. The TCORS awards represent a significant investment in federal tobacco regulatory science, including $53 million in the first year and a potential total of more than $273 million over the next five years.

Kurt Ribisl, professor of health behavior at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, will head one of the centers, which will be based at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, where Ribisl is also head of the cancer prevention and control program. Work at this center will focus on the harmful effects of chemicals found naturally in tobacco leafs; health risks to audiences from diverse ethnic and LGBT communities and communication strategies that reinforce the dangers of alternative tobacco products, such as electronic cigarettes.

The other center, headed by Robert Tarran, associate professor of cell biology and physiology, will be based at the School of Medicine. Work at this center will aim to better understand which components of tobacco and which new and emerging tobacco products have an adverse effect on lung hydration and innate defense.

Read more from the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Read more from the School of Medicine.

Published September 20, 2013.