UC Merced has been awarded a $3.8 million grant to establish the UC Nicotine and Cannabis Policy Center (NCPC), positioning UC Merced and the San Joaquin Valley region as a center for the study of public health and policy matters related to tobacco and marijuana.
“Awarding of this center grant to UC Merced and its partners is a clear sign of the commitment, expertise and leadership of our faculty in addressing issues critical to both the Valley and the world,” Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Sam Traina said.
The NCPC is the first tobacco policy center to receive funding from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP), an initiative created through tobacco taxes and administered by the Research Grants Program Office at the University of California Office of the President. TRDRP fosters research that enhances our “understanding of tobacco use, prevention and cessation, the social, economic and policy-related aspects of tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases in California.”
NCPC Director Anna Song, a health psychology professor and expert in adolescent smoking behavior, said researchers know little about the demographic and socioeconomic factors associated with tobacco use in the Valley; the ways tobacco is obtained and consumed; the frequency of use and cessation; and why efforts aimed at prevention and control have been unsuccessful. Even less data exists on cannabis habits and how they may have changed after its recent legalization for recreational use.
“The Valley has been largely underserved and, as a result, limited health and health-policy data about the region exists,” Song said. “We know that Valley residents are much more likely to use tobacco and other drugs and suffer from tobacco- and drug-related illnesses than residents of other parts of the state. However, there’s very little information on the extent to which Valley residents are aware of and support existing tobacco- and cannabis-control policies..