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UC Merced Nicotine and Cannabis Policy Center

Institution: University of California, Merced
Investigator(s): Anna Song, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 28) Grant #: 28PC-0044 Award: $3,785,037
Subject Area: State and Local Tobacco Control Policy Research
Award Type: Policy Centers

Initial Award Abstract

The current proposal describes support for a research center in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV), UC Nicotine and Cannabis Policy Center (NCPC). The SJV contains many ethnically diverse and underserved groups with numerous health problems, including tobacco-related diseases. Despite these problems, limited health and health policy data on the region exist. Data are especially sparse for tobacco and cannabis control policies. There is very little information on the extent to which residents are aware of, and support, existing tobacco and cannabis control policies, and how various advocacy and governmental groups are engaged in policy formation and enforcement. Knowing whether people support tobacco and cannabis policies will help better direct when policy formation might be advantageous, where lapses in enforcement occur, and how tobacco control measures might best be communicated to the public.

A major obstacle in tobacco and cannabis control is the region’s historical lack of a research entity that could inform and support public health departments and health agencies. The region has also been prone to non-regional investigators who have attempted to conduct research in the area, only for those efforts to be short-lived, with the researchers and results leaving the SJV without long-lasting benefits. UC Merced has already established foundational relationships and partnerships with the regional health stakeholders; the next step in long-term tobacco and cannabis control is to cement a commitment to tobacco and cannabis control research in the region by establishing a regional center.

The proposed Center will be located in the one UC campus that has an explicit mission to reduce regional health disparities. The Health Sciences Research Institute (HSRI), with over 110 participating faculty, provides the foundation for the NPCP. The mission of NCPC is to conduct tobacco and cannabis policy research and disseminate and translate the results to support tobacco and cannabis control efforts and reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality for the SJV region. The research conducted in the Center will be focused on a) understanding the role of culture and youth in nicotine/cannabis policy knowledge, attitudes, and support; and b) empowering and supporting youth as agents of change in tobacco/cannabis control policy efforts at the local and state level.