Principal Investigator: Xue, Hong
Funding Source: VFHY
The prevalence of current cigarette smoking among youth has declined from 2011 to 2016. In contrast, however, use of electronic cigarettes, or, e-cigarettes, has been increasing dramatically in recent years in the US. E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used form of tobacco among middle and high school students. In Virginia, there about 2 in 10 high school students and 1 in 10 middle school students reporting EC use. In 2016, a US Surgeon General’s Report declared e-cigarette use among youth and young adults to be a major public health concern. Unlike traditional cigarettes, however, e-cigarettes are largely unregulated. There is an urgent need for the scientific community to provide the best available evidence to identify and address the gaps in the mandates and implementation strategies. Our study is the first study that aims to use systems science and simulation modeling methods to build interactive Virginia-based tobacco prevention and control policy simulation models to assist policy development, implementation, and evaluation to prevent and control tobacco (including e-cigarettes) use among youth in Virginia. This study will generate scientifically grounded evidence about the potential for regulations of 1) increasing the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products (including e-cigarettes), 2) imposing excise taxes on e-cigarettes (and related potential increase of conventional tobacco tax), and 3) creating a minimum distance for e-cigarette retail outlets from K-12 schools. The expected outcomes and deliverables include (but not limited to): predictions of the impacts of these policy options on initiation, intensity, cessation, and relapse rates of e-cigarette/combustible cigarette use across different gender, age, race/ethnicity, and SES groups in Virginia; morbidity, mortality, associated saved medical expenditures and economic costs at population level; an interactive simulation platform available for policy makers and researchers to test the effects of various policy options; reports, policy briefs, and high impact peer-reviewed publications, etc. Findings from our study will support Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) in their efforts to advance legislative issues in the Commonwealth of Virginia and at the federal level, as well as inform social marketing strategies to improve the health of young people. The project proposed is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and the team consists of a scientific team of faculty from Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary, Georgetown University, and Georgia State University, with complementary expertise. Through partnership with the Tobacco Free Alliance of Virginia, we will form a Policy Advisory Committee that represents key youth tobacco control stakeholders in Virginia including the Virginia Community Health Care Association, the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Virginia Department of Education, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and American Cancer Society. We will deliver results periodically across the three-year study, for example, semi-annually, to give policy makers access to model results during the project period as they become available. We will translate the model for VFHY, if desired, to host on its website to inform policy debates.