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Research is a critical component of the Virginia Foundation for Health Youth’s strategies to reduce and prevent youth tobacco use in Virginia. Its specific interests include understanding:

·         Components of youth culture/behavior in order to inform future marketing efforts in Virginia

·         The  impact of new and/or alternative tobacco products on youth in Virginia

·         Psycho-social aspects of youth tobacco use

·         Genetic predisposition to nicotine addiction and the subsequent development of tobacco-use-related disease

·         Factors that relate to the progression of experimentation with tobacco products to nicotine addiction by youth under the age of 18

·         The types of prevention and cessation interventions that work with various demographics of youth.


VFHY is highly committed to funding only collaborative research projects for several reasons:  avoiding duplication of efforts; maximizing expertise from multidisciplinary and multipartner research among universities and other research entities; promoting collaboration and research-sharing within the scientific community; generating new investigators’ interest in tobacco prevention research; and using VFHY funding as seed money to attract additional outside funding for youth tobacco research in Virginia. This approach has been highly successful, resulting in numerous collaborative large grant proposals funded through federal agencies, including more than $20 million in matching grants.


Current Research Projects

Virginia Commonwealth University
Eastern Virginia Medical School


Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth UniversityCulturally Enhancing a Motivational Interviewing Intervention for Latinx Adolescents

Grant Award Amount: $449,929
Principal Investigators: Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology
Collaborating Partner: The College of William & Mary, Virginia Tech

This project will address a local service need by culturally enhancing an evidence-based tobacco prevention intervention and determining the pilot efficacy of the culturally enhanced intervention. The research team will implement a Motivational Interviewing (Group Motivational Interviewing for Teens, GMIT) with Latinx adolescents. GMIT, like many other evidence-based substance-use prevention programs, does not address the risks of alternative tobacco products (ATPs). They will also integrate the VFHY module on ATPs into GMIT to create a more comprehensive tobacco-use prevention program (GMIT-ATP). Next the team will integrate a parenting component to the GMIT-ATP intervention (GMIT-ATP+P) and linguistically translate the interventions and address other surface level adaptations. Finally, the project team will conduct a pilot randomized-controlled trial to obtain preliminary efficacy data by comparing GMIT-ATP+P to GMIT-ATP on Latinx adolescents’ tobacco use outcomes.

Profiling Youth Cigar Use in Low SES Communities: A Mixed Methods Approach

Grant Award Amount: $149,130 (one-year grant)
Principal Investigators: Andrew J. Barnes, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Health Behavior & Policy
Collaborating Partner: Research Unlimited, LLC

Little is known about the characteristics of youth most at risk for the adverse consequences associated with cigar use. This evidence is needed to inform effective prevention programs and public policies aimed at reducing tobacco use and health disparities. The current study seeks to provide an in-depth psychological, behavioral, and physiological characterization of youth living in low SES communities who use cigars through three interrelated research domains: 1) self-reported and objective tobacco-related health measures and biomarkers, 2) tobacco-related attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, and behaviors, and (3) tobacco-policy/prevention relevant environmental factors.

This mixed methods study will recruit cigar-smoking and non-tobacco-using youth residing in low SES communities near Richmond, VA to complete biological and survey measures that will describe the physiological effects of cigar use as well as the attitudes, perceptions and knowledge about cigars and tobacco-relevant environmental factors. Subsamples of these groups will be recruited for focus groups, which will provide greater depth and detail on which factors influence intentions and behaviors surrounding cigars. Finally, the research team will engage a community advisory board to translate research findings to the community and to state policymakers. Importantly, research findings will be returned directly to participants and to the community: laboratory measures of respiratory health will be reported to participants immediately and disseminating results relevant to community prevention efforts is a key aim.

Geospatial Analysis of Tobacco/Vape Retail Outlets and Youth Tobacco Use to Inform Virginia Policies

Grant Award Amount: $450,000
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Do, Ph.D., MPH Instructor, Department of Health Behavior & Policy, School of Medicine
Collaborating Partners: Research Unlimited LLC, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

To advance tobacco retail regulation policies in Virginia, data are needed to better characterize the tobacco retail landscape, how it changes with local and federal regulations, and how the landscape may influence the initiation of cigarette, e-cigarette, and dual use among youth. To address these points, the aims of this study are three-fold. First, the research team will characterize the existing tobacco landscape within Virginia using geospatial analyses, which is necessary for determining which areas/populations of Virginia are the most vulnerable, in terms of tobacco retail outlet (TRO) and vape shop outlet (VSO) exposure. Second, determine how local and federal regulations might affect TRO/VSO retail density. This is important to guide evidence-based policy initiatives that have the potential to reduce tobacco and e-cigarette use within the community, particularly among youth. Third, the research team will evaluate the association that TRO/VSO density, in and around areas frequented by youth, have on risk for cigarette, e-cigarette, and dual use among Virginia youth ages 11-15 years. Successful completion of this project will provide a comprehensive understanding of how various policies at the local and federal level impact TRO/VSO density within neighborhoods across Virginia and provide evidence determining to what effect TRO/VSO relate to cigarette, e-cigarette, and dual use among Virginia youth. Further, results from this study will help inform community-level policies targeting tobacco and e-cigarette use in youth via regulation of TRO/VSO density within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth Exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences

Grant Award Amount: $449,356
Principal Investigator: Sunny Shin, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Social Work and School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry
Collaborating Partners: Virginia Department of Social Services, Virginia Homes for Boys and Girls, UMFS

The goal of the study is to evaluate the feasibility of adapting and implementing an evidence-based, personality-targeted, youth substance abuse prevention program called Preventure for adolescents who have adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Exposure to ACEs, such as childhood exposure to maltreatment and household dysfunction, increases the risk of tobacco use during adolescence. ACEs is also associated with early onset of tobacco use and nicotine dependence in adulthood. Although increased vulnerability to tobacco use among youth with a history of ACEs is well documented, few tobacco prevention programs are available for this highly vulnerable population. The project is unique in that it is designed to modify and implement an evidence-based tobacco prevention program in the central region of Virginia with the long-term goal of disseminating the newly adapted preventive intervention throughout the state. This study will generate valuable knowledge about adaptations, barriers, and enablers to effective implementation of the youth tobacco prevention intervention in out-of-home care settings (e.g., family foster care, kinship care, treatment foster care, and residential and group care), and also test the efficacy of the preventive intervention with a population of youth known to be at risk for the eventual development of tobacco use.

Systems Modeling and Simulations for Effective Tobacco Control and Prevention Policies Among Youth

Grant Award Amount: $450,000
Principal Investigator: Hong Xue, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Health Behavior and Policy
Collaborating Partners: The College of William & Mary, Georgetown University, Georgia State University, Tobacco Free Alliance of Virginia, University of Virginia

This study aims to use systems science and simulation modeling methods to build interactive tobacco prevention and control policy simulation models to assist policy development, implementation, and evaluation to prevent and control tobacco use (e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes) among youth in Virginia. This study will generate scientifically grounded evidence about the potential for three types of regulatory strategies to minimize the burden of tobacco products: 1) increasing the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products (e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes), 2) imposing excise taxes on e-cigarettes (and increasing conventional tobacco taxes), and 3) creating a minimum distance for e-cigarette retail outlets from K-12 schools.

Virginia Youth Tobacco Projects Research Coalition Core

Grant Award Amount: $450,000
Principal Investigator: J. Randy Koch, Ph.D., Center for Center for the Study of Tobacco Products
Collaborating Partners: The College of William & Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Virginia State University

The grant for the Virginia Youth Tobacco Projects (VYTP) includes the coordination and planning of the annual VYTP Research Coalition meetings, the Small Grants Program, a report summarizing and integrating VFHY-sponsored research and the triennial Research to Practice Conference. VYTP also facilitates the networking of VYTP researchers across Virginia.

Eastern Virginia Medical School

Eastern Virginia Medical SchoolA Sociological Approach to Alternative Tobacco Education

Grant Award Amount: $450,000
Principal Investigator: Kelli England Will, Ph.D., Eastern Virginia Medical School, Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Community Health and Research
Collaborating Partners: Consortium for Infant and Child Health (CINCH), YMCA of South Hampton Roads

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS; also known as e-cigarettes or vapes) may pose less risk than combustible cigarettes, but researchers are still examining their effects on health and urge caution that ENDS are certainly not harmless. ENDS use by nonsmoking youth carries hidden hazards such as inhaling fine particulate matter into the lungs and the risk of progression to combustible tobacco use. This project will inform, create, pilot, and disseminate a guiding framework for embedding more effective ENDS and alternative tobacco education into multiple community settings in Virginia. The research team will use a community-engaged research process to understand what information is currently being used in local community settings related to ENDS education for teens, to what degree that information is evidence-based, and if the information being used for education is engaging and effective with teens.