The federal government has announced $2.3 million in funding for a major study on how young adults in the United States use electronic cigarettes and other new tobacco products. Researchers will examine all aspects of consumption and work to develop new ways to deliver messages to young people about these products.

The study will be conducted by the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). It is designed to follow more than 200 adults ages 18 to 30 who regularly use non-cigarette tobacco products including electronic cigarettes, hookahs, and smokeless tobacco. They will be asked to keep an electronic diary of their daily consumption. Among the questions investigated will be the motivation for using these products, the manner in which they are used, and their role in increasing or reducing tobacco dependence. Subjects will be asked if they use these products in conjunction with regular cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs. They will also be asked if they are used as a style statement or as an aid in quitting cigarette smoking. Support for the study is being provided by the National Cancer Institute, one of the National Institut es of Health.

The findings should be valuable given concerns about smoking among young adults. “Young adults are a big market for tobacco companies, as they are often willing to try new products and experiment in a variety of settings,” says Robin Mermelstein, the principal investigator for the study and a professor of psychology at UIC. She hopes that one result of the study will be insights into developing compelling visual messages for young adults that can be conveyed through smartphone applications with factual information about how these products are harmful or helpful.

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