Established in 2002, the Center for Health Promotion and Evaluation (CHPE) is directed at understanding and improving health behaviors, particularly among young people. Most of our research currently focuses on reducing tobacco consumption, but we have also conducted research on a wide range of issues, including school violence, binge eating, dietary restraint, attitudes toward breastfeeding, and body mass index in teens.

Despite decades of warnings from the Surgeon General’s office, smoking is still the single most preventable cause of death and disease in our society.1,2 It is difficult to overestimate the costs of smoking: Approximately 6,000,000 children and teens alive today will die of smoking-related disease. Ultimately, smoking kills more people than alcohol, illegal drugs, murders, car accidents, AIDS, and suicides combined, with thousands more dying from spit tobacco use. 3

Our research on smoking among children and teens focuses on a number of programmatic themes, including the following:

  1. What causes children of different ethnic groups and genders to start to smoke? There is strong evidence that the variables that prompt smoking initiation differ by gender and ethnicity.

  2. Why do certain minorities (African American, LGBT) have greater difficulty quitting on their own and experience tobacco-related health disparities relative to other ethnic groups and the general population? Much of our work focuses on tailoring smoking prevention and cessation programs for special populations.

  3. Why are smoking cessation programs (which are effective with adults) generally not helpful for teens? Are these programs even acceptable to teen smokers?

  4. Healthcare providers have been urged to assess and assist their patients in quitting smoking. However, little research has explored physician interventions with teens. We are currently conducting a longitudinal study of the effectiveness of healthcare provider interventions.

  5. We have also developed and evaluated a program for training pediatricians to intervene with parents who smoke.

  6. We are also exploring the trajectories of tobacco use as children advance in their habit. Why do some children maintain low levels of use, whereas others escalate their consumption rapidly?

In this largely community-based research, supervised by Dr. Leslie Robinson, our overarching goal is to identify the basic variables that drive the update of tobacco and serve to maintain addiction. By the same token, we want to study those individuals who have quit in adolescence, in order to understand what special resources these youth drew upon. Further, we are interested in special populations (e.g., African Americans, sexual minorities) that are apparently more vulnerable to the addictive effects of tobacco.

1. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures, 2012. https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2012.html Accessed June 6, 2012.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The health consequences of smoking: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC;2004. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2004/complete_report/index.htm Accessed June 9, 2010.

3. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Toll of tobacco in the United States of American. http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0072.pdf?utm_source=factsheets_finder&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=analytics. Accessed 8/20/2012.