Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Rochester announced Friday that they have been awarded more than $19 million to create the first program in the nation dedicated to the study of flavored tobacco.
“We’re really excited about initiating this work, because no one has ever looked at flavored tobacco in such a comprehensive and systematic way,” said Dr. Richard O’Connor, professor of oncology with Roswell Park’s Health Behavior and Epidemiology & Prevention programs and director of the Buffalo cancer center’s Tobacco Research Laboratory.
“There are so many different flavorings, delivery systems and product options, and so much we don’t know about them,” O’Connor said in announcing the five-year, $19.05 million competitive grant, awarded by the National Cancer Institute.
The grant is one of nine projects to earn funding through the federal Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science program. The goal is to better document and understand one of the fastest-growing trends in tobacco use.
O’Connor and fellow Roswell Park researcher Maciej Goniewicz, both considered experts on tobacco use and its health consequences, will lead the effort. They, along with other researchers at Roswell and University of Rochester Medical Center, will analyze various combustible and electronic tobacco products, their consequences for health and how users interact with the products. Researchers Irfan Rahman and Deborah Ossip will lead the effort in Rochester, which will involve biomarker screening, genetic analysis and toxicology assessment.
The upstate team will assess flavoring toxicity, characterize flavors and their effects on behavior, determine respiratory health effects of flavors, and evaluate the effects of product marketing.
Researchers will seek input from hundreds of tobacco and e-cigarette users, implementing several surveys and clinical studies.
Current federal regulations prohibit the sale and manufacture of flavors other than menthol in combustible cigarettes but not in other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Data published last year from the PATH Study, the largest prospective U.S. study of tobacco use, showed that use of flavored products was highest among youth and young-adult tobacco users, with 80 percent of tobacco users ages 12 to 17 and 73 percent of tobacco users ages 18 to 24 reporting that they had used a flavored tobacco product in the previous 30 days.