The federal Food and Drug Administration has tapped UNC-Chapel Hill researchers to compile data that may lead to stronger tobacco regulations.
One study will focus on effects of tobacco products on the lungs. The other will examine what people know about the dangers of tobacco and how warnings can be improved.
Kurt Ribisl is a professor of health behavior at UNC-Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health. He says most people are unaware of all the negative effects of tobacco.
"Some of the risks lead to issues with vascular disease, heart disease. Most people think of lung cancer as being a major risk factor. But in fact more people are dying of other factors than lung cancer..chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and asthma. So there's room for doing a better job,"says Ribisl.
Ribisl is using the five-year grant from the agency to assess how the dangers are conveyed. He plans to use a variety of avenues, starting with focus groups.
"Really trying to understand what they know about the risk of tobacco products. And then we're going to be doing large telephone surveys and then a series of studies where we're testing out different alternative ways of communicating this risk information to smokers."
In all, the FDA and the National Institutes of Health are putting more than $50 million into funding 14 tobacco study grants. UNC-Chapel Hill is the only institution to be awarded two of those grants.