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TRDRP receives funding for research on nicotine cessation strategies for youth and young adults

As part of a settlement reached by the California Attorney General's office with JUUL Labs, Inc., California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) will receive funding over seven years for research on nicotine cessation strategies for youth and young adults, as well as other individuals disproportionately affected by tobacco-related diseases. The new fund will be called the TRDRP Youth Cessation Fund (TYCF).

The new funding resulted from the settlement of a lawsuit between the State of California and JUUL Labs, Inc. Filed in 2019 by California's Attorney General’s office on behalf of the People of the State of California against the (then) San Francisco-based company JUUL Labs., the lawsuit alleged that the company systematically targeted youth with its flavored, easily concealable e-cigarette products and advertisements that appealed to young people. Given the epidemic in youth vaping, the Attorney General had promised to “hold JUUL and any other company that fuels a public health crisis accountable.”

In April 2023, a $175.8 million settlement was reached with JUUL Labs, which the company will pay through 2030. The state will use these settlement funds for education, research, and enforcement efforts to help lessen and prevent harm caused by addiction to e-cigarettes and nicotine.

After receiving recommendations from California state agencies, public health groups, and others on ways the funds could be used to help address, prevent, and reduce youth use of e-cigarettes in the state, the Attorney General’s office announced in November that multiple agencies will receive funds, including TRDRP. In addition, funding will also go to the California Department of Education, Tobacco Use Prevention and Education (TUPE), and the California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Prevention Program (CTPP). TRDRP partners with CTPP and TUPE under the guidance of the Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee (TEROC) to ensure alignment across all sectors of California's Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program. In addition to this new funding, TRDRP is funded through a portion of the taxes on tobacco products and individual contributions. 

The TRDRP Youth Cessation Fund will receive nearly $14 million over seven years to fund two main areas of research:

  • The development and evaluation of evidence-based nicotine cessation interventions for youth and young adults.
  • Culturally tailored cessation interventions for California populations that are disproportionately impacted by tobacco-related diseases.

TRDRP is well suited to lead these efforts. TRDRP researchers have studied the neuroscience of nicotine addiction for over thirty years. The unique formulation of nicotine pioneered by JUUL presents an additional challenge, however, since using one JUUL pod is the nicotine equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes. Given the lasting consequences of such exposure to nicotine on a teen’s developing brain, coupled with the fact that there are currently no FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies for youth, additional evidence-based cessation strategies are needed.

Since nicotine use among family and community members can also influence youth use, TRDRP will also use the new funding to expand research efforts in culturally tailored cessation and prevention strategies. Previous TRDRP grantees have created successful culturally tailored interventions such as Project SUN (Stop the Use of Nicotine), tailored to American Indian youth. TRDRP grantees have also developed strategies that have improved access to cessation services at community health clinics that serve Medi-Cal recipients (link to the CPBRI article).

Two research projects have been selected as the inaugural TYCF Awardees. A community-partnered research project, led by Dr. Camilla Lui of the Public Health Institute and Ms. Kimberlee Homer Vagadori of Heluna Health, will identify co-use patterns of tobacco and cannabis products among California community college students. The project will receive $1.3 million over 2 years. The second research project, led by Dr. Shahrdad Lotfipour of UC Irvine, will investigate a nicotine receptor in the brain of adolescents that plays a role in addiction. This second research project will receive $637,870 over 2 years.

Beginning with 2025 Call for Applications, to be released in July 2024, TRDRP will seek additional proposals from California-based universities and other non-profit organizations for projects addressing TYCF goals.

Wendee Nicole Holtcamp, 

A group of young adults smoking outside