Pilot Projects

The Pilot Projects Program of the USC TCORS aims to support new and innovative research relevant to the regulation of tobacco products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We are seeking to prioritize funding support for newer/junior researchers who can use the pilot project process as a capacity building and career enhancing opportunity in tobacco regulatory science (TRS). 

We are particularly interested in:
  1. Studies focused on FDA’s regulatory priories as outlined in their Advanced Notices for Proposed Rulemaking (e.g. flavors, nicotine levels)
  2. Studies that utilize the data resources available through USC TCORS (cohort(s) data, vape shop platform, product appeal lab data from supplement, social media data and methods)
  3. Interdisciplinary studies that use behavioral, marketing, economic, or addiction research to address tobacco product appeal in youth or young adults from a multi-dimensional perspective (e.g., the relative influence of product safety, accessibility, online advertising, and/or social media communications as appeal factors related to tobacco product use)

If interested in applying, click here

Current Pilot Projects

Should Hashtags be Part of Tobacco Marketing Regulations?: An exploration of hashtag use in ENDS marketing
Rachael A. Record, Ph.D.

Without hashtag regulation, young consumers could grow up associating ENDS with tobacco prevention terminology. This association will likely reduce perceived risk; lower perceptions of risk is correlated with an increase in ENDS use. This project addresses CTP priority numbers 5 (communications) and 6 (marketing influence) in the context of social media hashtag use on Twitter and Instagram. These platforms are the leading social media platforms with the highest use of hashtags.

The specific aims of this laboratory study are:

Aim 1. To examine ENDS social media posts to analyze content and hashtag use.

Aim 2. To determine user engagement levels with ENDS promotional messages that employ tobacco prevention hashtags.

Disparities in the association between hypertension incidence and e-cigarette use
Hangchuan Shi

The proposed research is innovative because it provides one of the very first paradigms of longitudinal evaluation on e-cigarette use related health outcome using both GEE and Cox regression models based on a publicly available resource. With the substantial increase of e-cigarette use in the past years, the results of the proposed study will contribute to the urgent need of understanding the chronic health risks of vaping to decrease the public health burden.

The specific aims of this laboratory study are:


Aim 1: To determine the association between hypertension incidence and e-cigarette use among different age groups.

Aim 2: Examine ethnicity/race and SES disparities in the association hypertension incidence and e-cigarette use.

The Role of Flavored Tobacco Use on Young Adult and Adult Tobacco Attitudes and Use Behaviors Over Time
Christine M. Steeger, Ph.D.

The primary goal of the proposed USC TCORS pilot project is to answer novel questions about how the use of tobacco flavors is related to young adult and adult tobacco-related attitudes and behaviors over time. Research shows that the appeal of flavored tobacco may be particularly problematic for tobacco use initiation and persistence among youth. However, fewer studies have examined the long-term effects of specific tobacco flavors (menthol/mint, spice/clove, fruit, etc.) across various products (e.g., cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, hookah, and smokeless tobacco) on young adult and adult tobacco use behaviors, including continued use, switching products, and cessation behaviors. Moreover, less is known about whether theoretically-supported constructs like tobacco-related attitudes may mediate these associations, or whether associations may differ for vulnerable subgroups.

The specific aims of this laboratory study are:

Aim 1: To examine the impact of tobacco product flavor use on tobacco use behaviors and addiction.

Aim 2: To examine how tobacco-related attitudes may explain associations between use of product flavors and behavior changes in use.

Aim 3: To examine how using different product flavors and tobacco use patterns may differ for vulnerable subgroups (low SES status, minority race/ethnicity) and across young adult and adult age groups.

The University of Southern California's Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (USC TCORS) for Vulnerable Populations is one of 9 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science in the U.S. We were created to serve in the production of relevant scientific data to inform the regulatory decision making at the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products. Additionally, we are here to educate and train the next generation of tobacco regulatory scientists.

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