Obesity and tobacco use among adolescents and young adults remain two of the most pressing public health concerns in the U.S.; both are linked to pervasive declines across health domains. The transition from adolescence to young adulthood – emerging adulthood – presents a critical period for examining these health-risks; problematic substance use often emerges during this developmental stage and obesity status during this period is predictive of chronic obesity. Research on co-occurring obesity and substance use points to a strong link between obesity and tobacco use; however, the pathways and processes underlying this co-occurrence are unclear. Furthermore, it is unknown whether links between obesity and tobacco use extend to e-cigarette/vaping use, which has surged in popularity in the past decade.
The RHAYA Lab is currently conducting a prospective study to identify developmental pathways and risk processes to co-occurring obesity and tobacco use (cigarette smoking, e-cigarette/vaping use) during emerging adulthood. The study aims to collect longitudinal health-risk survey data (five timepoints over two years) from a probability sample of N = 1,500 young adults (18-24 years) enrolled as undergraduates at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). This study is funded by the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS; SC3GM125548; PI: Lanza).
Health-Risk Behavior Pilot Study 2 (2018-2020)
During the academic year 2018-2019, the RHAYA Lab conducted a longitudinal online survey study titled, “Biobehavioral, Social-contextual, and Psychosocial Processes Underlying Co-occurring Obesity and E-cigarette/Vaping Use”. A representative sample of 447 California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) undergraduates were recruited to inform the processes and pathways of co-occurring health-risks, with an emphasis on obesity and tobacco use. In 2019-2020, the RHAYA Lab analyzed data from this study leading to publications and presentations highlighting co-occurring health-risks among a diverse sample of college students. For example, e-cigarette use (nicotine vaping) co-occurred to a large extent with binge drinking and cannabis use (Lanza, Motlagh, & Orozco, 2020).
Frequent e-cigarette/Vape Use Focus Group Study (2019-2020)
During the 2019-2020 academic year, the RHAYA Lab conducted a focus group study on frequent e-cigarette/vaping use among CSULB undergrads. This research stems from recent findings showing that adolescents and young adults engaged in e-cigarette/vaping use are at higher risk of initiating and progressing to cigarette smoking, as well as more frequent and severe e-cigarette/vaping use. This qualitative focus group study sought to understand the product characteristics that frequent vape users find attractive, the behavioral and contextual factors that result in more frequent or severe vaping use and cigarette smoking initiation, and beliefs about future expectations of vaping use.
Long Beach Vape Shop Study (2015-2018)
As e-cigarette/vaping use enters its second decade in the US market, its regulation and status as a novel form of substance use is evolving; accordingly, it is unknown whether the presence of vape shops has changed as well. During a three-year period (September 2015-Septermber 2018), the RHAYA lab conducted a study to track the growth of vape shops in Long Beach, CA, which included observational data to better understand the vape shop context and determine whether socialization spaces were associated with a vape shop’s ultimate success – remaining operational. A 53% decline in vape shop presence was observed between 2015-2018. A comparison of vape shops remaining open versus those closing in the 3-year period indicated that shops with designated socialization spaces (lounges/tasting bars) were more likely to remain operational (Lanza & Pittman, 2019).
Health-Risk Behavior Pilot Study 1 (2015-2017)
With large amounts of time spent on technological devices and the convenience of processed foods, it has become increasingly difficult for adolescents and young adults to offset obesity. A growing concern is that adolescents and young adults meeting obesity status are engaging in other health-risk behaviors that may have an increased detrimental effect on their health. Recent research has shown that obese adolescents and young adults are at risk for becoming cigarette smokers. Although public health efforts have done much to decrease the popularity of cigarettes, the emergence of electronic vaporizer (e-cigarette/vaping) use has led to renewed popularity of tobacco use. As tobacco use moves back into the social norm, especially among high school and college students, higher weight status individuals may be especially vulnerable to e-cigarette/vaping use due to its potential use as a socialization tool. Consequently, this is a critical time for examining e-cigarette/vaping use among adolescents and young adults and its co-occurrence with other health-risks.
During the 2015-2016 academic year, the RHAYA Lab conducted its first study titled “Health-risk Behaviors among Undergraduates: The Rise of e-cigarette/vaping Use and its Co-occurrence with Obesity”. The RHAYA Lab recruited 452 CSULB undergraduates across campus to complete a one-time survey on health-risk behaviors. This data was analyzed and subsequently published and presented in 2016-2017. E-cigarette/vaping use was significantly associated with multiple health-risk behaviors, including binge drinking, cigarette smoking, and obesity status (Lanza, Pittman, & Batshoun, 2017; Lanza & Teeter, 2018).