Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

At UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, Dr. Kurt Ribisl researches how to reduce youth and adult tobacco use.

Dr. Ribisl studies how cigarettes and e-cigarettes are marketed in stores in on the Internet. He also co-leads the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“So the good news is that cigarette smoking is at the lowest recorded level for both youth and adults,” Dr. Ribisl said. “And this is really the work of tobacco control programs and these tobacco control programs that prevented 8 million premature deaths since 1964, so this is just a fantastic success story.”

The use of e-cigarettes and vaping is one of the newest trends among teenagers, which has many researchers concerned.

“Right now we’re concerned about the rise of e-cigarettes and vaping,” Dr. Ribisl said. “This is something that’s happened in the last five years. We’re seeing now that more kids in high school are vaping or using any cigarette then are smoking a cigarette. So this is probably one of the most interesting areas that we’re now looking at is how to address this issue of vaping.”

Although the United State implemented warnings on cigarette packages in 1968, the warnings are still tame in comparison to those found in Europe. According to Dr. Ribisl, the picture warnings in Europe are much more effective than the text warnings found in the US.

“One of the key things that we’d like to see the US Food and Drug Administration do is implement a graphic pictorial warnings on cigarette packs. We’ve done a couple of studies where we’ve looked at countries that have done this and we find that it reduces the smoking rates and people quit more often as a result of these warnings.”

Listen to part one of the interview with Dr. Ribisl:

Along with vaping and e-cigarettes, JUUL is a popular e-cigarette company that has popped up in recent years.

“JUUL is a really new phenomenon, hit the marketplace in the last few years. If you’ve seen the product before, it looks like a USB flash drive. Fits in the palm of your hand and it has a very high level of nicotine that’s delivered in a very smooth way to have a patented technology to deliver nicotine in a way that is not as harsh.”

One of the most appealing aspects of JUUL for youth is that is comes in a variety of flavors.

“It comes in a number of flavors that are appealing to youth like mango,” Dr. Ribisl said. “So this is a real dilemma right now. Seven out of 10 products sold at stores now are are JUUL.”

Because of its compact size, teenagers are using vaping in high school bathrooms where the habit is typically forbidden.

“Because it’s smaller, it fits in your hand and so you can do what’s called covert vaping.

“So kids are sometimes doing it in school and there’s a joke in the high schools that there are two lines for the bathroom, one for people who actually have to go to the bathroom and the other line for people who are [using a JUUL].”

Listen to part two of the interview with Dr. Ribisl: