Vaping: The New Look of Nicotine Addiction

Vaping: The New Look of Nicotine Addiction

There is an ongoing, dramatic increase in  usage of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) among students in high schools and colleges, including at the University of Iowa (UI).  Recently, the National College Health Assessment reported 26.8% of UI undergrads said they have used e-cigs in the last 30 days.  In a senior survey at a large Iowa City high school in 2019, 50% responded yes to the question “Have you ever vaped?”  While many on the UI campus are concerned about this growing trend of e-cig usage among current and incoming students, the impact of vaping goes beyond student wellness to include the impact on employers, health care costs, the environment, and more.

This issue has prompted the formation of a coalition to reach out to those on campus and in our community to share knowledge, challenges, and determine next steps.  We are initiating a series of campus/community activities and presentations titled “Vaping: The New Look of Nicotine Addiction.”

Speed Research Networking for Faculty

Many researchers on campus are involved in studying the prevalence and effects of e-cigs and vaping.  In cooperation with the UI Research Development office, the College of Public Health will host a Speed Research Networking event at the College of Public Health Building on September 20, 2019.   This event will provide the opportunity to meet and build potential research collaborations on this topic. Registration is required, and participation will be capped at 30.

What are E-cigs and What Do They Do? – 6:30 to 8 p.m. on September 23, 2019 at The Englert Theatre

  • Tom Eissenberg, PhD will share his research on the topic of e-cigs and vaping.  Dr Eissenberg is a professor in the Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Psychology and is the co-director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products.  Dr. Eissenberg obtained his doctorate in experimental psychology in 1994 from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and joined the VCU faculty in 1997.  His primary area of research is the behavioral pharmacology of drugs of abuse, primarily on nicotine and tobacco.  He works to develop and apply regulatory science to the evaluation of tobacco products and new knowledge to the development of effective tobacco product regulations.  He has authored or co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed publications and served as principal investigator on numerous NIH grants, which across his career, have totaled more than $50 million. He will join us as a Visiting Scholar hosted by the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP) on September 23-24.
  • This evening event will include a short lecture from Dr. Eissenberg and moderated discussion including perspectives on e-cig usage in our community and schools with the following on a panel:
    • Rima AfifiPhD is Professor and Interim Head in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health.  Dr. Afifi engages in public health research and practice with intent to promote social, community, and policy environments conducive to well-being, especially for adolescent and youth.   A particular area of interest is the global epidemic of alternative tobacco product use.  Over the last two decades, she has explored determinants of use as well as program and policy solutions to minimize the health burden. She has developed, implemented and evaluated the effectiveness of a variety of interventions to promote the health of adolescents and youth.  Before joining the faculty at the College of Public Health in 2017, Dr. Afifi spent 20 years working at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon studying the effects of war and conflict on youth development.
    • Susan Vileta, Health Educator at the Johnson County Public Health Department, has 11 years of experience with tobacco prevention and control in Iowa and Minnesota. A graduate of the University of Iowa, Ms. Vileta has a diverse background that spans human resources, health advocacy and public health. She has dedicated herself to working with local youth, schools, businesses, governments, health care providers, non-profit agencies and property management companies to eliminate or reduce the negative impact of tobacco use and exposure. She has assisted local policy makers in drafting, passing and implementing comprehensive tobacco/nicotine-free policies in municipalities, schools, colleges, parks, worksites and multi-unit housing properties.
    • Alejandra Escoto, MPH is a recent Master’s of Public Health graduate from the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health. During her MPH practicum, Ms. Escoto worked with University of Iowa Student Wellness to develop a toolkit – comprising latest literature and campaigns related to e-cig use among college students – to implement a health communication campaign to prevent e-cigarette use among UI students. Student Wellness also supported 7 focus groups with 97 total students to understand the forces that were impacting e-cigarette use among UI students. Ms. Escoto is now a Program Coordinator for the Child Health Specialty Clinics, working on Title V initiatives for children and youth with special healthcare needs throughout the state of Iowa.

History Repeats Itself – So, What are We Doing about E-Cigs? – 6:30 to 8 p.m. on October 29, 2019 at Coralville Public Library

  • Robin Mermelstein, PhD will share her research in the area of tobacco use with studies ranging from longitudinal examinations of the etiology of youth smoking to cessation interventions for adult smokers. Dr Mermelstein is a distinguished professor of psychology and directs the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is also a research professor of community health sciences in the UIC School of Public Health and the co-director of the UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Her research interests fall broadly in the area of tobacco use, with studies ranging from longitudinal examination of the causes of youth smoking to cessation interventions for adult smokers.  Since the mid-1980s, Dr. Mermelstein has been the principal investigator of a series of studies, including two consecutive projects funded by the National Cancer Institute, to investigate trajectories of smoking patterns among adolescents and young adults, with a focus on social and emotional contextual factors.
    She will join us as a Visiting Scholar on October 29-30, hosted by the IIPHRP.
  • This evening event will include a short lecture from Dr. Mermelstein as well as a panel discussion with the following local researchers and community members:
    • Alejandro P. Comellas, MD received his MD degree from Central University of Venezuela. He completed his Internal Medicine Residency and Fellowship training in Pulmonary and Critical Care at Northwestern University in Chicago. He is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Iowa, Director of the Integrative Health Sciences Facility (IHSF) as part of the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (EHSRC) at the University of Iowa as well as Director of the Institute of Clinical Translational Science (ICTS) Clinical Research Unit at the University of Iowa.  Dr. Comellas of research interests are in the areas of lung injury, ambient air pollution and COPD. More recently, he is an investigator in a pilot study funded by NIH to study the effects of electronic nicotine device systems in the cardiopulmonary system.
    • Tabetha Gerdner is a Community Health Consultant for the Iowa Department of Public Health in the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Division.  Her work includes researching the e-cigarette industry to assist in the development of presentations on e-cigarette devices and their harmful effects.  One of  IDPH’s newest cessation efforts – My Life My Quit – is specifically designed for youth ages 13-17.  Ms. Gerdner has been instrumental in the rollout of this program in Iowa –  one of only a handful of states implementing this teen cessation program aimed at tobacco and vaping.  She also works with the Bureau of Substance Abuse to implement tobacco and nicotine policies that include vaping and tobacco use in treatment centers. She collaborated with the Iowa Board of Medicine, Iowa Dental Board, and the Iowa Medical Society to create an accredited cessation training using the Ask, Advise, Refer (AAR) approach to help clinicians deliver brief advice to quit smoking and refer smokers to Quitline Iowa.  She is the Program Manager for Smoke Free Homes as well as Quitline Iowa.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Studies and Non-Profit Management from the University of Iowa.


Along with the community events,  campus activities are planned.  Anyone interested in meeting with the above mentioned Visiting Scholars can contact the IIPHRP for more information.

Thank you to our sponsors of this e-cigs/vaping series: UI sponsors – College of Public Health, Graduate & Professional Student Government, Graduate Student Senate, IIPHRP, Research Development Office, liveWELL/Human Resources, Staff Council, Student Government, Student Wellness; Community sponsors – Clear Creek Amana Community School District, City of Coralville, City of Iowa City, Iowa City Community School District, Johnson County Public Health, Mount Vernon Community Schools.

Please stay tuned to this webpage.  It will be updated with more details and information.  If you have any questions, please email