UC Merced creating new center aimed at researching smoking habits in the Central Valley

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- A multi-million dollar grant is creating a new center aimed at improving public health in the Central Valley, and it will be based at UC Merced.

"It's one of our biggest grants to date. It's going to put UC Merced on the map," said NCPC Org Manager Alex Mellor.

The $3.8 million grant will help in creating the UC Nicotine and Cannabis policy center.

Researchers say the goal is to study people's perception of tobacco and pot policies and look into smoking habits in the Central Valley.

They say policies are often tailored to major cities, and the San Joaquin area is often overlooked.

"We don't have a lot of info about what people think and feel about health-related issues, so how can policymakers make effective policies if they don't have enough data," said NCPC Director Dr. Anna Song.

The center is the first to receive funding from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, which is an initiative funded through Tobacco tax.

More than 10 faculty members will be part of the program along with four researchers from Stanford.

"This for us is a testament to the quality of research, plus being able to help a largely overlooked community," said Mellor.

Researchers will not be studying the actual product, but rather working with the community and organizations like the American Heart Association to collect data.

"It's to understand what people even know about cannabis policy, what people want out of cannabis policy," said NCPC Director Dr. Anna Song.

The grant is expected to last for four years, but researchers will be looking for ways to continue funding their studies.

They are hoping to get out in the community and get started by the beginning of next year.
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