Social interventions to address disparities in young adult tobacco use

This project develops and pilot tests novel tobacco control interventions to address disparties and reduce smoking among young adults (age 18-25) attending bars and nightclubs in the SF Bay Area.  Almost all tobacco prevention efforts concentrate on preventing children and adolescents from experimenting with cigarettes dispite the fact that the transition from experimentation to regular smoking and addiction often occurs during young adulthood.  The tobacco industry has invested millions of dollars in sophisticated marketing research on young adults, and has a long history of campaigns targeting minority and other vulnerable populations.

The project:

  • Co-opts strategies developed by the tobacco industry to counteract aggressive marketing of cigarettes to young adults in bars and nightclubs
  • reinforces nonsmoking environments, and
  • De-normalize tobacco use to reduce smoking among young adults in these social settings.

This research builds on pilot work in San Diego, California, funded by the Public HealthTrust, and continued by the State-funded California Tobacco Related Diseases Research Program.

Participants in this study include Latino, African American, and Asian young adults who socialize in bars and clubs in the SF Bay Area.  This study is being led by Dr. Pamela Ling Associate Professor in Residence with the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.


The results of the pilot project demonstrated the feasibility of the intervention and proposed research methodology; recruitment at bar and club venues enabled reaching subpopulations of young adults with very high smoking rates (50-77% smoking prevalence) compared with the California State young adult smoking prevalence of 18%. At 32 months of follow up, Dr. Ling and colleagues found a statistically significant 14% decrease in current smoking in the target community, with a greater reduction (22%) among subculture opinion leaders.

Camel Directly Targets Hipster Neighborhood

Anti-tobacco Social Brand “Two up two down” developed for Hip Hop adolescents in Richmond, VA.  The brand references a local signal, positioning two fingers up and two down, to form letters V and A, representing Virginia.