California State University, Long Beach
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Health Science Receives Grant to Study
Tobacco Use Among Cambodian Americans

The Department of Health Science at CSULB has received a three-year, $664,425 grant from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) for a project that will study factors influencing the high smoking rates of Cambodian Americans. Under the auspices of the University of California, TRDRP supports research that focuses on the prevention, causes and treatment of tobacco-related disease and reducing the human and economic costs of tobacco use in California.

It funds research addressing all aspects of tobacco use, disseminates the research findings, and encourages and supports new scientific infrastructures and networks critical for a comprehensive approach to tobacco control.

"I was surprised to receive the award because of the highly competitive nature of program," said Robert Friis, chair of the Health Science Department and principal investigator of the project. "Very little health-related research has been done on the local Cambodian community and I think that was one of the reasons our grant proposal was recognized."

Titled "Determinants of Smoking Prevalence Among Cambodian Americans," the CSULB project will work with the local Cambodian population to obtain prevalence estimates of tobacco use among adults and clarify the cultural aspects of cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Ultimately, data gathered through the project will be used to design an intervention study to reduce tobacco use.

Friis' collaborators on the project include CSULB faculty members Mohammed Forouzesh, professor of health science; and Alan Safer, associate professor of mathematics and statistics. Rand Corp. researcher Grant N. Marshall will serve as consultant to the project. The research grant, also known as a Community Academic Research Award (CARA), will continue the Cambodian Tobacco Research Initiative (CTRI), an ongoing collaborative effort between the CSULB Department of Health Science and the Cambodian Association of America in Long Beach that addresses the challenges of tobacco use among the Cambodian population in Southern California.

"To date, studies of tobacco use among Cambodian Americans have provided only limited information. Because of inconsistent findings among small-scale studies, further information is needed regarding frequency of cigarette smoking among the Cambodian populations," noted Friis, whose community co-investigator for the project is Kimthai Kuoch, director of the Cambodian Association of America in Long Beach. "Furthermore, there have been no large-scale prevalence studies of tobacco use in the city of Long Beach, which has the largest population of Cambodian residents outside of Cambodia," Friis added. "We believe this project will contribute much needed information regarding cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco use among a population that is afflicted by numerous health disparities."

CTRI received a pilot CARA grant in 2003.The research confirmed that the rates of smoking are four times higher among men than among women, and also found that smoking is part of the Cambodian culture, is seen to have medicinal advantages and is used to relieve stress. The pilot study findings were published in the June 2006 issue of Health Education Research. The new project will augment the previous research, especially in the area of culturally related reasons for smoking. The project aims to collect 2,000 interviews regarding tobacco use from Cambodian American residents in Long Beach.

"It speaks well for the department that we created a winning proposal," Friis noted."It acknowledges that we have key individuals at CSULB who are interested in tobacco research and that we have developed a track record that is credible within the research community."