Tobacco use in the United States results in over 450,000 deaths per year—a greater toll in human life than that exacted by car accidents, suicides, drug and alcohol use, murders, and HIV/AIDS combined. In monetary terms, tobacco use results in over $75 billion in public and private health care costs each year, and reduces the productivity of Americans by $80 billion per year. If current trends go unchecked, American taxpayers will continue to pay on a yearly basis more than $500 per household to finance the social costs of tobacco use, and more than 6 million people now under the age of 18 will die from the effects of tobacco.
In Virginia alone, people spend more than $1.5 billion on tobacco-use-related health care, and over 9,000 people die each year from tobacco-use-related illnesses. Once people become dependent on tobacco, they usually find it extremely difficult to quit, because the nicotine that tobacco delivers to the body is one of the most addictive substances known. To curtail tobacco’s enormous and tragic burden on our public health and welfare, it is essential that we find more reliable ways to help people quit smoking, and more importantly, to prevent young people from becoming tobacco users in the first place.
Fortunately, the Commonwealth of Virginia has wisely shouldered the responsibility to seek solutions by establishing a formidable base of scientific research and evaluation on tobacco addiction and prevention, and by allocating a portion of its proceeds from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with tobacco product manufacturers to tobacco-use prevention initiatives. Funded by the MSA, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) sponsors numerous initiatives, including research on the etiology and prevention of youth tobacco use.
With core funding from the VFHY, and a mandate from the VFHY board, the Virginia Youth Tobacco Projects (VYTP) was charged with the responsibility to build a statewide, coordinated program of multi-disciplinary prevention research. In addressing that mandate, the VYTP Research Coalition was established. Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) serves as a coordinating center for the VYTP Research Coalition, and coalition activities to date have included a small grants program, three major statewide research conferences, annual coalition meetings, and targeted funding of multi-university sponsored research projects. In addition to VCU, other participating research institutions currently include: George Mason University, James Madison University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University and The College of William and Mary.
The specific goals of the VYTP are to:
Investigators at the above Virginia institutions have made significant progress on issues related to youth tobacco use. In seeking answers to questions about youth tobacco use, the VYTP Research Coalition is proud to be a leader in Virginia’s effort to reduce the harm of tobacco.