USC Monday announced a $17.8 million federal grant that will help it remain at the forefront of research to protect people from tobacco-related health risks.

The grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products will be used to promote biomedical and behavioral research to build the scientific underpinning for the regulation of tobacco products, USC officials said.

“After decades of reducing use of tobacco products and cigarette use, we now face a new emerging crisis in vaping, which exceeds the prevalence of cigarette use among young people,” said Mary Ann Pentz, a professor of preventive medicine and director of the Institute for Prevention Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Without adequate regulation and control, the myriad of new vaping products threatens to undo progress to protect young people from tobacco.”

The university is part of a national, federally funded program to assess and prevent harm from tobacco products, and USC officials said the funds will pay for research for the next five years at the USC Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science, which is one of nine such federally funded research centers in the country. The USC center in particular studies the use and health effects of electronic cigarette products.

“We have an amazing group of scientists at USC who’ve been focusing on tobacco for decades,”’ said Adam Leventhal, a professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “We’ve been major contributors to scientific literature to help guide regulations of e-cigarettes and tobacco products.”

USC said the goal of the program is to provide the FDA with evidence that can be used to regulate e-cigarettes.

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