Hand holding lit cigarette and showing smoke

Keum Wins Grant to Study Link Between Online Racism, Tobacco Product Use

Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Brian Keum has received a grant from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program to study links between online racism and high rates of smoking among Black young adults. The three-year grant of more than $775,000 will also support Keum’s partnership with the California Youth Advocacy Network to conduct community- and campus-based anti-racism advocacy programs. Keum, director of the Health, Identities, Inequality and Technology Lab at UCLA Luskin, conducts research focusing on reducing health and mental health disparities among marginalized and oppressed individuals and communities. His research team has collected preliminary data indicating that depression and anxiety associated with exposure to racist victimization and content online is a significant factor in smoking and vaping behaviors among Black young adults, who have the second-highest smoking rate among racial minority groups in California. “Our study aims to expand the current understanding of racism-related tobacco product use among Black emerging adults by focusing on online racism,” Keum said. Given the everyday influence of social media, online interactions can increase exposure to racially charged content, leading to rumination, vigilance and trauma associated with a host of mental health and problematic substance use issues, he explained. “With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-Black racial tragedies and violence across the U.S., there is an emerging public health concern that this substance-related coping may be further exacerbated,” he said. The Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program uses tobacco taxes to fund research that informs public policy and improves care for Californians stricken with tobacco-related diseases.


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