WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO
According to the CDC, smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, where it is causally linked with more than 480,000 deaths per year and $289 billion per year in economic costs. Globally, the WHO reports that there are approximately 1 billion smokers, nearly 80% of whom live in low- to middle-income countries, and 6 million of them die every year from smoking-related causes. Smoking is causally linked to at least 15 types of cancer and more than 20 chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Smokers die on average 14 years earlier than non-smokers. While smoking rates in the U.S. have declined, nearly one in five adults in this country still smokes and adolescents continue to initiate smoking at alarming rates. Every day in the U.S., 3800 adolescents try smoking for the first time and 2100 youth transition to daily smoking. Furthermore, youth are now being introduced to nicotine via electronic cigarettes. From 2013 to 2014, e-cigarettes use among adolescents tripled and now more adolescents have tried e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes. Studies show that e-cigarette use places adolescents at risk for progressing to smoking traditional cigarettes and to dual use of both electronic and traditional cigarettes. Given the widespread use of tobacco products and their staggering health and economic consequences, it is essential to develop better ways to prevent adolescents from beginning to smoke and help adults quit smoking.
The overarching goal of Dr. Morrell's research is to prevent and ameliorate the considerable morbidity and mortality associated with cigarette smoking. She is currently most interested in studying (1) factors that hinder successful smoking cessation in adults, with the goal of informing and improving current evidence-based smoking cessation programs; (2) the influence of anxiety and depression on smoking patterns, because 44% of cigarettes smoked in the U.S. are smoked by individuals with mental illness; (3) predictors of e-cigarette use; (4) the relationship between trauma, including Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and smoking; and (4) the relationship between video game addiction and smoking. In the past, Dr. Morrell studied predictors of and mechanisms underlying adolescent smoking initiation. While she still publishes studies based on previously collected adolescent data, she is moving away from adolescent research.
We have several studies that are currently in the conceptualization, data collection, and data analysis stages. Dr. Morrell is working on all of these projects directly with students, or she has concrete plans to get students involved. The following is not an exhaustive list of ongoing projects. We are collecting data on the relationship between mindfulness and e-cigarette use. We are also analyzing data on the relationships among body image, body dissatisfaction, and both traditional and e-cigarette use. We are nearly finished collecting data on adherence to smoking recommendations among adult cardiac patients. We recently completed two studies that are ready for analysis: an ecological momentary assessment study on the real-time relationship between anxiety and smoking among adults, and a survey study of smoking correlates among middle and high school students that is part of a randomized clinical trial of a novel, web-based smoking prevention program for adolescents. We are also nearly finished developing a study on social and psychological predictors of video game addiction, and plan to start data collection within the year.