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Dr. Taghrid Asfar Awarded a $1,253,415 Grant to Develop and Test Waterpipe-Specific Health Warning Labels in Florida

Taghrid Asfar, M.D., M.S.P.H., assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, has recently been awarded the Florida Department of Health’s Esther King Biomedical Research Award. The award supports research initiatives that address the health care problems of Floridians in the areas of tobacco-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and pulmonary disease.

Dr. Asfar and a team of health communication experts will work on a five-year project to adapt waterpipe health warning labels, specifically targeting youth in Florida. Waterpipe smoking – also known as hookah – has become a leading tobacco-use method across the United States, which may be fueled by the widespread misperception that it is not as harmful as cigarettes.

This project is a collaborative effort between investigators at the University of Miami, Florida International University, Florida Tobacco-Free Workgroup, University of Memphis, Food and Drug Administration, as well as with tobacco control media and advocacy specialists and youth-oriented anti-tobacco campaigns experts.

“For the past decade, our team has been at the forefront of working together to provide evidence of the harmful and addictive potential of waterpipe smoking, as well as to elucidate its complex nature for regulatory and policy purposes,” Dr. Asfar said.

The project will investigate if graphic health warning labels on waterpipe devices are more effective than no labels in increasing harm perception and intention to quit and reduce smoking satisfaction, intensity, and exposure to toxicants. Dr. Asfar has led the first stage of developing 12 waterpipe health warning labels using a Delphi study approach among international expert panels in tobacco control.

In this study, a set of 28 waterpipe health warning labels were developed, of which 12 were selected by the expert panel as the most effective in communicating health risks. The 12 labels were corresponded to four health themes, health risks associated with waterpipe smoking, its harm to others, specific harm to users, and its harmful effects compared to cigarettes.

Building on this work, Dr. Asfar and her team in this project will adapt the 12 health warning labels to young people in Florida, pick four that are most effective to test in a clinical lab setting, and then disseminate knowledge based on findings. The team will partner with the Golin, Tobacco-Free Workgroup, as well as with the Truth Initiative to advocate for the adoption of health warning label policies and disseminate knowledge about the harmful effects of waterpipe smoking, specifically towards youth.

Written by Amanda Torres 
Published on March 27, 2020