JWU-Led Study Examines Trends in Young Adult Tobacco Use


“Eliminating Disparities in Young Adult Tobacco Use: The Need for Integrated Behavioral Healthcare”
Rhode Island Medical Journal, March 2022


Associate Professor Samantha R. Rosenthal, Ph.D., MPH
Associate Professor Jonathan K. Noel, Ph.D., MPH
Izabelle Wensley ’22

Project Objective

Izabelle Wensley ’22 contributed to a study led by Samantha Rosenthal when she was an undergraduate in JWU’s Public Health program. The study worked to identify links between tobacco use and sociodemographics, mental illness, and other drug abuse in Rhode Island’s young adults.

Public Health graduate Izabelle Wensley '22

Project Goals & Skills

Rosenthal, Noel and Wensley used a cross-section of data of young adults from Rhode Island for analysis. They examined social inequalities like gender, sex, age, race and ethnicity. Through this data, they identified behavioral health co-occurring illnesses associated with young adult tobacco use like depression. They later published their findings in the peer-reviewed Rhode Island Medical Journal.

“The support from the team, students, and faculty gave me the confidence I needed to hone my professional skills, including data translation.”

Results & Future Implications

Results suggest that Rhode Island young adult tobacco users are more likely to be white and have depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, or a depression diagnosis. They are more likely to engage in harmful drinking, suffer from alcohol dependence, and participate in frequent marijuana use.

Findings from this research suggest a need in Rhode Island for integrated, comprehensive, barrier-free, and widely promoted coverage for tobacco cessation treatment in all behavioral healthcare settings.

The Benefits of Working on Research

For Wensley, the benefits of participating in a research project like this one are enormous: “The support from the  team, students, and faculty gave me the confidence I needed to hone my professional skills, including data translation. Learning how to present numbers and figures in a way that is easy for the average person to understand has been the most useful thing I’ve learned. And it was always the team discussions that drove me to think more critically about context and how it impacts the way we communicate data to people.”

Wensley currently uses these skills in her role as a research associate at Synergy Enterprises and a board member for the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance.

Read the Published Study Explore Public Health

Top Inset: Izabelle Wensley graduated from JWU’s Public Health program in 2022.