Assistant Professor Roberto Cancio Receives Grant to Study Youth Vaping from Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program of California

The University of California’s Research Grants Program Office has awarded Assistant Professor of Sociology Roberto Cancio, Ph.D., C.P.E., a $853,800 New Investigator Award through the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) for his project entitled, “Vaping in Los Angeles: Youths’ Perceptions, Behaviors, and Outlet Density.”

The study will explore the commercial and social factors that guide adolescents’ decisions to use vaping products. Approximately 50 adolescents, aged 14-19, will participate in the three-year study, which will help cultivate a better understanding of the popularity and normalization of new tobacco products among youths, as well as adolescent tobacco-related health disparities.

Early adolescent use of tobacco is known to present a heightened risk for addiction, psychiatric and medical disorders, poor psychosocial functioning, and even death. Despite a significant increase in vaping by adolescents, and related health risks, research on access patterns of tobacco products is scant. Reporting and discussing future findings will be critical in forming effective regulations and understanding how vaping has exacerbated a public health epidemic in Los Angeles and beyond.

“Overall, my research agenda is rooted in my life story as a Latino, born and raised in the eastside of Los Angeles, CA and seeing families, especially my own, interact with the unique and complex hardships in a socio-political environment that is traditionally hostile to people of color,” said Cancio. “This project is an opportunity for me to potentially contribute knowledge that can help my community while addressing a true epidemic among youth, youth vaping.”

Cancio will also use this opportunity to critique existing theoretical paradigms and research methodologies utilized in traditional tobacco-related disease exploration. By employing both qualitative, narrative-based research and quantitative, spatial data methodologies, this project will address social, economic, geographical, and historical forces surrounding tobacco products in order to understand the experiences of adolescents with tobacco outlets and other social sources (suppliers).

In the spirit of LMU’s mission, tradition of community, and Lion values, this social-justice oriented research opportunity allows for a wide range of participation. This project provides funding for faculty, staff, and undergraduate student researchers and will draw from subject-matter expertise across multiple disciplines.

“Student researchers involved will experience whole person learning as they engage in critical thinking and discourse that promotes the formation of character and values, meaning and purpose,” Cancio said. “For undergraduate student researchers involved, this project directs students’ attention beyond the classroom, beyond the needs of the surrounding LMU community, and ends with students realizing that social issues are not just singular problems, but existential concerns.”

Cancio began his career at LMU in 2017 with the Psychology Applied Research Center, under the direction of Dr. Cheryl Grills. “I am grateful for the many skills and lessons I received from Drs. Grills, Villanueva, and Terry. Working with strong women of color has left and continues to leave endless impressions not only on my vocation as a scholar, but also as a person.” In 2019, Cancio joined the Sociology Department and currently teaches Health and Social Justice, Liberation Sociology, and Quantitative Methods. His research and teaching is community-based, and focuses on the intersection of social, behavioral mechanisms, and pathways underpinning resilience and susceptibility that take into account how culture and context affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of life outcomes for under-resourced communities of color.