The University of California today (May 2) launched a pilot program to foster the next generation of leaders who are passionate about improving public health and combating the adverse effects of tobacco products.

Four UC Smoke and Tobacco-Free Student Fellowships of $12,000 each will be awarded to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing research or projects aimed at reducing the health hazards of smoke and tobacco on campuses.

“UC and California have been at the forefront of tobacco control at a national and global level,” said Dr. Michael Ong, chair of UCLA’s Tobacco-Free Task Force and chair of California’s Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee.

“These fellowships represent UC President Janet Napolitano’s acknowledgement of the complexity and continuing importance of these issues, and the need to develop new leadership for 21st century challenges.”

While the latest studies show cigarette smoking rates have declined, tobacco-related diseases remain the No. 1 cause of death for people in California, the U.S. and the world. Further complicating this problem is the rapidly changing landscape of tobacco, nicotine and related products – including electronic cigarettes and vaping devices – and the ways in which they are used.

“Our students are most familiar with how their peers are using the new products on the market,” Ong added. “We’re excited to be able to support students through fellowships that will help ensure UC is smoke- and tobacco-free, and look forward to their most creative ideas on handling these challenging issues and products.”

The university is a national leader in health care and environmental practices and continually works toward a healthier and safer environment for the campus community. In 2014 UC implemented a systemwide smoke-free policy on all its campuses. UC was the genesis of the first international treaty focused on health – the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. And the transdermal nicotine patch, a cornerstone of tobacco-cessation therapy, was developed and patented at UC.

The UC Smoke and Tobacco-Free Systemwide Task Force is sponsoring the pilot program through the President’s Initiative Fund and if successful, it will be continued or expanded.

For more information about the fellowship application process, selection and deadlines, please visit: