USF Honors College recognizes undergraduate Shawn Zamani’s research

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USF College of Public Health undergraduate student Shawn Zamani has been recognized by the Honor’s College for his research efforts examining USF’s tobacco-free policy, a peer-enforced policy enacted in January 2016.

“A Quantitative and Geospatial Analysis of the University of South Florida’s Tobacco-Free Policy,” surveyed the USF community’s knowledge and perceptions of the policy. He also used geospatial technology (GIS) to map observed tobacco policy violations, finding campus hotspots.

The research was supervised by COPH’s Dr. Rita Debate, professor of health policy and management, and was a collaborative effort with MSPH student Sarah Power, who is the first author on the study.

Shawn Zamani Award

Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Dr. Michael Cross, Shawn Zamani and USF System President Judy Genshaft. (Photo courtesy of Zamani)

“We found that despite USF having the tobacco-free policy implemented on campus, smoking stills occurs and the prevalence of smoking is especially high around the central parts of campus, such as near the Allen building and library,” Zamani said.

The survey, emailed to USF’s students, faculty and staff, garnered more than 5,000 responses and found more than half of respondents feel uncomfortable approaching violators of the tobacco-free policy, something Zamani said is vital for ensuring compliance to the policy.

Zamani said in order to increase compliance, programs to increase awareness of the policy’s existence would be beneficial.

Map displaying observed tobacco policy violations on campus. (Graphic courtesy of Zamani)

Zamani said earning the award was a proud moment for him.

“It was a good acknowledgment of the type of research undergraduates do and the quality of it,” he said. “It helped me understand the value of undergraduate research because it’s very important to get a head start and continue with a project into grad school and beyond. I was very happy to hear from them.”

He’s planning to expand upon this research for his thesis work, looking specifically at electronic cigarettes and student perceptions toward them.

“College students are at a higher risk for being involved in high risk activities like smoking and binge drinking,” Zamani said. “Electronic nicotine delivery systems are novel and relatively new; uptake by younger generations is high and we don’t know a lot about long term effects of it, especially in regard to developing chronic conditions.”

He said perceptions on this new type of smoking product is a key public health issue.

“If it’s hooking up a whole generation of non-smokers on nicotine, then we are regressing on the long term plan to reduce smoking overall,” he said. “We need to advertise our current tobacco cessation program to students and run campaigns on campus with guidance from the CDC or Surgeon’s General Office with the unknowns of electronic cigarettes. For students, it’s probably better to tell them that electronic cigarettes are not harmless, they are just less harmful than cigarettes based on research thus far.”

Zamani will also take part in a 10-week internship in Bethesda, Md., with the National Cancer Institute at the NIH, Division for Cancer and Genetics, where he will examine tobacco use and cancer rates.

Upon graduation in December, he said he hopes to continue on with his education by earning an MPH in epidemiology and policy and practicing his public health passion of examining disparities in health.

Related media:
Halting hookah use among undergraduate students
USF program gets Floridians to kick the smoking habit

Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health