CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Three Penn State Lehigh Valley undergraduate students participated via Zoom in the annual SOPHE Student Case Study Competition on March 17. On March 19, they presented their research on the behavioral and academic impacts of electronic cigarette usage among college students to a panel of judges via Zoom technology.
Originally scheduled to take place in Atlanta, Georgia, SOPHE’s 2020 in-person annual symposium was instead moved to a virtual event due to escalating COVID-19 concerns.
Hosted by the Society for Public Health Education, the SOPHE Student Case Study gave students of health education the opportunity to display their developing expertise. Teams of two to three students were challenged to solve a real-world health issue in two weeks using the competencies required for a school or community health educator.
In addition to the student team participating in the Case Study Competition, the symposium invited a limited number of student research teams to present their findings from their independent research in a highlighted session. The PSU-LV group’s scientific poster was one of only 12 that was selected to be highlighted in this Student Late-Breaking Session.
Sahira Mughal, a senior from Allentown; Simranpreet Kaur, a junior from Coopersburg; and Fadi Mamari, a senior from Allentown, are all pursuing a bachelor of science in biobehavioral health at Penn State Lehigh Valley. In total, the group spent nearly a year conducting qualitative and quantitative research on the behavioral and academic impacts of E-cigarette use on college students.
“They have worked so incredibly hard and deserve all the recognition that they have received,” said Samantha Beebe, program coordinator for the PSU-LV biobehavioral health program. “I’m proud that their research was chosen to be highlighted in such a large arena. It's a big deal and a well-deserved acknowledgement of how timely and significant their research topic is.”
Mughal and Kaur began their research during their sophomore year after e-cigarettes began to gain media attention. Both students believed that the media focused on the health effects of vaping without addressing the potential behavioral and academic impacts. Mamari joined the project in the fall semester of 2019 to contribute additional research through surveys and focus groups conducted among college students.
"A lot of the responses we received in our focus groups and surveys indicated that many students were not really informed of the range of negative effects associated with e-cigarette usage, or they were misinformed of their severity,” Mughal said.
Results from the students’ research on users and non-users in a college population showed that 32% of survey respondents indicated using or having used e-cigarettes. Fifty-one percent of users saw a decrease in their ability to focus after using e-cigarettes and noticed themselves forgetting lessons taught in class. Sixty-three percent of users indicated that they started to vape due to their social environment and stated that their friends and family influenced this behavioral change. Seventy-seven percent of student respondents saw an increase in the amount of times they vaped e-cigarettes from the first day they began using.
“I’m proud that their research was chosen to be highlighted in such a large arena. It's a big deal and a well-deserved acknowledgement of how timely and significant their research topic is.”
— Samantha Beebe, program coordinator for the PSU-LV biobehavioral health program
Although the group did not place in the top three for the case study competition, the students said they hope to see the topic of their research poster receive greater focus in the biobehavioral health field.