The Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH), led by Director Stephen T. Higgins, PhD, is an interdisciplinary research center committed to investigating relationships between personal behavior patterns (i.e., lifestyle) and risk for chronic disease and premature death. Our work has historically focused on health disparities for the most vulnerable populations, particularly among the socioeconomically disadvantaged where these risk factors are overrepresented.


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Located in Burlington, VT at the University of Vermont, Larner College of Medicine, VCBH researchers have a specific focus on understanding mechanisms underpinning risk and developing effective interventions and policies to promote healthy behavior. A common thread across VCBH research projects is the application of knowledge from the disciplines of behavioral economics and behavioral pharmacology to increase understanding of vulnerability to unhealthy behavior and the use of incentives and other behavioral and pharmacological interventions to support healthy behavior change interventions and policies.

VCBH 11th Annual Conference

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VCBH 11th Annual Conference
"Smoking and Other Tobacco Use Among Women and Girls"
October 5-6, 2023
Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain
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Study Highlights Impact of COVID-19 on Tobacco and E-cigarette Use and Motivation to Quit

September 18, 2020 by Nicole Twohig

A new study from researchers at the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health suggests that, for some, knowledge of COVID-19 is associated with a reduction in cigarette and e-cigarette use, as well as an increase in motivation to quit.
A new study from researchers at the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH) at the University of Vermont (UVM) suggests that, for some, knowledge of COVID-19 is associated with a reduction in cigarette and e-cigarette use, as well as an increase in motivation to quit.

The study, published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, is among the first to report changes in tobacco use and motivation to quit using cigarettes and e-cigarettes in response to COVID-19.

In this study, VCBH investigators examined data collected from 345 U.S. adults in an online survey conducted in April 2020. The researchers found that a desire to reduce COVID-19 infection risk prompted nearly a quarter of respondents to reduce their cigarette and e-cigarette use, and more than one-third to increase their motivation to quit. Greater perceived risk was associated with increased motivation to quit both products, and more than 20 percent of respondents reported a quit attempt to reduce risk of harm from COVID-19. These data are consistent with recent Vermont quit line (802 QUITS) data showing increases in phone and website registrations in March 2020 compared to March 2019.

“These findings demonstrate that some adults who smoke cigarettes and use e-cigarettes are changing in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” said first author Elias Klemperer, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the VCBH at UVM. “This is important, because quitting cigarettes is often the most important thing you can do to improve your health. We recommend that anyone who uses tobacco call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to learn about resources to help them quit.”

Additional VCBH studies aimed at gaining a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on nicotine, tobacco, and substance use in Vermonters, as well as in broader national samples, are currently underway.

In addition to Klemperer, coauthors on the study include Julia C. West, B.A., VCBH pre-doctoral fellow, Catherine Peasley-Miklus, Ph.D., VCBH project manager, and Andrea C. Villanti, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor of psychiatry.

The research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20GM103644. The authors are supported by NIH awards T32DA7242, U54DA036114, and P20GM103644.