Berkeley public health undergrad to study second-hand marijuana smoke as UC Smoke- and Tobacco-Free Fellow

September 21, 2017

Patton Nguyen, a senior undergraduate student in public health, was selected as one of 11 recipients of the 2017 UC Smoke- and Tobacco-Free Fellowship. Nguyen will receive a $12,000 award to help fund his research on the potentially harmful effects of marijuana and tobacco second-hand smoke in a home environment.

The purpose of these awards is to help foster the next generation of leaders to reduce the harms and social costs from smoking and use of tobacco products worldwide, and to enable UC to be a leader among university systems in maintaining smoke and tobacco-free environments.

Man smiling

Patton Nguyen

“These fellowships represent UC President Janet Napolitano’s commitment to developing future leaders who are dedicated to promoting healthier communities,” said Dr. Michael Ong, chair of UCLA’s Tobacco-Free Task Force and chair of California’s Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee.

Nguyen has worked with Katharine Hammond, a professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the UC Berkeley Public Health, since June 2016, first in as a 2016 Environmental Health Summer Intern as part of the STEER program and then in her research lab last academic year. Their study is titled Household Exposures to Marijuana Particles (HEMP) and will assess how concentrations of select air constituents in cannabis secondhand smoke compare to those in tobacco smoke.

“I’m a tremendous supporter of Patton, who is a bright, insightful, and hardworking young scientist looking to learn all he can,” said Hammond. Hammond will work with Nguyen on the UC Smoke- and Tobacco-Free Fellowship project, which will also be his senior honors thesis.

“I am passionate about this topic because most people find cannabis smoke harmless,” said Nguyen. “However in many of my classes and current research projects with the Children’s Health and Air Pollution Study, I see parallels between cannabis, tobacco, and environmental pollutants that pose serious harm and adverse health effects.”

Nguyen said while cannabis might smell better than traditional tobacco, the research on what is behind the cannabis smell is not well understood. He added that the belief that tobacco smoke is more harmful than cannabis smoke needs to be explored.

“As a Fellow, I hope to use what I find and advocate against cannabis use on the Cal campus while informing the greater public of potential harm from cannabis secondhand smoke,” said Nguyen.


By Jamari Snipes