Iowa City Stories

May 13, 2010

New Study Aims to Help Smokers Quit, Maintain Healthy Lifestyle

Filed under: IC Stories: Ackerson, Smoking, Iowa City Stories — tylerackerson @ 3:17 am

Smokers at the University of Iowa and in the Iowa City community will soon have an opportunity to kick the habit.

A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health, The Treatment and Prevention Study, will seek to help certain smokers with high blood pressure to quit smoking and maintain a healthy lifestyle after they quit to prevent them from gaining weight and continuing to have high blood pressure.

“We’re trying to see if we can help patients quit smoking, stay off tobacco and try to better manage their weight and blood pressure,” said Dr. Mark Vander Weg, a physician at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and head researcher of the study.

To accomplish the goal, the study is broken up into two phases.  During the first phase, participants will receive assistance to quit smoking through nicotine replacement via the nicotine patch.  In addition to nicotine replacement, participants will also receive smoking cessation counseling to further increase their chances of quitting.

Those participants who successfully quit smoking during phase one will move on to phase two. During the second phase, participants will focus on implementing healthy lifestyle changes in order to prevent weight gain and reduce high blood pressure.  Participants will make dietary and nutritional changes during phase two to help them achieve this goal.

Also during phase two, participants will be randomly assigned to one of three groups in order to help them maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure.

One of the groups will be provided with self-help materials in order to make the necessary lifestyle changes on their own.

The second group will receive a weight-gain prevention intervention.

The third group will also receive the weight gain prevention intervention, but they will also be provided with dietary recommendations that will help participants specifically maintain their blood pressure.

According to the study’s website, those interested in participating may be eligible for the study if:

  • Your blood pressure is at least slightly above normal (prehypertensive) or high (hypertensive)
  • You presently smoke five (5) or more cigarettes a day
  • You are willing to quit smoking or have quit smoking within the past six (6) weeks
  • You are able to meet regularly on weekdays or weekday evenings for sessions
  • You are between the ages of 18 and 75

Interested applicants are not eligible for the study if:

  • You currently consume more than 21 alcoholic drinks per week
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding, plan to become pregnant, or unwilling to perform a urine pregnancy test (if applicable)
  • You plan to travel extensively or move in the next year
  • You do not have access to a telephone
  • You have recently had unstable angina, heart attack,stroke, coronary bypass, or angioplasty
  • You have severe chronic lung disease
  • You have moderate to severe heart failure, or a history of severe liver or kidney failure
  • You have peripheral vascular disease which causes you to be unable to walk any distance without significant leg pains
  • Your blood pressure is consistently greater than 160/10

Student Interest

One student planning on applying to participate in the study is Mark Fritzsche.  Fritzsche said that he has been smoking for almost two years now and has used smoking as means to deal with stress.c

Mark Fritzsche smokes outside of Burge Residence Hall. Fritzsche plans to enroll in the study to kick the habit.

He said he wants to quit because cigarettes are too expensive.  He also said he worries that he is at a heightened risk for high blood pressure because of family history, though he is unsure whether he currently has high blood pressure.

“It’s just becoming a real strain on my wallet,” said Fritzsche, a 22-year-old marketing and entrepeneurship double major at the UI. “It’s also not good health-wise for someone like me to smoke, so I need to find some way to quit and stay off it.”

Fritzsche said that he had tried to quit smoking cold turkey over winter break but was unsuccessful.  He said that he is optimistic that his chances of quitting smoking would be increased if he is able to participate in the study.

“I just need someone to stand behind me and give me that little push I need to overcome this,” said Fritzsche.

Smoking Statistics

Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States.  According to, every year more than 400,000 Americans die from a tobacco-related disease.  In the United States an estimated 25.9 million men and 22.8 million women are smokers.

According to a 2003 MARS OTC/DTC study, 33 percent of smokers have abnormally high blood pressure compared with 15 percent of the general population.

In Iowa, 18.8 percent of the adult population is current cigarette smokers, with Iowa 29th among all states according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Though Iowa has the Smokefree Air Act preventing smoking in work places and public places, Iowa still ranks 44th among all states with a 10.1 percent exposure rate to secondhand smoke in public or work areas, according to the CDC.

The CDC also ranks Iowa 22nd among states for its taxes on cigarettes which are currently $1.36 a pack.  Iowa also has a minimum price law requiring wholesalers to mark up cigarettes by 4 percent and retailers to mark up by at least 8 percent.

For more information on the study, interested individuals can visit the study’s website.  To enroll in the study, call (319) 384-5055 or contact Dr. Mark Vander Weg at Enrollment ends May 31, 2010.


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