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.


April 1, 2010

Iowa Smokefree Air Act Sees Little Enforcement in Iowa City

Filed under: IC Stories: Ackerson, Smoking, Iowa City Stories, Local Issues — tylerackerson @ 1:17 pm

Nick Wilson walks down the T. Anne Cleary Walkway every day on his way to class smoking a cigarette and nobody tells him not to, despite the fact that it’s illegal.

Under the Iowa Smokefree Air Act, which went into effect July 1, 2008, smoking is prohibited inside campus buildings and within 25 feet outside of a campus building.  Also, those who smoke outside can only smoke adjacent to public streets.

Two students smoke right outside Currier Hall. Under the Smokefree Air Act, smoking is not permitted here, but the ban does little to persuade students to move.

With the second anniversary approaching of the Iowa State Legislature enacting the Iowa Smokefree Air Act banning smoking in certain areas, students are seeing little more enforcement of the ban than they did when it went into effect.

“It’s a stupid ban in the first place,” said Wilson, a 19-year-old sophomore from Arlington Heights, Ill.  “I can’t think of one person that’s been ticketed since it went into effect.”

Campus Police Policy

Lt. H.W. Lang of the University Department of Public Safety said the policy of the department hasn’t changed much since the ban went into effect.

“When the ban first started, our policy was more about educating the public rather than fining them,” said Lang.  “Now we will issue citations, but it’s on a case by case basis.”

According to Lang, the department issues citations on a case by case basis because some of the people violating the law are from out of state visiting students at the UI and aren’t familiar with the laws.  In such cases, those violating the law will be instructed on where they can and cannot smoke, said Lang.

In most cases where students violate the law, they are either instructed to move to a spot not prohibited by the ban or issued a warning, said Lang.  However, multiple warnings could result in a student being issued a citation.

Lang noted that the area where the most citations have been issued was the parking ramps at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. No smoking is permitted in any of the four parking ramps or along Hawkins Drive in front of the hospital under the ban.

Student Reactions

Some students are cynical about the enforcement of the ban.  One student, Michael Dale-Stein, a 21-year-old senior from Edina, Minn., said there was no reason for him to believe the ban would ever be successful and should be scrapped.

“It’s not enforced to the point that anybody will conform to the law,” said Dale-Stein. “The subjectivities of law enforcement issuing citations or warnings needs to be addressed.”

He also believes that smoking has not decreased on campus since the ban went into effect and that the campus will never be smoke-free.

“The only way the campus could possibly become smoke-free is if cigarettes are federally outlawed,” said Dale-Stein.  “As college students, we feel impervious to the dangers of deadly activities such as smoking; therefore, there’s no way college students will nix the habit.”

Dale-Stein said the highest concentration of smokers on campus can be found on the north side of the Main Library and by the English-Philosophy Building. His hypothesis is that areas of high stress like the Main Library or parking ramps at the UI Hospitals and Clinics harbor greater numbers of smokers.

On the other hand, another UI student, Derek Wilson, said that he thinks the ban is working.  He said that he believes he has seen a decrease in the amount of smokers on campus since the ban went into effect.

“I don’t see as many people smoking on campus, so it must be doing something,” said Wilson, a 21-year-old engineering major from Tama, Iowa.

Wilson also said that since people have to move away from campus buildings, he has noticed a reduction in the amount of cigarette butts on the ground near buildings.

“I see a lot more people actually throwing their cigarettes into the trash since they’re smoking near them,” said Wilson. “It’s nice because the campus looks a lot better and it’s better for the environment.”

Iowa City Police Policy

The Iowa City Police Department has seen very few complaints about violations of the ban and issued no citations since the ban went into effect, according to Sgt. Troy Kelsay.

Kelsay also emphasized that the Iowa City ordinance is different from the University’s ordinance.  An example is people who smoke in their car while inside an Iowa City parking ramp cannot be ticketed, but if they smoke inside their car in a University parking ramp, they can be ticketed, he said.

The difference exists because the Iowa City Police Department views the Iowa City parking ramps as an extension of a public street, and the rules of privacy inside a car on a public street apply inside the parking ramp, said Kelsay.

As for bars and restaurants, there have been very few complaints, said Kelsay.  When complaints were made to the police, the bar or restaurant owner was contacted and told to deal with it, he said.

“We’re not saying you can’t smoke in Iowa City, just not in a select few areas,” said Kelsay.  “The state says you can’t smoke in bars and restaurants, but the University is saying you can’t smoke anywhere.”

Create a free website or blog at