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Release: Dec. 26, 2002

Resolution to quit smoking requires a plan, say UI experts

Photo: John Lowe

Every year, the top three New Year's resolutions are: "quit smoking," "lose weight," and "handle finances better." For smokers who are serious about quitting, the key to success is adequate preparation, according to University of Iowa smoking cessation experts.

Fortunately, a wide range of smoking cessation resources -- including a toll-free "quit line," smoking cessation clinics, nicotine replacement therapies and informational Web sites -- are available in the Iowa City area.

"These resources equip smokers who want to quit with the tools and information they need to be successful," said John Lowe, Dr.P.H., University of Iowa professor and head of community and behavioral health.

A clear plan to quit smoking is an important first step.

"A smoker who has a plan before Dec. 31 is much more likely to succeed than someone who wakes up and decides to quit on Jan. 1," said Stephani Castillo, tobacco project coordinator for the Mid-Eastern Council on Chemical Abuse (MECCA) in Iowa City.

Castillo coordinates a pilot program that offers discounted nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), such as the patch or gum, to smokers living in Johnson, Cedar, Iowa and Washington counties. The program, funded by a local tobacco grant, provides coupons to offset the cost of using NRTs and is one of only a few such programs in the state.

NRT discount coupons, as well as individualized smoking cessation counseling services, are available to the general public at UI Hospitals and Clinics' Smoking Cessation Clinic; to university employees at the University Employee Health Clinic Cessation Services; to university students at Health Iowa Cessation Services; and to veterans and their significant others at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City.

All Iowans can access Quitline Iowa, the statewide toll-free smoking cessation hotline, at (866) U-CAN-TRY (866-822-6879) for referrals to programs offered in their area. This service is available from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

Staffed by counselors from the Iowa Tobacco Research Center (ITRC), Quitline Iowa also offers callers state-of-the-art cessation services over the phone.

"Research shows that a person who receives phone counseling during the quitting process is twice as likely to stay quit than someone who tries to quit on their own," Lowe noted.

In responding to initial calls to Quitline, a counselor helps determine the best method for a smoker to quit, assists in developing an individualized plan and offers to send information through the mail as well as provide follow-up calls for ongoing support. Callers can also choose to work one-on-one with a counselor in seeking assistance before, during and after the quitting process.

If a smoker is not ready to call, Quitline Iowa provides resources through its Web site at Visitors can use the smoking cost calculator to see the impact their habit has on their wallet, request information to be received by mail, download materials to use on their own and send questions via e-mail to a Quitline Iowa counselor.

"The Web site offers several tools to help someone make a plan to quit smoking," said David Bullwinkle, program coordinator at the ITRC. "The Ask-A-Counselor feature is a real benefit because you receive a personalized answer, just as you would if you called the Quitline."

The American Cancer Society is another statewide resource for printed materials and community cessation resources.

"Smoking causes 87 percent of lung cancers, the leading cause of cancer death in men and women. That number can drastically be reduced if people use the quitting resources provided through Quitline Iowa," said Karla Wysocki, health initiatives manager for the American Cancer Society.

Quitline Iowa is a service provided by the Iowa Tobacco Research Center, part of the department of community and behavioral health in the UI College of Public Health, and is funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health with funds from the states tobacco settlement.

The following is a list of Iowa City-area smoking cessation resources:

  • Mid-Eastern Council on Chemical Abuse (MECCA). Provides discounted NRTs through Four Counties for Tobacco Control. Call (319) 351-4357. Contact: Stephani Castillo.
  • UI Hospitals and Clinics Smoking Cessation Clinic. Serves general public. Call for fees, (319) 356-8396. Contact: Jane Knipper, Nancy Lane-Gipson and Jane Greiner.
  • University Employee Health Clinic Cessation Services. Serves UI employees, no charge. Call (319) 356-3631. Contact: Donna Nevins, Collett Mitchell and Cheryl Heery.
  • Health Iowa Cessation Services. Serves UI students, no charge. Call (319) 335-8394. Contact: Katie Budke.
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. Serves veterans and their significant others, on a sliding scale. Call (319) 338-0581 ext.5447. Contact: Roy Burkes.
  • Quitline Iowa, serves all Iowa residents, toll-free, (866) U-CAN-TRY (866-822-6879). Contact: David Bullwinkle, (319) 384-4845 or
  • American Cancer Society, serves Iowa residents, (800) ACS-2345 or