Feature Story

Health Center Today, January 6, 2010

Trying to Kick the Habit? Research Studies Can Help

By Chris DeFrancesco

Photo of Dr. Cheryl Oncken surrounded by women exercising

Dr. Cheryl Onckenís smoking cessation research includes a study of whether exercise or relaxation can help postmenopausal smokers quit.

It tends to be one of the more common new yearís resolutions, and also one of the most challenging: quitting smoking.

Those looking for some help could find it in one of the Health Centerís research studies.

For example, Dr. Cheryl Oncken, an associate professor of medicine and obstetrics and gynecology, is collaborating with the University of Minnesota to study the impact of exercise or relaxation on postmenopausal women who are trying to quit smoking.

"Our study includes postmenopausal smokers who have a greater risk of lower bone density and related fractures than younger women," says Oncken, a nationally recognized expert on smoking cessation. "We chose to examine exercise or relaxation treatments because they may influence smoking quit rates. They may also have an effect on weight gain, mood symptoms, and bone loss that can occur with smoking cessation."

Postmenopausal women who are at least 45, who smoke at least 10 cigarettes per day, who are in generally good health, and who are motivated to quit smoking are eligible for the study. Participants will receive behavioral counseling and the medication varenicline (sold under the trade name Chantix), then be assigned at random to either a supervised exercise program or a supervised relaxation control program.

"The great aspect of this study is that everyone receives maximal treatment for smoking cessation," Oncken says.

New yearís resolvers should know, the Health Center is offering several smoking cessation studies:

Photo of Sheila AlessiPhoto of Nancy Petry

Sheila Alessi (left) and Nancy Petry are collaborating on contingency management research as it pertains to smoking cessation.

The Effects of Smoking on High Blood Pressure
Calhoun Cardiology Center research led by Drs. Nancy Petry, Willam White and Sheila Alessi is studying the impact of smoking on high blood pressure and the effectiveness of the contingency management approach to smoking cessation. Dr. White recently appeared on NBC Connecticut to discuss contingency management. Call 860-372-8418 to find out more or to inquire about participating.

Contingency Management
Alessi and Petry are collaborating on a contingency management study not specific to high blood pressure. Call 860-299-5607 for more information.

Smoking Cessation Study for Pregnant Women
Oncken is collaborating with Hartford Hospital on a study evaluating whether the use of a nicotine inhaler, with counseling, can help pregnant smokers quit. Call 860-545-4536 to learn more.

As the Health Center works toward a smoke-free campus, the Human Resources Department, through its workplace culture program Know Better Place, is maintaining a smoking cessation online resource: "Clean Air, a Healthier You."