Almost 1 in 5 Iowans smoke and a program to help them quit is getting new accolades. A survey of Iowans who smoke finds 83% wish they could quit. From that figure, Operation 83 was launched.

Lori Mein, a nurse practitioner at the Mercy Clinic in Des Moines, says they work with Quitline Iowa to give smokers the necessary tools.

“Even though people don’t come right out and say, ‘I want to quit,’ they’re hesitant,” Mein says. There are concerns about feeling good when they try to quit, they don’t want the withdrawal symptoms, they don’t know if they have the support they’ll need,” she says.

“What they’ve found is that these people do want to quit and we have an excellent resource to refer them onto, which is Quitline.” Smokers who come to the clinic can get one-on-one counseling, while those on Title 19 Medicaid may qualify for three months of medication that can ease the transition to a smoke-free lifestyle.

“Which is a huge benefit, because the majority of people in Iowa that use tobacco products are in the lower-income area,” Mein says. “If we can help them get those products to help them quit and then on top of that, have the counseling through Quitline Iowa, we know we’re going to have a better outcome.”

Operation 83 is being featured in a new publication, “Staying Well,” from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. Seven months after completing the program, up to 24-percent of clients weren’t using tobacco. Only about four-percent of smokers without support could say the same.

While she’s a lifelong non-smoker, Mein says she’s lost several family members to smoking, though it wasn’t to lung disease or cancer, but heart disease. “My father died when I was 12 of his tobacco use,” she says. “He actually quit cold turkey but didn’t quit soon enough and had damaged his heart.”

The latest figures from the CDC find just about 19% of Iowans smoke, or 429,000 people. That’s slightly above the national average. Tobacco use is blamed for killing more than 44,000 Iowans every year.

Learn more at:  or call 800-Quit-Now.