One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to quit smoking. Now, smokers from western Iowa and eastern Nebraska are taking part in a study to determine how genetics may impact their ability to kick the habit.
Dr. Julia Houfek is lead researcher for the study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Dr. Houfek says they hope to learn why some smokers can quit and others can’t.
“We’re studying a certain genetic characteristic that’s related to nicotine dependence,” Houfek says. “This information may help smokers, especially those who have tried to quit and have difficulty quitting decide the best way to quit for them. We’re also interested in knowing how smokers understand this information and then use it in their smoking behaviors.”
Recent studies have found perhaps 70% of the reasons a person can’t quit smoking may be genetic.
“This is very new information, the research is ongoing right now,” Houfek says. “We’re learning more and more about this every day. There’s a real interest among researchers to understand if we give people this type of information about their genetic predisposition to smoking or nicotine dependence, what impact that might make on their smoking behaviors.”
After extensive testing, volunteers are being given the information about their genetics and then tracked to see if they seek out the best ways to quit smoking based on that genetic makeup.
“They do not have to stop smoking as part of this study,” Houfek says. “We’re just interested in knowing how they understand the information and if they use it in any way in their smoking cessation. We need a control group though, to follow along, for comparison purposes.”
Of the 90 people being enrolled in the study, half are receiving information about their genetic profile, while the others won’t receive the information until after the study is over.
The UNMC College of Nursing received a $40,000 grant to conduct the study which may help smokers determine their best path to quit.