Things that may surprise you about MS and smoking

17 October 2023

a lit cigarette saying smoking and MS on it

We know you know that smoking is bad for you. No doubt you’ll have weighed up the risks? The ones you know about at least...  

Because MS skews things, and not in a good way. 

Now, we’re not going to tell you how to live your life. But we do want to give you the facts about smoking and MS, so you can make an informed choice.  

The findings of recent studies are pretty stark. Smokers with MS report a lower quality of life, more MS activity and greater disability. Those with relapsing remitting MS risk more relapses and a higher chance of transitioning to secondary progressive MS. Your brain can shrink faster. And you're more likely to find yourself dealing with another autoimmune condition too. 

The good news

If reading this makes you reach for the ashtray, don’t worry. As far as your MS is concerned, it’s never too late to stop. 

Every smoke-free year lessens your risk of worsening disability, and former smokers have the same risk of MS progression as non-smokers. 

Once you stop, the cells that line your lungs start to repair. In five years, they'll look like you've never smoked. If you can’t quit, cutting back also helps.  

Fancy a vape anyone? Think again

For MS, it's felt the problem may lie with smoke, not nicotine. So it could pay to pass on vapes while the verdict is still out.

If you want to ease off smoking, nicotine patches may offer a better solution. This way you avoid irritating your lungs and reduce the biological stress that comes from lower oxygen levels.   

The hardest message of all concerns passive smoking. Although MS isn’t hereditary, research found that children with a genetic susceptibility to MS were more likely to get multiple sclerosis if their parents smoked. At the very least, avoid smoking inside and around your kids if you have them. 

Back to you

There are several other ways in which smoking impacts your MS. Your pain tends to increase, your mood and fatigue may worsen, and you may break a bone more easily. If you have more than one serious illness, it can make your symptoms worse, while heavy smoking can leave you with added memory and thinking difficulties.

It's not an easy read, we know. For some, smoking may feel like one of the few comforts. This is about tackling a difficult subject, head on. So whatever you decide from here, you'll do it in light of the facts. As we know them. 

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