Smokers are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis and become disabled by it more rapidly, a charity warns.
The MS Society has finished a major evidence review and says the link between cigarettes and the chronic condition is “clearer than ever”.
One study found quitting smoking could delay the onset
of secondary progressive MS by as much as eight years.
Research also found most people with MS do not realise the link with smoking, despite guidance advising healthcare professionals to tell people as soon as they get a diagnosis.
The charity warns smoking can make MS more active, and worsen and speed up disability.
Director of research Dr Susan Kohlhaas said: “Looking at all the evidence, it’s clear smoking can make MS worse and harder for the brain to fight.
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“It’s not just people who have MS who need to be aware of this though, as people who smoke are more likely to develop MS than people who don’t.”
Dr Waqar Rashid, consultant neurologist at St George’s Hospital in South London, added: “Some with MS believe smoking helps them manage stress and healthcare professionals can be reluctant to take that ally away from someone who’s just been diagnosed.
“But knowing that continuing to smoke might impact the disease could make a radical difference to some people.”
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