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Quitters Win

Smoking harms health in general, but for those with multiple sclerosis (MS), the stakes are now known to be even higher. It turns out that when smokers are diagnosed with MS and they continue to smoke, the disease progresses much more quickly, according to new research published in JAMA Neurology. Conversely, smokers who quit as soon as they learn they have MS, fare better in the long term.

It’s been known awhile that smoking is a risk factor for developing MS but this is the first time that research demonstrated a clear link between continuing to smoke and detrimental disease experience. In this study, a group of 728 patients who smoked at diagnosis of their MS were tracked for numerous years afterwards. Of these smokers, 332 continued to light up after learning of the disease. The study took into account gender and age at diagnosis, while tracking smoking (or not) for each year after diagnosis, as well as tracking the course of the disease.

For each year that a patient continued smoking after diagnosis, he or she faced a 4.7% accelerated rate of converting to the secondary progressive form of MS. Looking at the numbers in another way, those who kept smoking developed the progressive form of MS eight years sooner than those who kicked the habit. This means that quitting smoking delays the more severe and debilitating form of MS, thus protecting better health for eight years (on average).

This really is a “good news” story. The research clearly showed that people who stop smoking when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis do better in the long run. Better outcomes are in your hands. This is certainly one time when quitting pays off.


Ramanujam R, Hedstrom A, Manouchehrinia A, et al. Effect of smoking cessation on multiple sclerosis prognosis. JAMA Neur Sept 8, 2015 (online).

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