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Cigarette smoking and multiple sclerosis — scary stuff February 12, 2012

Posted by Rebecca Hoover in Smoking - why it is important to quit to avoid MS and disability.
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Freedom from smoking is essential.  Those who do not smoke are less likely to get MS and have less MS related disability.

Freedom from smoking is essential. Smoking seems to help cause MS and makes MS symptoms worse. Dumping the stinky sticks makes you healthy and glamorous.

Unfortunately, cigarette smoking seems to be part of the multiple sclerosis (MS) picture for some patients. Studies have shown that cigarette smoking increases the chances of getting MS and seems to make MS worse. If you smoke, it is important to quit.

The amount by which cigarette smoking increases the likelihood of getting multiple sclerosis is not small. One study showed that smoking increases by the chances of getting multiple sclerosis by 27 percent. A related issue is found in another study showing that it is more difficult for doctors to diagnose MS in smokers so a delayed diagnosis leads to unnecessary delays in treatment. Most frightening, even children who are exposed to second hand smoke are more likely to develop MS.

For those who already have MS, smoking is also scary. The studies show that smoking increases the amount of disability in MS and seems to encourage the onset of progressive multiple sclerosis from which there is no relapses.

The increases in disability for smokers with MS vary with the amount smoked. Those who smoke less than one pack a day become more disabled than nonsmokers and heavy smokers of two or more packs per day become the most disabled of all. An earlier study showed that, in addition to the general increase in disability among smokers with MS, smoking even causes a temporary decrease in motor functions after a cigarette is smoked.

When it comes to MS, smoking is scary. If you do smoke, this is the time to promise yourself you will free yourself from this expensive and unhealthy habit. You owe it to yourself and your family, especially the children in your family, to protect yourself and others from harmful effects of smoking. Also, please remember that if you do not smoke, it is important to avoid second hand smoke.

For an excellent study summarizing some of the research on smoking and MS, see “Smoking: effects on multiple sclerosis susceptibility and disease progression” by Dean M. Wingerchuk. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3251901/?tool=pubmed

Please let me know if you find my blog helpful. Please add a comment. What did you like? What would you like added? Thanks! Together we can change the way the world views MS. Please also join the Intelligent Guide to MS page on Facebook. I will use that page to make timely posts on new research and other issues likely to be of interest to others.

Please remember to consult with your doctors about how to stay as healthy as possible. Nothing here should be interpreted as medical advice. Instead, please use the information you find here in your discussions with your doctor.

Copyright 2009 Rebecca Hoover

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1. Herrad - July 10, 2009


Interesting blog just found you.
Have a good weekend.


2. herrad - November 1, 2009

Came by to say hello and wish you a good Halloween weekend.

3. Rebecca Hoover - November 1, 2009

Thanks for thinking of me! You have a great Halloween weekend too! Remember, holiday or no, less than 10 grams of saturated fat per day is a best bet for those with MS!

All the best,

4. herrad - December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas.

5. Krish - February 9, 2010


6. amanda - July 23, 2010

my name is amanda and i was diagnosed in march of this year. i am 17 and currently have 31 lesions. my mother smokes heavily around me and i am trying to convince her that second hand smoke is bad for me… can you help?

thank you for your time,

Rebecca Hoover - July 23, 2010

HI Amanda,

I am so sorry to hear that your Mom smokes. Definitely, if you have MS, you should not be around cigarette smoke. Why is that? Because cigarette smoke causes irritation of nasal passages, etc., can lead to more colds and other infections and those infections in turn cause more of the t-cells which attack our myelin and cause lesions.

I know you read my post on smoking. I suggest you print out my post on smoking and the information found at the following links, show these things to your Mom and ask your your Mom not to smoke around you.


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17827175 – This shows those exposed to parental smoking are more likely to develop MS.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18819696 – Also shows risk of MS increases with exposure to smoke in home.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19752304 – This shows that smoking is associated with severe brain damage in MS. While second hand smoke is not as bad as smoking, second hand smoke causes more colds, etc., and this makes MS worse.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20483884 – This explains that smoking probably makes MS progress more rapidly. Again second hand smoke is not as bad as smoking, but the problems caused by second hand smoke probably make MS worse.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17027296 – This study shows that second hand smoke increases the number of colds, etc. This is a big, big problem because MS relapses can be caused by any type of infection — viral or bacterial.

If talking to your Mom does not work. I suggest asking your doctor to talk to your Mom about the importance of a smoke free environment for you. If you doctor is not willing to help (some doctors are jerks) then one just finds another doctor who is willing to help.

Best wishes. You are smart to look at life style improvements. They make all of the difference in the world.


7. Chelsea - January 8, 2011

What are the effects from secondhand smoke on a person who has relapsing-remitting MS?

8. Michael Guzzetti - October 13, 2011

Hi I am a 55 y/o male diagnosed with ms in 1999.
I am a smoker but plan to quit, do you think it is to late for me?, even if i do quit smoking. I just found out about this so i’ve been smoking over 12 years having ms, do you think it is to late for me to have any benafit? Thank You, Michael Guzzetti

Rebecca Hoover - October 13, 2011


Thanks for stopping by and for asking a great question. Now here’s some news for you. I don’t talk about it much but I also used to smoke. In fact, I reached young adulthood in the smoked filled rooms of politics and smoked for a long time thereafter. I was a regular chimney for years. So, do I think it is too late for you? Most definitely not!!!! When you quit smoking you will find better days are on the way! I feel a lot better now that I finally gave up that stinky and expensive habit. I am so glad I did and I know you will be thrilled too. Your MS will improve and improve when you are smoke free and clear. You will feel better and look much, much younger. Once you quit, you will never, ever go back.

Best wishes.


9. cat67 - November 2, 2011

I have relapse remitting ms and I just quite smoking after 22 years. I am 44 now. I tried every way imaginable to quit smoking, non worked until now. A friend of mine told me about her friend quitting smoking using electronic cigarettes. So, I found out about them, and have stopped smoking now for a month using them. It is a vapour of vegetable glycerin and mint flavoring in mine. ( I make my own e juice for it). There is a website to find out info about it, if anyone is interested. It’s called e cig forum.
I feel so much better since I have quit. I don’t stink anymore, can smell again, breathing so good. I was using 3 asthma puffers, now I use none at all. Just wanted to let people know there is a way to quit smoking without going crazy doing it. Now there is even many times where I forget to use my e cigarette.
Also, wanted to let you know, there is never a good time to quit, you just have to do it. I quit while dealing with my ms, living in poverty, going to have to move really soon from place I’ve lived for 16 yrs, live alone now, no pets, no friends, no real life, going to get a wheel chair soon, etc.. So if I can quit with all this stuff going on, so can you. It is barable, believe me, when you use the e cigarettes.
Good Luck, you can do it!!!!!

Rebecca Hoover - November 2, 2011

Wow, that's a great story. Congratulations on your clever approach to quitting. Now that you have quit, I am sure you will start feeling better all over. I hope you read the rest of the information here and start eating healthier too. By eating more lentils and wild caught red salmon and sardines protein for protein and then adding healthy vegetables, you can get a lot healthier without spending a lot of money for food. I hope you remember to take vitamin D3 too. For about $16 plus shipping, I get enough for a whole year since I only need two of these capsules each month. Here is a link for the place I buy my vitamin D3: Vitamin D link.

Then too I would think about taking vitamin B12 if I were you. In any event, congratulations again! I am proud of you.


10. Lori - July 5, 2012

Found your article very interesting. My question is if smoking or second hand smoke is linked to Ms why does everyone who is exposed not have it? I am 36 and was diagnosed 5yrs ago. I have never smoked but my parents did a lot. However I am the oldest of 3 and the only one with Ms.

Rebecca Hoover - July 5, 2012

Lori, Good question. Smoking or being around second hand smoke increases the odd of getting MS but, of course, does not make it 100% certain that MS will develop. Other risk factors are a shortage of sunshine, a shortage of vitamin D, eating of animal fat, and eating too few fruits and vegetables. The more risk factors you have the more likely it is that you will develop MS. Then too, one has to have the right genes — some individuals are lucky and can do anything and never develop MS. This is true even within families — not all individuals will have the same genetic makeup (only identical twins have matching genes). The varying genetic makeup in families is the reason that most siblings have different appearances.

11. DAVID - November 26, 2012

In April my White count was 20, and since 2008 i have been diagnosed with anxiety, and now eye problems and got glasses in may but im still walking in to things and tingling in my hands.. i need help my boss said i have one to mess up and i am fired i cant even concentrate any more.. how do i ask my doctor if i ms?

Rebecca Hoover - November 26, 2012


Thanks for your email. I think you need to see a doctor right away and ask the doctor to do an MRI to determine if you have MS. But you also needed a lot of others tests for your mercury level, your B12 level, your B6 level, etc. There are lots of things that could be causing your problems and you need to see a neurologist to find out what is happening.

Before I was diagnosed with MS, some doctors acted as if I had a problem with anxiety too. This often happens. Folks with MS are often misdiagnosed as having emotional problems. You need to see a neurologist and get to the root cause of what is happening to your neurological system.

Good luck.


DAVID - November 26, 2012

Thanks for the help Rebecca i will get to the doctor as soon as can i will keep in touch

12. brianne - January 12, 2013

This blog was very helpful! I have relapsing-remitting ms and have smoked since around the age of 16. I found out about having ms at age 20.I am fixing to turn 30. I now believe that may have been the cause of this horrible disease. I was 1 as a small child totally against smoking, but got caught up with girls that smoked and now I find it extremly hard to quit. Knowing now that it could have been due to smoking makes me want ro make an effort. Thank you for the useful infoemation.

Rebecca Hoover - January 12, 2013

Don’t forget, there’s hope. I used to smoke myself and quit. If I quit, you can quit. You need to quit or smoking will make your MS worse. Those who smoke have more relapses and faster progression to disability. So, it is very important to quit. Isn’t it sad that the cigarette companies don’t advertise these facts so folks know about these problems with cigarettes? Terrible. I hate the cigarette companies.

Good luck to you. If you follow an ultra healthy lifestyle, you will most likely live a long and happy life.

13. Tiana - June 13, 2013

Hi, I have really enjoyed reading this article. I am 24 and 8 months ago could not move my left leg properly (severe limping), had poor balance, horrible concentration and memory (had to leave uni) and bad motor skills (could no longer play guitar or write properly or type properly). My doctor suggested yoga and meditation as she thought it was psychological…… In January I moved town and found a doctor who referred me to a neurologist, the waiting list was lng but as soon as I saw her she seemed very concerned about the spasticity in all my limbs. She sent me for an MRI that same day. I had white lesions in my brain, brain stem and spine…. it was such a relief to find out what is going on! Last week I was put on a 3day steroid IV drip and given the drug tysabri. For nowI no longer need my wheel chair! 🙂 ! week ago I quit smoking, I was never a heavy smoker, 7 a day or so, but I feel so much better!! I showed my boyfriend this article and he has quit smoking too! Thankyou for writing this, and it is so good to have something so easy to read, without a whole bunch of words I dont understand (medical jargon). I hardly ever get sick, and my advice to MS sufferers is take a powdered zinc supplement each day. I also drink nettle tea each day, it is packed with vitamins. Olive leaf extract is wonderful too. I have bookmarked this page, so if ever I feel like a smoke I will just need to read this. Thankyou Rebecca 🙂
Warm regards

Rebecca Hoover - June 16, 2013

Good for you on quitting smoking. When it comes to MS, smoking is about the worst thing you can do to yourself. Those who smoke have more disability and go downhill fast. But, quitting allows you to heal up and start getting healthy again.

14. diane sarno - September 12, 2013

Rebecca just read your article on smoking with ms.i only started smoking 2 years ago,it was either that or start drinking a lot !! lolI.i have heavy legs and have been diagnosed with left drop foot,upon falling a lot this past year thank god never breaking anything but get pretty banged up whn the leg gives out or I trip of coarse with no warning which sucks.anyway I notice I am more wably and unsteady on my legs after I have a cigarette and drinking I don’t do any more cause I apparently just get drunk to quick on not much alchohol.i was always wondering if it was just me cause of the ms or is something goin on with me after I smoke.i was actualy one night out with friends and the bartender who saw me walk in refused to give me a glass of wine because I some times drag the leg and my balance normaly sucks,so ya I guess to him I looked drunk.so hit home when that happened cried my eyes out cause for the first time it was noticeable not just to me.i am stopping smoking as of basically now.so thank you thank you thank you for writing sucha a great blog.it definitely effected my way of thinkn for a good thing.
Diane 🙂

Rebecca Hoover - September 13, 2013


It is very important that you quit smoking. The research is very clear that smoking makes MS worse and is even a risk factor for the onset of MS. I am glad you will be quitting.


15. john d - October 19, 2013

hi folks

im 33m, recently diagnosed with ms. had 2nd relapse in about 5yrs.
after initial research im starting to take lots of D3+methylcobalamin b12 and some other stuff too. also switched to electronic cigarettes which i HOPE is not as harmfull although im not sure as i cannot find any useful info on this. if someone know more please let me know here. Anyway good luck to us all im sure one day the sun will start shining again . John

Rebecca Hoover - October 19, 2013


Thanks for the post. It is very important to quit smoking. The electronic cigarettes have all sort toxic substances in them, are hazardous to everyone and are even more dangerous for those of us with MS.

You are smart to address nutrition. For most, the best way to do this is with vitamin D3 and B12 supplements and then to eat an ultra healthy whole plant food and fish diet. A few folks are allergic to fish so, of course, this would not work for them. But, for the rest of us, this type of diet reduces inflammation and seems to help stop all MS relapses. Of course, we still have MS so we have to stick with an ultra healthy diet for life. Most of us learn to love eating ultra healthy. We concoct totally delicious recipes and have become the envy of our families for our tasty food and physical fitness. We glow, sparkle, and twinkle.

A good change in lifestyle can be the most fun, rewarding and life changing decision you’ve ever made.

Keep us posted on how you are doing. Remember quitting smoking is crucial. Those who smoke usually have severe problems with MS.


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