Smoking may increase multiple sclerosis (MS) disease activity, quicken disability progression, and speed the transition from relapsing to secondary progressive MS (SPMS) by as much as eight years, according to an MS Society review study.
The review data shows that, although the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises healthcare professionals to inform people of the connection between smoking and MS as soon as they’re diagnosed, most patients are still unaware of this link.
Specifically, a recent study reported that 89 percent of MS patients did not know anything about the risks of smoking in MS.
“MS can be painful and unpredictable, and is often stressful to manage. Some people 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,” Waqar Rashid, MD, a consultant neurologist at St George’s Hospital in London, said in a press release.
However, “knowing that continuing to smoke might impact the disease and its progression could make a radical difference to some people,” Rashid said.
MS specialists play a key role in this by having conversations with patients as soon as appropriate, and making these discussions routine in their consultations, he added.
The data also revealed that smoking may increase the number or size of brain lesions appearing in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which could worsen MS symptoms. Smoking may also decrease the effectiveness of treatments.
The 2018 campaign will start Oct. 1. According to PHE, Stoptober has led to more than 1 million quit attempts so far and is the biggest quit attempt in England. It is based on evidence that people who stop smoking for 28 days are five times more likely to quit for good.
Organizers say the campaign aims to trigger significant quit attempts by increasing people’s motivation to quit smoking and providing products to make it easier. It offers free support, including an app, daily emails, Facebook Messenger, expert face-to-face advice from local stop-smoking services, and encouragement from the Stoptober community on Facebook.
MS Society is inviting all MS patients to take part in this year’s Stoptober. The society provides support links across the U.K., including how to sign up for the campaign, and specific help websites for those in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. More information can be found here.
Additional information on Stoptober or the association between smoking and MS can be found via the MS Society’s free MS Helpline in the U.K at 0808-800-8000 or by email at [email protected].
Stoptober is part of the wider One You PHE program, which helps adults in the U.K. make small changes to their lifestyle with a potentially big impact on their health. Besides smoking, One You addresses other behaviors and habits, including eating too much unhealthy food, drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol, and not being active enough.