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Study finds link between smoking and epilepsy

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Study finds link between smoking and epilepsy

There appears to be a correlation between epilepsy and smoking, a study of people living in French-speaking Switzerland has found.


The study, published in the Journal of Neurology, analysed 429 people, aged 16 years and older, who had epilepsy and lived in French-speaking Switzerland.

A questionnaire was sent to each participant’s neurologist, requesting information about their epilepsy type and smoking habits.  Those who had had a least one cigarette per day for the previous six months were classed as “current smokers”.

The questionnaire

Sixteen of the questions asked about tobacco consumption (frequency, amount, type, attempts at cessation), and 13 questions were about the type of epilepsy the person had. The remainder of the questionnaire explored the possible link between epilepsy and smoking (focusing on the relationship between the timings of epilepsy onset and the taking up smoking), and probed general health (including two screening questions about depression).

'General population' smoking data

Researchers led by Dr Fabienne Picard, from University Hospitals and Medical School of Geneva, compared the answers with data from the ‘Tabakmonitoring’ database, which stores annual information about tobacco use in the ‘general’ population of Switzerland by linguistic region.


The results showed that 32.1 per cent of people with epilepsy were smokers, compared to 19 per cent of the ‘general’ French-speaking Swiss population.  People with idiopathic generalised epilepsy had the highest prevalence of smoking (44.3 per cent), compared with 27.8 per cent for people with other types of epilepsy.

Genetic link between epilepsy and nicotine addiction

It has not been established whether or not having epilepsy is the reason why people take up smoking, however there appears to be a genetic link between epilepsy and nicotine addiction.  There also seems to be a pattern of people smoking in order to relieve stress or depression from epilepsy.

The study findings suggest that people with epilepsy may need additional education about smoking.  The results pave the way for future studies to focus on understanding the mechanism that links tobacco and epilepsy. 

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