Smoking rates and smoking cessation among individuals with multiple sclerosis.

PURPOSE: Adults with physical disabilities tend to smoke at higher rates than smokers in the general population. No study to date, however, has assessed smoking prevalence and cessation among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). Such information is critically needed because smoking is more deleterious for individuals with MS than for smokers without MS and increases MS risk.

METHOD: Questionnaires were sent to 700 National Multiple Sclerosis Society Rhode Island Chapter members.

RESULTS: Based on a 50% response rate, results demonstrated a 15.2% current smoker prevalence rate, which is lower than USA and Rhode Island general adult population averages. Individuals who smoked, however, tended to be heavy smokers, consuming 20 – 30 cigarettes daily, and had been smoking 10 years or longer. Smokers varied in their interest in quitting but seemed confident in their ability to do so. Respondents reported that it was difficult to quit because smoking was pleasurable; smoking was helpful in coping with boredom and with having MS; withdrawal symptoms were unpleasant; and treatment for tobacco dependence was expensive.

CONCLUSIONS: Efficacious smoking cessation interventions for smokers with MS should be developed to address a critical health need for a population of highly nicotine-dependent smokers who face numerous obstacles to quitting.