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Epilepsy and tobacco smoking: a cross-sectional study


There is little data concerning the prevalence of smoking in the population of people with epilepsy. The present study addresses this aspect in a sample of 429 unselected adults with epilepsy living in French-speaking Switzerland. The criterion of at least one cigarette per day for the past 6 months was used to define the status of “current” smoker. The questionnaires included questions about the type of epilepsy and tobacco consumption and were prospectively filled by attending neurologists in the presence of their patient, ensuring a reliable diagnosis of epilepsy. Data were compared with those of the “Tabakmonitoring” data collection, which gives annually detailed information about tobacco use habits in the Switzerland’s population according to the different linguistic regions. Among patients suffering from epilepsy, the prevalence of current smoking was 32.1 % (28.8 % among women and 35 % among men), while the prevalence of smoking was 19.0 % in the general population in French-speaking Switzerland in the same period [OR 2.0, confidence interval (CI) 1.6–2.5, p < 0.001]. The subgroup of patients with epilepsy suffering from idiopathic (genetic) generalized epilepsy had the highest prevalence of smoking: 44.3 versus 27.8 % in the other types of epilepsy—p = 0.03. Epilepsy appears significantly correlated to smoking. The possible causal relationship, such as common genetic susceptibility to epilepsy and to nicotine addiction, indirect comorbidity through stress or depression associated with epilepsy, beneficial effect of nicotine on epilepsy, still remains unclear and deserves further studies.

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We would like to thank Dr. S. Zagury, Dr. E. Grandjean, Dr. P. Olivier, Dr. J. Bogousslavsky, Dr. M.J. Goumaz, Dr. A. Ruffieux, Dr. R. Lettry, Dr. D. Genoud, Dr. P.A. Jauslin, Dr. F. Verrey, Dr. P. Mégevand, Dr. H. Müller, Dr. G. Allali, Dr. B. Nater, Dr. C. Granziera, Dr. P. Nanu, Dr. A. Jauslin, Dr. N. Vokatch, for their help in the filling of questionnaires. We also thank Prof. Jean-Paul Humair (Dpt de Médecine de premier recours, University Hospitals of Geneva) for fruitful discussions, and all the patients for their collaboration.

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Correspondence to Fabienne Picard.

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Torriani, O., Vuilleumier, F., Perneger, T. et al. Epilepsy and tobacco smoking: a cross-sectional study. J Neurol 263, 2057–2064 (2016).

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  • Epilepsy
  • Smoking
  • Nicotine
  • Tobacco
  • French-speaking Switzerland
  • Prevalence