Understanding smoking behaviour and providing smoking cessation support

Dr Claudia Marck

University of Melbourne

| Causes and Prevention | Social And Applied Research | Incubator | 2019 | Investigator Led Research |


Tobacco smoking is associated with worse health outcomes for people with MS. Health outcomes that are adversely affected by smoking tobacco include depression, anxiety, disability, conversion to secondary progressive MS and increased chance for other health problems. Despite the well-known facts about the adverse impact of smoking on the health of people with MS, up to 30% of people with MS continue to smoke. Smoking, like exercise and diet, are important factors to consider in all health conditions. While exercise and diet have been extensively researched in people with MS, smoking has not.

Currently, it is not known whether people with MS are routinely asked about their smoking behaviour, and whether smokers with MS get the help they need to quit. Also, it is not known whether people with MS are aware that smoking worsens their MS, and how and if smokers with MS want to receive help to quit. Whether there are barriers for MS clinicians to provide assistance is unknown. This study aimed to answer these questions in detail by interviewing people with MS who smoke or have recently quit, as well as neurologists and MS nurses.

Project Outcomes

Dr Marck’s team recruited 25 people with MS (including 20 smokers and 5 people who recently quit smoking), and 19 clinicians (13 MS nurses, 6 MS specialists) for interviews. Their results show that many people with MS are not aware of the evidence that smoking worsens MS, that there are MS-specific barriers to smoking cessation, and the information and support needs of people with MS, who generally want to quit smoking, are not fully met. Clinicians indicated high levels of support for promoting smoking cessation but were generally not aware of the most effective methods to do this and wanted more information.

This incubator grant also helped to leverage further funding for this work from Quit Victoria and the University of Melbourne, which enabled Dr Marck to conduct a survey among people with MS to confirm the findings of this study in a larger group of people. These results have been analysed and a publication is in preparation.

Dr Marck is now working closely together with MS clinicians and advocates, as well as smoking cessation experts, to develop further links between organisations in order to improve knowledge about smoking and MS. She is working with stakeholders (MS Australia, MS Limited, Quit Victoria, MS Research Australia) to develop resources based on her findings to assist both clinicians and people living with MS understand the effects of smoking and how to provide effective help to stop smoking. Some of these resources have been developed and shared, including a podcast and webinar with MS Limited, and recommendation documents with MS Research Australia.

This is the first step in a proposed three step project with international collaborators to understand the best way to guide MS clinicians to assess smoking behaviour and help people with MS to successfully quit smoking. Ultimately, the goal is to bring smoking rates down and maximise health outcomes in people with MS.

Updated: 29 April 2021

Updated: 02 January, 2019

Stages of the research process

Fundamental laboratory

Laboratory research that investigates scientific theories behind the possible causes, disease progression, ways to diagnose and better treat MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 10+ years

Research that builds on fundamental scientific research to develop new therapies, medical procedures or diagnostics and advances it closer to the clinic.

Lab to clinic timeline: 5+ years
Clinical Studies
and Clinical Trials

Clinical research is the culmination of fundamental and translational research turning those research discoveries into treatments and interventions for people with MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 1-5 years


  • Dr Claudia Marck


  • Dr Lisa Grech
  • Professor Roshan das Nair
  • Professor Ron Borland

Grant Awarded

  • Incubator Grant

Total Funding

  • $24,992


  • 1 year

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Understanding smoking behaviour and providing smoking cessation support