Smoking and inflammatory bowel disease

Smoking and inflammatory bowel disease

If you are a smoker, you may be wondering whether it affects your condition. However, quitting is one of the best things you can do to improve your health.1 Your lung function will improve, and your risk of heart attack and death from lung cancer halves within the first year of stopping.2

The relationship between smoking and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is complex.3

Smoking and your health

Smoking is one of the largest single causes of illness in the UK, causing more than 50 serious health conditions, some of which are irreversible or fatal. Most lung cancers, and many other types of cancer, are caused by smoking. Your risk of developing heart disease or damage to your circulatory system or having a stroke or heart attack is increased by smoking.4

Smoking and your IBD

Smoking and Crohn’s disease

People who smoke are more likely to develop Crohn’s disease (CD), more likely to have severe symptoms and complications, have more flare-ups and require more medicines and more surgeries. Some biologic drugs prescribed for CD do not work as well in people who smoke.3

Smoking and ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is less common in smokers than non-smokers, and symptoms may be less severe. It’s not known why this is.

While it might be tempting to continue or even take up smoking to help manage your IBD symptoms, the health risks of smoking greatly outweigh any benefits seen in UC and continues to be strongly discouraged.3

Instead, there are many treatments that are much safer than smoking that can be explored. You can find more information on therapies on the Crohn's and Colitis UK (CCUK) ‘Treatment information’ and ‘Other treatments’ for IBD pages.

A pack of cigarettes.

Getting help with quitting

Stopping smoking can be very hard because nicotine is highly addictive and habits are difficult to break.5 Lots of people manage to quit using just willpower, but it is easier with help.

The NHS offers several different types of support including nicotine replacement therapies, medical management of withdrawal, and one-to-one help from an expert adviser.6 You can also find advice and helpful tips at NHS BetterHealth.

Read about Navigating the NHS here.

You are also advised to discuss giving up smoking with your IBD team. Some people with IBD can find symptoms worsen when they stopped smoking, so it could be helpful to have a plan in place.3

There are many myths around stopping smoking which may put you off stopping. Find out from the NHS what is true here.

If you found this page useful, you may also be interested in reading our other information on keeping well such as:


IBD = inflammatory bowel disease.