Cigarette smoking may speed progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and reduce survival in patients with the disease, according to a new collaborative study from Italian universities and research institutes.

Italian researchers conducted a population-based cohort study involving 650 Italian patients with ALS. The researchers collected data on ALS patients’ smoking habits and also looked at COPD among patients.

At time of diagnosis, about 19% of the ALS patients were regular smokers, 28% were former smokers and about 53% had never smoked.

COPD was diagnosed in 44 ALS patients, and half of those were former smokers. Patients with COPD had shorter lives than those without the disease. The researchers also identified that cigarette smoking seemed to shorten patients’ lives whether or not they had COPD when their ALS was diagnosed.