Tobacco smoking, epilepsy, and seizures

Epilepsy Behav. 2014 Feb;31:210-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2013.11.022. Epub 2014 Jan 16.


Tobacco smoking is considered the greatest risk factor for death caused by noncommunicable diseases. In contrast to extensive research on the association between tobacco smoking and diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and cancers, studies on the association between tobacco smoking and seizures or epilepsy are insufficient. The exact roles tobacco smoking and nicotine use play in seizures or epilepsy have not been well reviewed. We reviewed available literature and found that 1) there are vast differences between tobacco smoke and nicotine based on their components and their effects on seizures or epilepsy; 2) the seizure risk in acute active tobacco smokers, women who smoke during pregnancy, electronic cigarette smokers, and the role of smoking in sudden unexplained/unexpected death in epilepsy remain unclear; 3) seizure risks are higher in acute secondhand smokers, chronic active smokers, and babies whose mothers smoke; 4) tobacco smoke protects against seizures in animal models whereas nicotine exerts mixed effects in animals; and 5) tobacco smoking agents can be noneffective, proconvulsant, or anticonvulsant. Finally, the opportunities for future research on this topic is discussed.

Keywords: Epilepsy; Nicotine; Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR); Seizure; Smoking cessation agent; Tobacco smoking.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / physiopathology*


  • Nicotine