SMOKING may have one beneficial effect, according to a report in Mims magazine. Regular nicotine intake, it suggests, may protect against ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammation of the lining of the colon and the rectum, which can sometimes be life threatening. The cause of the disease is unknown and treatment with steroids and other drugs involves controlling the condition rather than curing it.

The disease is found predominantly among non-smokers, or former smokers who develop it within a few years of stopping, reports Professor John Rhodes, consultant gastroenterologist at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. Nicotine, he believes, may hold the key to future treatment, since it appears to have a protective effect by acting on the mucus in the rectum and large bowel.