Smoking is bad for you, but it can also help with allergies, according to a new study which says that cigarette smoke can prevent allergies by decreasing the reaction of immune cells to allergens.

Smoking can cause lung cancer, pulmonary disease, and can even affect how the body fights infections but along with many harmful effects, smoking cigarettes has a surprising benefit: cigarettes can protect smokers from certain types of allergies.  The new study says that cigarette smoke decreases the allergic response by inhibiting the activity of mast cells, the major players in the immune system's response to allergens.

Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that treatment of primary cultured murine mast cells with a cigarette smoke-infused solution and activated with IgE and antigen or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) prevented the release of inflammation-inducing proteins in response to allergens, without affecting other mast cell immune functions.

The mast cells used in the study were derived from mice, but they say it is likely that the same anti-allergy effect will hold true in humans. While taking up smoking to cure allergies is unwise, Thomson concludes that the findings presented in this study are "consistent with a dampening of allergic responses in smokers."

Article: Mortaz E, Folkerts G, Engels F, Nijkamp FP, Redegeld FA, 'Cigarette smoke suppresses in vitro allergic activation of mouse mast cells', Clin Exp Allergy. 2009 May;39(5):679-87. Epub 2009 Mar 2