Smoking has long been considered a factor in lung cancer and heart disease but there are implications for the eyes too. Smoking cigarettes can contribute to vision loss, with smokers more likely to suffer from cataracts as well as blindness. With it being World No Tobacco Day on 31 May 2019, Dynamic Vision Optometrists highlights the importance of greater awareness of the effects of cigarette smoking on eyes.
“Greater awareness is needed of the implications of smoking on vision. People are not aware that smoking increases the risk of age related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and dry eye syndrome. None of these bodes well for eye health or vision. We want to encourage people to stop smoking for the sake of their eyes. World No Tobacco Day is a good time to stop,” says Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision.
Research shows that 25% of age related macular degeneration is associated with smoking. 1 Age related macular degeneration is when the center of the retina is damaged, causing severe vision loss and even blindness. Age related macular degeneration, which is the tone of the leading causes of vision loss, is more likely to be developed in female smokers.
“What this means is that you are more likely to go blind if you smoke. Quitting smoking is one way to reduce your risk of developing age related macular degeneration and going blind in your old age,” comments Naude.
By stopping cigarettes, smokers can also reduce their risk of developing cataracts which are the leading cause of vision loss. Smoking tobacco has been shown to double the risk of developing cataracts, which is when the eye’s naturally clear lens starts to cloud, affecting vision.
There is also a link between smoking and high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes – all of which are risk factors for glaucoma, a condition that causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. It can lead to permanent vision loss. 2
“In addition to these quite sinister conditions of the eyes, smoking also increases the risk of dry eye syndrome. This is a common and uncomfortable condition that happens when your eyes don’t produce enough tears, or the quality of your tears is not adequate, to properly lubricate your eyes. Your eyes will feel irritated and appear red, your vision might be blurred and you will need eye drops to make them feel better,” explains Naude, adding that smoke not only affects the eyes of smokers but those around them who come into contact with the smoke.”
“In fact, children that are exposed to tobacco smoke have a 20% chance of developing allergic conjunctivitis. 3 This is essentially inflammation of the eyes. Eyelids can swell, become itchy and burn. It’s not something you want to impose on your children,” says Naude.
He urges smokers to take heed of the dangers of their habit on their eyes.
“There are many health risks associated with smoking. If lung cancer or heart disease isn’t enough to scare you, then perhaps going blind might?
“Quitting smoking is understood to be a very hard task but it starts with the decision to stop. Make that decision on World No Tobacco Day,” concludes Naude.
World No Tobacco Day, established by the World Health Organisation in 1987, is observed around the world every year on 31 May. It is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption around the globe. The day is further intended to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects which lead to millions of deaths each year worldwide, including non-smokers who are exposed to second hand smoke.
- Shubhrica. (2016, 09 04). Effect of Environment on Eyes: A Review. Retrieved from medind:
- Health. (2019, 05 16). health. Retrieved from
- Haddrill, M. (2019, 05 28). What is age-related macular degeneration? Retrieved from allaboutvision:
For more information on eye care, please visit the Dynamic Vision website, http://dynamicvisionsa.co.za