How Smoking Affects Your Eyesight

We shouldn’t need much in the way of encouragement when it comes to stopping smoking – the health implications of regular tobacco use are well known and widely publicized.

What isn’t so well known however is the link between smoking and two leading causes of vision loss – macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. At the end of 2014, a report from the U.S. Surgeon General confirmed that AMD can be caused by smoking, and since then numerous other reports have linked tobacco use strongly with both AMD and cataracts.

In this article we’ll have a look at the effects of smoking on eyesight in a little more detail, supported by this new infographic from Shade Station:


Let’s start by looking at some of the wider implications of smoking, most notably the link between tobacco use and premature death. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 6 million deaths every year worldwide from smoking, and a worrying 600,000 of those are a result of exposure to second-hand smoke. Tobacco kills up to half of all people who use it, resulting in one person dying from a smoking-related illness every six seconds.

As well as causing both immediate and long-term damage to the body, including links with heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer, smoking can also have an adverse effect on your eyesight.

According to a report released in 2015, smokers are twice as likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as non-smokers, and WHO estimates that nearly 10% of visual impairments in all areas of the world are caused by AMD. In the UK, AMD is the most common cause of blindness registration across all age groups, and a recent report states that 25% of all AMD cases in people of 69 years in the UK (53,900 cases) may be attributable to smoking.

Similarly, smokers are three times as likely to develop cataracts as non-smokers, and WHO estimated that nearly 50% of visual impairments in all areas of the world are attributable to cataracts.

So next time you buy a packet of cigarettes, it might be worth considering how they could be affecting your eyes, particularly as you get older.