Smoking damages the entire body, including the eyes. The Australian government has introduced harsh laws to discourage the addictive habit. Cigarette packaging is plain, featuring gruesome color photos and statements such as “Smoking Causes Blindness.” What are Australia’s anti-smoking laws, and will they work? How does smoking cause blindness?
Smokers have a significantly higher chance of developing heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. Smoking during pregnancy can cause fetal optic damage and low birth weight. Exposure to second-hand smoke is a public nuisance and a health risk.
Australia’s Effective Anti-Smoking Campaign
Some of Australia’s anti-smoking measures have already paid off. The government raised the price of cigarettes by increasing taxes on their sale. The rate in Australia dropped from approximately 30% in the 1980’s to just 13% of the population in 20131 Australia is going further. They have introduced plain packaging with dire messages and disturbing images showing the harm tobacco can do. They will raise the cost of a pack of cigarettes to AU$40 (US$30) in 2020.
How Smoking Causes Blindness
Several major eye diseases occur in higher rates among smokers. Second-hand smoke is also harmful.
As soon as a cigarette catches fire, smoke enters the air and the eyes. Studies have found that cigarette smoke toxins can damage tear secretion.2 Lack of proper tear secretion is the definition of dry eye syndrome.
Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy have thinner layers of retinal nerve fiber. These children are 10% more likely to be born with optic nerve damage.
Smokers face a higher risk of these serious eye diseases:
- Cataracts: Men who smoke a pack a day are twice as likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers. Cataracts typically strike seniors, but even young smokers can start to develop cataracts. Without treatment, cataracts cause blurring, color dullness, and blindness.
- Macular Degeneration: Smokers are twice as likely to develop Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD), a very serious eye disease. The macula, crucial for central vision, breaks down. Its more serious form, the “wet” type, is even more likely in smokers. There is no cure, and treatments have limited effect. ARMD is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. Stopping smoking can sometimes halt ARMD.
- Glaucoma: A leading cause of blindness, glaucoma is much more likely to strike smokers than non-smokers.3 Two common risk factors for glaucoma are cataracts and diabetes, which are also more prevalent among smokers.
- Optic Nerve Damage: Several eye conditions result from optic nerve damage. Tobacco use increases the risk by a whopping 16 times.
Australia has nationalized healthcare. Therefore, the country has a high stake in the health of is populace. Smoking indoors and even outdoors is heavily restricted. Cutting rates through drastic measures will likely pay off for this country. No price can be put on good health, including healthy vision.
Editor’s Note: We cannot recommend supplements to counteract smokers’ ocular damage. The oxidization and toxins are so overwhelming that supplements would waste money and may make little difference. Spend your energy instead on quitting immediately. Electronic cigarettes and even vaping may not be much better. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs.
Source: How Australia is stubbing out smoking – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-38733502
- https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/australia-cigarettes-price-pack-smoking-tax-hike-how-much-do-they-cost-a7308381.html ↩
- Y. Uchino, et al, Impact of Cigarette Smoking on Tear Function and Correlation between Conjunctival Goblet Cells and Tear MUC5AC Concentration in Office Workers, Scientific Reports, June, 2016. ↩
- J. H. Kang, et al, Contribution of the Nurses’ Health Study to the Epidemiology of Cataract, Age-Related Macular Degeneration, and Glaucoma, American Journal of Public Health, September, 2016 ↩