The World Health Organization has declared 31 May as ‘World No Tobacco Day’ ‘with the aim of drawing global attention to preventable death and disease as well as the eye damage caused by smoking.
Anti-smoking campaigns have been successful in reducing the number of smokers in Australia, and as smoking is associated with an increased risk of many eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract, diabetic retinopathy, optic neuropathy and thyroid eye disease, these campaigns have the potential to reduce vision loss in our communities.
In Australia, the most common cause of vision loss associated with smoking is AMD, with smokers approximately four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. Smokers can develop the condition earlier than those who do not smoke.
Fortunately, in the case of AMD and cataract, quitting has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing these conditions; however, it does not return to the level found in non-smokers.
Smoking is believed to have an impact on the eye through the development of free radicals, reduction in antioxidants and other protective proteins by changing the blood flow to the eye. Cigarette smoke also contains damaging agents including carbon monoxide and cyanide which is a retinal toxin.
“Health Campaigns such as ‘No Tobacco Day’ have the potential to significantly reduce the level of vision loss in our community. However it is still important for health professionals to encourage smokers or past-smokers to attend regular eye examinations to ensure early detection and treatment of any consequent ocular disease,” says Optometrist and Queensland Vision Initiative President Ms. Kady Brandon.
The global theme for World No Tobacco Day in 2010 is Gender and Tobacco, with an emphasis on marketing to women. Smoking causes approximately 15,500 deaths in Australia each year and lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in Australian men and women.