Smoking can cause many problems, one of the most notorious being the dramatically increased risk of cancer it brings. One often overlooked element of smoking is its ability to affect the eyes.

The situation is a bit different with vaping, where there is less data, but it should be understood that vaping is not healthy either, even if its direct damage to your eyes is less serious than with smoking. (Learn More)

Smoking can cause many eye conditions that affect vision, and it can also exacerbate other conditions. It can hurt developing fetuses, increasing the risk of eye complications and potentially even leading to blindness.

Smoking can cause diabetes, blood problems, and more. Many of these conditions can directly affect your eyes. (Learn More)

Vaping’s effects on your eyes are less clear. Vape smoke has far fewer chemicals in it than tobacco smoke, although it does contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive, and its effects on the body are not fully known. Vaping is also viewed by many experts as a gateway to worse habits, including smoking.

Regardless of whether vaping directly affects your eyes or not, it remains a bad habit that can be difficult to quit once you start. (Learn More)

Smoking and Your Eyes

Most adults are keenly aware that smoking can be dangerous. It can cause a host of problems, perhaps the most dangerous of which is how it can increase your risk of cancer.

It should also be noted there is no safe way to use tobacco. Smokeless tobacco is still very dangerous and addictive.

The dangers of smoking are often overlooked when it comes to the ways it can influence your eyes. Smoking can affect your circulation, which can cause problems all over the body, and the smoke from tobacco and similar products is a major irritant. There is little good to having a chemical slurry waft into your eyes, which it inevitably will at least sometimes, even if you try to avoid it.

The nature of vaping and eye health is a bit more complex. While vaping’s exact effect on the eyes is unclear, it should again be noted that vaping is almost universally deemed an unhealthy habit. It is viewed by many as a gateway to more serious drugs.

What Problems Can Smoking Cause Your Eyes?

The New York Department of Health released a helpful list on what eye problems smoking can cause. In summary, they note that smoking can lead to the following eye problems:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): This disease hurts your central vision. While related to age (hence the name), smokers are as much as four times more likely to develop the condition.
  • Cataracts: These cause your vision to get blurry due to a clouding of your eye’s lens.
  • Dry eye syndrome: Smokers are twice as likely to develop dry eye syndrome, which causes your eyes to be chronically dry and often irritated.
  • Glaucoma: Smoking can cause high blood pressure and increases your risk of diabetes. Smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure are all risk factors of glaucoma, which causes cells in your eye to gradually die. It leads to blindness first in your peripheral vision, and this blindness then moves inward over time.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: Smoking increases your chances of developing diabetes, and smokers with diabetes are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy. This occurs when the blood vessels in the eyes are damaged. It can lead to blurry or distorted vision. In extreme cases, it can even lead to blindness.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), in addition to reiterating some of the above potential problems, also notes that smoking can lead to the following:

  • Uveitis: This is a disease that affects the middle layer of the eye wall, called the uvea. The uvea becomes inflamed, which can lead to irritation and vision problems.
  • Exacerbated Graves’ disease: Smokers with Graves’ disease, which affects the thyroid gland and can cause bulging eyes, may have their condition worsened by their smoking. This can even lead to blindness in some cases.

AAO says that smoking can lead to problems with a pregnancy. In addition to sometimes causing premature birth, a baby is over five times more likely to get bacterial meningitis as a child if the mother smoked while pregnant. This disease causes the brain to swell. It can lead to permanently damaged vision due to increasing the risk of eye infections and other complications.

Unanswered Questions About Vaping

When it comes to vaping, not every question has an answer yet. While it is undeniable that vaping is less harmful than smoking, the exact harm nicotine has on the body isn’t fully understood.

It is known that nicotine can affect developing fetuses. As such, pregnant women should not vape. Nicotine is also addictive, meaning a person who takes up vaping will often have a hard time stopping.

Young people, including underage users, are also taking up vaping at an alarming rate. As already noted, many experts fear it may be a gateway drug to more dangerous drug use, such as tobacco. Obviously, if one takes up smoking because of vaping, it could lead to all the issues already mentioned.

Vaping is not the best way to stop smoking, with evidence even suggesting people who attempt to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking often just take up smoking and vaping. It also isn’t safe, even if it is safer than smoking.

Experts pretty universally agree that vaping is a bad habit to take up, especially for younger people.

References

5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know. Johns Hopkins University.

Smoking Can Lead to Vision Loss or Blindness. (December 2009). New York State Department of Health.

Smoking and Eye Disease. (April 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Smoking, Vaping and Your Eyes. American Optometric Association.