Smoking significantly increases the risk of developing eye disease

Specialists are warning that smokers are twice as likely to lose their vision compared to a non-smoker.

Despite the connection, only one in five people recognise that smoking can lead to blindness, a poll for the Association of Optometrists (AOP) finds.

Yet, many people do not recognise the link between smoking and sight threatening conditions.

According to the recent poll results, only a fifth of smokers realise that smoking can cause blindness or sight impairment.

Smokers are twice as likely to lose their sight compared with non-smokers, says the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

That is because tobacco smoke can cause and worsen a number of eye conditions.

The link between smoking and the eyes

Cigarette smoke contains toxic chemicals that can irritate and harm the eyes.

Heavy metals, such as lead and copper, can collect in the lens and lead to cataracts, where the lens becomes cloudy.

Diabetes-related sight problems can also worsen with smoking by damaging blood vessels at the retina.

Smokers are about three times more likely to get age-related macular degeneration – a condition affecting a person’s central vision, meaning that they lose their ability to see fine details.

In addition, they are 16 times more likely than non-smokers to develop sudden loss of vision caused by optic neuropathy.

In the poll of 2,006 adults, 18% correctly said that smoking increased the risk of blindness or sight loss, while three-quarters (76%) knew smoking was linked to cancer.

‘Not aware of the impact’

Optometrist and clinical and regulatory adviser for the AOP Aishah Fazlanie commented: ‘People tend to know about the link between smoking and cancer, but many people are not aware of the impact that smoking can have upon the eyes.’

‘Smoking increases the risk of sight-threatening conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration, which is an important reason why smokers should consider quitting.’


  1. Research surveying 2006 UK adults, conducted by Opinium between 14-17 June 2019
  2. 2017 OFNS survey data


Association of Optometrists (AOP)

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

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