Quit smoking to prevent Type 2 diabetes

Why Am I at Risk of Diabetes From Smoking Cigarettes?

This is because nicotine weakens insulin action and leads to insulin resistance[2].

A health professional doing a blood test to check for diabetes.

When cells become resistant to insulin, they are unable to move glucose from the blood into the cells. The result is a rise in blood glucose levels (also referred to as blood sugar levels). Smoking has also been shown to increase the amount of abdominal (belly) fat which is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes[3].

Related: Smoking: The Puff to Diabetes

Complications of Diabetes and Smoking

If you have diabetes and you smoke, you are at extra high risk for serious complications[4] such as:

  • heart and kidney disease
  • stroke
  • retinopathy (a type of eye disease) that can cause blindness
  • peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage to the arms, legs and feet) that can potentially increase the risk for injury
  • poor blood flow to the legs and feet that make it harder for cuts and wounds to heal properly, increasing the risk of infections and amputation (removal of a body part such as toes or feet by surgery)
  • Young woman feeling unwell while jogging.

Here are some reasons why diabetes and smoking are a dangerous mix:

  • Smoking raises your blood glucose, so you have to work harder at keeping your blood glucose in check. Uncontrolled blood glucose can lead to complications.
  • Both smoking and diabetes damage blood vessels throughout your body. Chemicals found in cigarette smoke damage the linings of blood vessels and make blood more likely to clot. Over time, this causes narrowing of blood vessels and reduced blood flow to vital organs, leading to heart disease and stroke.
  • Smoking damages your airways and lungs, increasing your risk of pneumonia (lung infections). When you have diabetes and you develop pneumonia, you might have a harder time recovering.
  • Smoking damages your eyes. The effects of smoking and high blood glucose combine to damage tiny blood vessels and cause bleeding at the back of the eye resulting in retinopathy.

Related: Questions on Smoking, Tobacco Use and Health

What Can I Do to Prevent Diabetes?

The good news is you can do something to prevent Type 2 diabetes. Explore different ways to quit smoking and find one that works for you. If you have ever tried to quit and failed, do not be discouraged. For many smokers, it may take multiple attempts before being successful.

Quitting smoking will benefit your health right away. People with diabetes who quit smoking find it easier to control their blood glucose and lose weight. They also require less medication.

If you do not smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, now is the time to commit to a change.

Resources for Quitting

Join the I Quit 28-Day Countdown now! Call QuitLine at 1800 438 2000 to talk to our trained Quit Consultants, or visit participating retail pharmacies[MC(1] to speak to an on-duty pharmacist.

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.


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References

  1. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.
    Retrieved November 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary/index.htm
  2. Attvall, S., Fowelin, J., Lager, I., Schenck, H.V. and Smith, U. (1993). Smoking induces insulin resistance – a potential link with insulin resistance syndrome. Journal of Internal Medicine, 233(4), p. 327-332.
    Retrieved November 2016 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2796.1993.tb00680.x/abstract
  3. Kim, J.H., Shim, K.W., Yoon, Y.S., Lee, S.Y., Kim, S.S. and Oh, S.W. (2012). Cigarette smoking increases abdominal and visceral obesity but not overall fatness: an observational study. PLOS ONE, 7(9), e45815.
    Retrieved November 2016 from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0045815
  4. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioural Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.
    Retrieved November 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2010/index.htm