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Diabetes & Smoking: The Health Effects of Smoking with Diabetes



Twenty percent of U.S. adults (about 45 million people) smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year smoking continues to result in the premature deaths of half a million people. In fact, it is the primary cause of premature deaths in the United States.

The U.S. Surgeon General considers cigarette smoking to be the leading preventable cause of disease and deaths in the United States because it is so widespread among the American population and significant as a risk factor.

But what about the additional health risks of smoking for people with diabetes? And what are the health benefits of quitting?

Health Risks of Smoking with Diabetes

Many people may not know that smoking can cause the development of Type 2 diabetes. In fact, it may be one of the pieces that can help us identify who is at a greater risk for the disease.

According to the American Heart Association about 22% of adults with diabetes smoke, even though U.S. research indicates that the most harmful effect of smoking is linked to a significantly higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In fact, the University of Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland) analyzed several studies involving more than one million patients and discovered that one of the risks of smoking is a 44% higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with non-smokers. In addition, the risk increases with the average number of cigarettes smoked daily.

For those who smoke an average of one pack per day, the increased risk of diabetes rose to 61% according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. When compared to non-smokers, the risk of developing diabetes for lighter smokers was still 29%, and nearly as high in former smokers (23%).

Harmful Effects of Smoking & Diabetes

If you already have diabetes, the harmful effects of smoking can cause even more complications. For example, smokers with diabetes are:

  • More likely to experience nerve damage and kidney disease
  • Three times more likely to die of cardiovascular-related complications than non-smokers with diabetes
  • More likely to have problems maintaining proper blood sugar levels, because smoking raises blood sugar
  • Health Effects of Smoking on the Endocrine System for Women

    The health effect of smoking carries additional risks for women because it affects the endocrine system. For example, a harmful effect of smoking on the endocrine system is the reduction of estrogen levels. Estrogen is an important female hormone and lower levels of the hormone causes female smokers to reach menopause at an earlier age.

    For women that smoke, weight fluctuation and the distribution of body fat can make Type 2 diabetes more likely to develop – and once diagnosed, more difficult to manage.

    Other harmful effects of smoking to the endocrine system can include: changes in the hormonal regulation of body weight and the distribution of body fat; plus an increased risk of several endocrine system diseases, including one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

    Diabetes & Smoking: Tips for Quitting

    If you have diabetes and smoke, you need to quit – and there is no better time than the present.

    Of course, quitting may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. In addition to the physical addiction your body has developed to nicotine, strong psychological habits have also formed. Withdrawal from nicotine causes a wide range of physical symptoms, ranging from headaches and anxiety to irritability and strong cravings for sugar and salt.

    Fortunately, physical nicotine withdrawal symptoms generally subside in 72-hours and one can typically overcome the psychological cravings in about six months. Plus, there are plenty of products on the market that can support your quest to quit smoking by reducing the withdrawal symptoms, as well as improve the likelihood that you will remain smoke-free.

  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT): Nicotine replacement therapy is one of the most popular smoking cessation methods. There are a variety of gum, patches, lozenges and nasal sprays on the market. According to the American Heart Association, using a NTR product consistently more than doubles the chances of successfully quitting.


  • Medication: There are a variety of medications, such as Zyban (Wellbutrin) and Chantix that reduce the urge to smoke. Zyban (Wellbutrin) is a mild anti-depressant whose side effects have been found to help people quit smoking. Chantix, on the other hand, is a new drug specifically designed to help people quit smoking by blocking nicotine from reaching the receptors in your brain. Forty-four percent of smokers that completed a 12-week course of Chantix quit, as opposed to only 18% of those given a placebo.


  • Other popular smoking cessation methods include acupuncture, hypnosis, behavioral therapy, motivational therapy and quitting “cold turkey.”

    Before you begin a smoking stopping program, find out what the success rate is and then determine which one best suits you and your lifestyle. Keep in mind that approximately 25% to 33% of smokers using medications remain smoke-free for over six months.

    Reduce the Health Risks of Smoking by Quitting

    When you quit smoking, you will reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. If you already have the disease and quit smoking, you will make it easier to control your blood sugar level. In addition, you will reduce your risk of cardiovascular and other related complications, while also eliminating other detrimental health effects of smoking. Here are just some of the benefits you will begin to notice:

  • After 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drops.
  • After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.
  • From two weeks to nine months, your circulation improves, your lung functionality increases while coughing and shortness of breath both decrease.
  • After one year, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
  • After five years, your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.
  • After 10 years, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker's. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease.
  • After 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker's.


  • References:

    Medical News Today – www.medicalnewstoday.com
    Center for Disease Control – www.cdc.gov
    American Diabetes Association – www.diabetes.org
    American Heart Association – www.americanheart.org
    WebMD – www.webmd.com
    American Cancer Society – www.cancer.org



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