Monday, February 25, 2019

Study concludes smoking can diminish photographers' color vision acuity

Color Acuity - RGB Color CircleThe deadly health effects of tobacco were made known in 1964, when Luther L. Terry, M.D., then Surgeon General of the U.S., released the first report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. From that report and subsequent ones, we know that smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and a myriad of other serious diseases.

According to the CDC, the statistics about smokers contracting life threatening diseases compared to non-smokers are startling.
  • Smokers are more likely to contract coronary heart disease by 200%-400%.
  • Smokers are more likely to experience a stroke by 200%-400%.
  • Smokers are more likely to die from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) by 1,200%-1,300%.
  • Male smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer by 2,500%.
  • Female smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer by 2,570%.
Cigarette smoke is extremely toxic. It contains about 4,000 active compounds, including tar, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and heavy metals.

For photographers and others who smoke, if these statistics aren't frightening enough, there are extremely serious eye problems and diseases related to smoking that are, unfortunately, rarely discussed because of the life threatening nature of cancer, stroke, heart disease and COPD. I say unfortunately because smoking can lead to blindness.

Here's a brief rundown on some of the serious eye diseases made worse by smoking.

Cataracts are the clouding of the eye's natural lens. More than 50% of Americans will have at least one cataract or have had cataract surgery by age 80. Studies have shown that smokers are 200% more likely to have a cataract than non-smokers. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) causes “blind spots” in the center of the retina which is responsible for the sharp, central vision we use for reading and driving. AMD is the leading cause of permanent vision loss among older Americans. Studies show that smokers are 300% more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. Female smokers over the age of 80 are 550% more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers of the same age.

Diabetic Retinopathy damages the blood vessels of the retina affecting more than 5 million Americans age 40 and older. It's the leading cause of blindness of working-age Americans. According to studies, smoking increases the risk of developing diabetes by as much as 200%. Doctors are seeing a causal relationship between smoking and the development of diabetic retinopathy and its progression.

Uveitis is the inflammation of the eye's middle layer or uvea. It harms vital structures of the eye including the iris and retina. It can lead to cataract, glaucoma and retinal detachment. It can result in complete blindness. One study of uveitis indicates that smoking increases the risk of contracting uveitis by as much as 220%.

Now, a new study, Visual impairments in tobacco use disorder, published in January in Psychiatry Research, reveals more eye problems related to smoking. The study by researchers at the Perception, Neuroscience and Behavior Laboratory, Joao Pessoa, Brazil and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, Piscataway, NJ revealed problems of contrast and color discrimination among smokers versus non-smokers. These are critical abilities for photographers and any loss in a photographer's ability to be able to see contrast and color differences in the scenes they are photographing and their print or display output can be devastating.

While the study is small, including only 134 participants, 71 who smoked fewer than 15 cigarettes in their lives and 63 who smoke more than a pack of cigarettes (20) per day, its results are statistically significant. The participants were all between 25 and 45 years old. They all had normal or corrected-to-normal vision as measured by standard eye charts.

The researchers measured how the study participants discriminated between contrast (shading) levels and between colors shown to them on a computer monitor. Both eyes of the participants were monitored simultaneously. Contrast testing was accomplished by linear, vertically oriented sine-wave gratings with specific spatial frequencies. Color vision was tested via the Cambridge Colour Test (CCT), which uses a pattern of small circles randomly varying in diameter with no spatial structure.

Loss of color perception and contrast discrimination

The researchers found significant differences between smokers and non-smokers in their perception of red-green and blue-yellow color vision. They found a generally reduced ability to discriminate between contrasting shades and colors.

Having reduced visual acuity with regard to either contrast, shading or color perception would be debilitating to any photographer. Of course, the other eye diseases that smoking increases the likelihood of contracting, can lead to blindness. While I understand that it can be extremely hard to cease smoking, for a photographer, the ability to keep producing images can depend on whether or not a smoking photographer quits.

Of course, of more importance, regardless of the difficulty, like any addicted smoker, photographers should make a conscious decision and major effort to cease smoking to improve their personal health and to reduce their odds of contracting devasting diseases including but not limited to heart disease, stroke, cancer, COPD, diabetes, and eye diseases which can cause serious vision impairment or even total blindness.


Ken said...

So, smoking can not only kill me, but it can make it so I can't see well enough to use my camera. This is just more psycho babble to try to get me to quit. You should stick to photography instead of getting on your high horse and preach.

Ned S. Levi said...

Ken, any way you cut it, the science says that smoking is extremely dangerous for your health and those around you who are inhaling your smoke and exhales. The facts that have come out about smoking's effect on eye health are undeniable. I'm not preaching at all. I'm just relaying the facts of the matter along with the new data that has come out of the new study.

It's important for writers like me to bring this kind of information to the public so that the public can make informed decisions about their conduct.

Assuming that you've been smoking for a while, I'm going to guess that you eyes have already been affected and it's harder for you to get the photo right than a non-smoker of similar, or possibly even somewhat lessor ability.

I wish you the best

Sam-LA said...

Ned, thanks for the information about the eyes. Maybe it will finally get my cousin to quit. He's always talking about your articles here and on Travelers United. That Uranium story you wrote about the Grand Canyon is scary.

Luke-Scranton said...

Great article. This kind of information is important to get out. It's important to understand reality to make good decisions. Apparently even smoking for a short time can cause damage.

Anonymous said...

More anti-smoker propaganda. Why you non-smokers keep trying to take away our right to smoke I don't understand. Stick to photography which you do very well.

Ned S. Levi said...

Interesting comment Anonymous. Thanks for the photography compliment. The article is about photography, or rather photographers. If your eyes can't accurately see color or contrasting shades that makes it hard to produce quality images. While you may not like what the conclusions of the study are, the science is conclusive, despite the small size of the study.

Will-Pittsburgh said...

Geez, we all knew you were taking a chance smoking, but after reading what smoking can do to your vision, I really don't know how any artist, photographer or sculptor, people who depend on their visual acuity being precise and accurate could start or not quit. It just makes no sense.

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