Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Beware: a new study shows that tobacco smoke and vaping aerosols kill eye cells

A new study shows that smoking potentially damages the eyes more than anyone thought, as smoking can kill the eye's corneal cells.

Graphic: Anatomy of the Human EyeTobacco use has been scientifically linked as a cause of heart disease, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The data on smoking and those diseases is undeniable. The deadly health effects of tobacco have been well known since 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.

In addition to those diseases, smoking can impair human color vision acuity, an extremely serious problem for photographers and visual artists.

This past September, Scientific Reports, an online peer-reviewed journal published by Nature Portfolio, published a new study about smoking and vision. “Cigarette smoke extract and heated tobacco products promote ferritin cleavage and iron accumulation in human corneal epithelial cells,” by Wataru Otsu, PhD, DVM, et. al. from the Gifu Pharmaceutical University, Gifu, Japan. The study details the alarming problem that cigarette smoke and baked tobacco aerosols from vaping devices can kill the eye's corneal cells.

Even without this new information, for photographers and visual artists or for anyone who needs their eyes in top working order, we already knew that the effects of smoking on vision is frightening.

There are five serious eye diseases that smoking makes much worse.

There are five serious eye disease problems that smoking significantly worsens. Smoking increases the likelihood of people contracting them by 200–300 percent.

Cataracts are the clouding of the eye's natural lens. More than 50 percent 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):
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 percent more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. Female smokers over the age of 80 are 550 percent more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers of the same age.

Diabetic Retinopathy:
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 percent. 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 percent.

Dry Eye Syndrome:
It's long been known that smokers are 200 percent more likely to suffer from dry eye syndrome in which the surface of the eye becomes red, burning, light sensitive and itchy. This can lead to impaired vision, infections and corneal ulcers.

Smoking can seriously diminish visual acuity.

In 2019, we learned about other visual impairments that people can contract from smoking and that smoking can exacerbate.

Researchers found that smoking can seriously diminish the ability of people to distinguish between shading levels; contrasts between shades. They also found that color vision was impaired. In particular, researchers found significant impairment of the visual perception of red-green and blue-yellow color in smokers, compared to non-smokers.

Having reduced visual acuity in contrast, shading or color perception would be debilitating to any photographer, particularly when post-processing images or videos, as well as in manual focusing and when composing a photograph or video.

Smokers are far more likely to contract heart disease, COPD and lung cancer than non-smokers.

Of course there are also life threatening diseases caused by smoking.

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 percent.
  • Smokers are more likely to experience a stroke by 200-400 percent.
  • Smokers are more likely to die from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) by 1,200-1,300 percent.
  • Male smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer by 2,500 percent.
  • Female smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer by 2,570 percent.

A new study shows that smoking can kill the eye's corneal cells.

From the new study completed by researchers at the Gifu Pharmaceutical University, we now learn that cigarette smoke and aerosols from heated tobacco devices that bake tobacco leaves rather than burn them or vaporize liquid tobacco products, can kill the cells in the eye’s most exposed layer, the cornea.

The cornea is the outer surface of the eye and therefore open to exposure to all kinds of environmental factors including chemicals, light, airborne viruses and bacteria, plus smoke from burning or vaping tobacco products. According to the research, it doesn't matter if the tobacco products were low tar or low nicotine. It can be inferred that non-smokers' corneas might be affected by second-hand smoke if regularly exposed.

The study used cell cultures not eyeballs, so it's unknown how fast this effect occurs or how effective adding inhibitors to the tobacco products might slow the process. In interviews, the researchers said they plan to experiment directly on eyes in the future.

With so many health problems that smoking or vaping tobacco products cause for anyone, including impaired vision, potential blindness or death from heart and lung diseases as well as cancer, it's more than clear that no one, particularly photographers and visual artists, should use tobacco products in anyway whatsoever, at any time.


Paul - San Francisco said...

With so many serious diseases and impairments that smoking causes, I don't understand why more than 1 billion people across the world still smoke. It's crazy and so are they.

Ned S. Levi said...

Paul,I could agree more. I don't understand it either.

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