smoking cessationPeople who smoke are at increased risk of sight loss, and vision experts have used No Smoking Day as an opportunity to remind people about the risks with the launch of a new social media campaign, titled #20Ways.

Launched by the Eyecare Trust and National Eye Health Week, the #20Ways campaign highlights 20 ways smoking can damage eyesight. Every day in the UK 100 people start to lose their sight, yet in more than 50% of cases sight loss is avoidable, with smoking being the biggest modifiable risk factor. In fact, smokers are up to 4 times more likely to lose their sight than non-smokers.

Yet only a small minority of smokers are aware of the risk to eye health compared to much more publicised health risks. Only 10% of Britain’s 8 million smokers know that smoking can affect their eye health, compared to 87% who were aware of the link between smoking and heart disease.

The 20 ways that smoking damages your eyes and increases your risk of sight loss included in the #20Ways campaign include:

  • Tobacco smoke causes biological changes in your eyes that can lead to poor eye health and loss of vision
  • Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 toxic chemicals that enter your eyes and increase your risk of sight loss by up to 4 times
  • Smoking is a key risk factor for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the UK’s leading cause of blindness
  • The risk of nuclear cataracts is 3 times greater in smokers than non-smokers
  • Smoking is associated with the development of thyroid eye disease. Smokers are up to 8 times more likely to suffer from this potentially sight-threatening condition, which affects up to 400,000 people in UK
  • Smokers have increased prevalence of colour vision deficiency
  • Smokers are twice as likely to suffer uveitis – a painful inflammation of the middle layer of the eye – than non-smokers.

David Cartwright, Chairman of the Eyecare Trust charity and National Eye Health Week, said: “Any amount of smoking, even light, occasional or second-hand can affect your eye health and increase your chances of suffering sight-threatening eye diseases such as AMD… and cataracts, as well as conditions like dry eye syndrome, uveitis and impaired colour vision.” 

For full details of the #20Ways smoking can affect your vision and increase your risk of sight loss visit


For further reading on this topic, you may also be interested in the GM article: Sight loss and mental health.