Canadian researchers recently conducted a telephone survey to evaluate patients’ understanding of the importance and adherence to various lifestyle and Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) supplement recommendations. Tobacco smoking was one of the lifestyle choices looked at.
Of the 92 patients contacted, 98% knew about the AREDS formula, with 74% agreeing that high doses of antioxidants and zinc are important to eye health. 88% reported taking the AREDS supplementation. None, however, reported that they had ceased smoking. Read the abstract.
Nearly everyone knew about and took an AREDS supplement, but none of those who smoked seemed to know that they were countering all of those good antioxidants. 96% of the patients responded that the benefits justified the extra expense of the AREDS formula, but virtually none of the smokers seemed to know or be acting upon the fact that they were also paying for cigarettes which are effectively destroying those benefits.
Admittedly, giving up tobacco smoking is very difficult; and an older person may think quitting will make little difference. Statistics from the American Cancer Society, however, show otherwise:
1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s.
(US Surgeon General’s Report, 2010, p. 359)
5 years after quitting: Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.
(A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease – The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease Fact Sheet, 2010; and Tobacco Control: Reversal of Risk After Quitting Smoking. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 11. 2007, p 341)
10 years after quitting: The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.
(A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease – The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease Fact Sheet, 2010; and US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. vi, 155, 165)
15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
(Tobacco Control: Reversal of Risk After Quitting Smoking. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 11. 2007. p 11)
With better awareness about these facts and the hazards of smoking, the results of studies such as this may improve. The study was done in Canada. It could be that the effects of smoking on the eyes have not been emphasized as much there as elsewhere, in spite of known efforts by The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). If, however, a person knows the risks but continues to defy them, it could be because it is simply too difficult to fight the lifelong chemical and behavioral addiction of lighting up. It could be that a person would rather sacrifice a few years of life than face the alternative. Some say that is a personal choice. But is it a real personal choice, or is it a Hobson’s choice?
For those who feel as if they have no option but to continue smoking, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have been an acceptable alternative for some people. By delivering nicotine without cancer-causing carcinogens, they offer the experience of smoking without the adverse health effects. Debate still rages about the physical and psychological health implications, and rigorous, peer-reviewed studies have not yet been conducted. If e-cigarettes prove to be safe and effective, the dilemma may resolve, making life a bit less stressful for the smokers in the AMD population.