Smoking Can Damage Your Eyesight and Why Vaping Isn’t Any Safer

We have all heard of the links of smoking to cancer, heart disease, strokes, and lung diseases. But are you aware of the links to smoking and how it can damage your eyesight? No matter the form you use – cigars, pipes, and vaping it is all linked to damaging your eyesight.

How Does Smoking or Vaping Damage My Eyes?

Cigarette smoke contains over 5,000 toxic chemicals that damage your clear vision and eyesight, irritate your eyes, and can cause cerebral lesions in the brain that processes vision.

This damage results in cloudy vision, reduced field of vision, or total vision loss. And increases the risk of developing and exacerbating eye diseases, including cataracts, uveitis, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, and dry eye.

Vaping, also known as E-cigarettes, delivers an aerosolized liquid of nicotine, flavoring, and many other chemicals. Vaping causes oxidative stress in the eyes and increases the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma over time.

Eyesight Damaging Diseases and Smoking


Cataracts can be a natural effect of aging for a lot of people. They are the clouding or yellowing of the eye lens that impacts sight by causing blurred vision and light sensitivity. Smoking doubles your risk of developing cataracts at an early age.

Cataracts without removal surgery will cause your vision to worsen progressively.


Uveitis occurs when the uvea, the eye’s middle layer, becomes inflamed and causes redness, pain, sensitivity to light, itchiness, and blurry vision. Smoking doubles your risk of developing uveitis.

This inflammation damages the retina and iris, leading to other complications like cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment.


Glaucoma is a build-up of pressure within the eye that damages the optic nerve. Smoking attacks the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL). The RFNL collects visual data from the eye’s retinal nerves, which direct it to the optic nerve, taking the visual signals to the brain. Smokers have a significantly thinner RNFL than non-smokers, making it vulnerable to damage.

A thinning RNFL is a symptom associated with glaucoma and other eye conditions. Glaucoma will often result in permanent vision loss or, in some cases, blindness.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is an eye disease that causes permanent damage to the macula, which is the center part of the retina; it is an aging disease; however, studies have shown that smokers are more likely to get AMD than those who never smoked. Smoking increases the risk of developing AMD by up to 4 times because it constricts the retinal blood vessels in the eye and can lead to permanent vision loss and blindness.

The damage to your eyesight impacts reading, driving, viewing computer and television screens, facial recognition, and other regular activities.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome lacks natural lubrication of the eye’s surface. In addition, smoke contains toxins that irritate the eyes, further aggravating dry eyes— especially if you wear contact lenses. As a result, your eyes could be red, sensitive to light, feel itchy and gritty, and hurt.

Smokers are twice as likely to have dry eyes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the #1 cause of blindness and vision loss in diabetic adults, according to the National Eye Institute. Smoking increases the risk of diabetes and increases the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Insulin is responsible for blood sugar entering the cells. Nicotine alters the cells, so they don’t respond to insulin, which increases blood sugar levels. Many other chemicals in tobacco products damage cells and cause insulin resistance.

People who smoke have a higher risk of belly fat, even if they aren’t overweight; this increases the risk for type 2 diabetes. Smokers are 30% to 40% more likely to get type 2 diabetes than non-smokers.

Diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels found in the retina, causing leakage of blood and fluid into the eye.

Can Vaping Damage Your Eyesight?

Even though vaping is marketed as a safer option, studies show it isn’t. People who use E-cigarettes (vapes) showed dry eye and poor tear film quality compared to non-vapors and non-smokers. You will notice your eyes feel scratchy and itchy, are red or hurt, and have a sensitivity to light.

A 2021 study by the University of California found that vapers were 34% more likely to suffer from visual impairments than non-vapors and non-smokers. Vision impairments include oxidative stress, which increases your risk for cataracts or glaucoma, as described above, and macular degeneration at younger ages.

Dry macula degeneration is the deterioration of the retina, and wet macula degeneration is the excess of blood vessels growing under the retina.

Both cataracts and glaucoma reduce vision and, if left untreated, can lead to blindness,

Other Considerations of Smoking and Eyesight Damage

Your Eyesight Damage and Color Vision

A study found that smoking damages your eyesight color vision. The eyes pull in the image, and the brain processes and analyzes the image. So, the brain filters the information delivered by the eyes. Smoking damages the blood vessels and neurons in the retina of the eye.

According to a research study done at Rutgers University, the study found that smoking causes problems with color vision. Smoking affected blue-yellow and red-green vision; smokers could not distinguish between specific colors and contrasts.

Secondhand Smoke and Eyesight Damage in Kids

Secondhand smoke affects the dense network of blood vessels in the back of the eye, supplying the retina with oxygen and nutrients. A study found that children exposed to smokers regularly had a weakening of the dense blood vessel network and showed chronic eye diseases earlier in their adulthood than children with little to no smoke exposure.

Studies continue to explore all the effects on children’s eyesight damage from secondhand smoke.

Schedule Your Regular Eye Exams

If you’re struggling with any eyesight issues, you must make an appointment with us regardless of whether you’re a smoker, ex-smoker, or non-smoker. Quality eye care is essential to ward off some eye diseases or treat the ones you have and preserve your eyesight and vision.

Looking Glass Optical is here for you! To make an appointment contact us online or by phone.