Smoking and Diabetes
Diabetes is a group of diseases in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Most of the food a person eats is turned into glucose (a kind of sugar) for the body’s cells to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ near the stomach, makes a chemical called insulin that helps glucose get into the body’s cells. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use the insulin very well. Less glucose gets into the cells and instead builds up in the blood.
There are different types of diabetes. Type 2 is the most common kind of diabetes in adults and accounts for about 90–95% of all diagnosed cases. Fewer people have type 1 diabetes, which most often develops in children, adolescents, or young adults.2
Smoking increases your chance of having type 2 diabetes.3 No matter what type of diabetes you have, smoking makes your diabetes harder to control.
For example, smoking as well as use of other tobacco products (such as snuff) can interfere with how your insulin works (a situation called "insulin resistance").4 Snuff is finely ground tobacco that can be dry, moist, or in tea bag-like pouches.
If you have diabetes and you smoke, you are more likely to have serious health problems from diabetes. Smokers with diabetes have higher risks for serious complications, including:3
- Heart and kidney disease
- Poor blood flow in the legs and feet that can lead to foot infections, ulcers, and possible amputation (removal of a body part by surgery, such as toes or feet)
- Retinopathy (an eye disease that can cause blindness)
- Peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerves to the arms and legs that causes numbness, pain, weakness, and poor coordination)
If you are a smoker with diabetes and decide to quit smoking or using any type of tobacco product, the health benefits begin right away. People with diabetes who quit have better control of their blood sugar levels.4 Studies have shown that insulin resistance can start to decrease 8 weeks after quitting.4 And recovery from surgery can happen faster.3
Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your chance of having type 2 diabetes.3
Weight loss (if overweight or obese) and physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in adults who are at high risk for the disease.5
Diabetes treatment and management can include:6
- A healthy diet and physical activity program
- Weight loss (if overweight or obese)
- Medicines to control blood sugar by helping the body use insulin better
- Insulin taken by injections or by using an insulin pump
- Patient education to address problem-solving and coping skills needed to help manage diabetes and its complications
- Medicines to control cholesterol and blood pressure
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basics About Diabetes [last updated 2012 Sept 6; accessed 2013 Feb 12].
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes Overview [last updated 2012 Apr 4; accessed 2013 Feb 12].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010 [accessed 2013 Feb 12].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010 [accessed 2013 Feb 12].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes Public Health Resource: Prevent Diabetes [last updated 2012 May 14; accessed 2013 Feb 12].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes Public Health Resource: 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet [last updated 2011 May 20; accessed 2013 Feb 12].
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