Between 2010 and 2013, following the introduction of plain-packaging and a 25% tax increase on tobacco products, our nations daily smoking rate amongst people aged 14 years and older has dropped from 15.1% to 12.8%.
This year for World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organisation are calling on all countries to follow Australia’s suit and enforce plain packaging of tobacco products. This includes restricting or prohibiting the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style.
So what effects does smoking have on our visual health?
Smoking plays a significant role in the development of age-related macular degeneration- which affects 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50 and is the leading cause of blindness in the Western world.
Research has also identified a link between common eye problems and heart disease which also cite people suffering age-related macular degeneration as twice as likely to risk death from a heart attack or stroke as those without the condition.
Cigarette smoke also speeds up the development of cholesterol and fat in the walls of our arteries which, when blocked, severely limits the blood flow to essential parts of our body including the eye.
How does smoking effect the eye?
The finest blood supply in the human body is located in the macular area of the retina which allows us to see the finest details clearly. A lack of blood supply to the macular can result in blood vessel damage which can lead to the gradual loss of vision or in more serious cases, severe loss of vision as a result of scarring from new vessel growth.
The impact of vision problems
Age-related macular degeneration has extensive implications. People who have it:
• Cannot read or see detail on the TV
• Cannot easily recognise faces
• Cannot drive
• Confuse medication labels and are at risk of other illnesses
• Fall more easily and suffer more serious complications from falling
• Lose independence and may require residential care earlier than if their vision was normal.
Quitting smoking, or not starting in the first place, is a way to ensure that good vision is maintained for as long as possible. Through its low vision clinics, Vision Australia provides optical and other devices to enable people with macular degeneration to make best use of their remaining vision and continue to live independent and fulfilling lives.