Tobacco and eye health don’t mix

Tobacco and eye health don’t mix

If smokers needed another image to help stub out the habit long-associated with multiple chronic diseases, a speculum-splayed eye socket emblazoned with the words "smoking causes blindness" might do the trick.

It is important for optometrists to assess and address the smoking status of their patients.

The frank messaging adorning cigarette boxes is part of a new "plain packaging" campaign designed to promote smoking cessation, and it could be coming to a country near you. This May, the U.K. became the second country after Australia to introduce the packaging, and it will likely grab headlines as the focus of a global health observance today.

World No Tobacco Day, an annual World Health Organization event observed every May 31, highlights the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocates for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption worldwide. The health observance reinforces the toll of smoking and tobacco use; the United States alone sees 480,000 deaths annually from smoking that ring up a financial toll of about $300 billion.

Since release of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health more than five decades ago, Americans have started making the connection between tobacco use and health complications, such as lung cancer or cardiovascular disease. But eye and vision health? Perhaps not so readily. That's why doctors of optometry play a significant role in reinforcing the dangers of smoking.

The 50th anniversary Surgeon General's report, The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years in Progress, illustrated findings of recent studies that shore up the links between smoking and eye diseases, such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The report states: "The role of smoking in causing advanced AMD, which results in loss of vision, is a significant public health concern and a major clinical issue in the United States ... because smoking causes both nuclear cataracts and AMD, it is important for ophthalmologists, optometrists and other health care providers to assess and address the smoking status of their patients."

Helpful AOA member resources
World No Tobacco Day primes the discussion about smoking and tobacco use, allowing doctors to use the health observance to truly hone a message of healthy lifestyle choices among patients. Here are three AOA member resources that can help start that conversation today.

  1. Eye See Tobacco Free brochure. Designed with new contact lens wearers in mind, this brochure encourages patients to refrain from tobacco use by illustrating the effects of smoking on eye health and good vision, and an all-around healthy lifestyle. Doctors also can visit AOA Marketplace to find the content available in tri-fold pamphlets, perfect for health fairs and community events.
  2. Access AOA public education and campaign materials. These resources offer members a customizable press kit for "What Contact Lens Wearers Need to Know About Tobacco Use" that detail the effects of smoking on eye health and reinforces the critical, comprehensive eye care services you provide. Materials include a fact sheet, pamphlet, template press release and suggested social media posts to reach out to your community.
  3. Review Comprehensive Adult Eye and Vision Examination. The AOA's second evidence-based clinical practice guideline, Comprehensive Adult Eye and Vision Examination offers information about patient counseling and education for smoking cessation. Read how doctors can put evidence-based recommendations into practice on page 50 of the January/February 2016 edition of AOA Focus.

May 31, 2016

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