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Understanding the Link between Tobacco Use and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a significant contributor to severe health conditions, including heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and lower-limb amputation. Tobacco use plays a crucial role in exacerbating these complications. Research indicates that quitting smoking can substantially reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30–40% and improve its management.


Considering that over 95% of diabetes cases are type 2, addressing tobacco use becomes paramount in preventing associated health issues.

Smoking not only elevates the risk of cardiovascular disease, a critical complication for people with type 2 diabetes but also exacerbates diabetic neuropathy, foot ulcers, and delays wound healing. Furthermore, it damages retinal blood vessels, increasing the risk of diabetic retinopathy and vision loss. Quitting tobacco is instrumental in mitigating these risks and promoting better long-term health outcomes.

Additionally, tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke can precipitate the onset of type 2 diabetes at an earlier age. Therefore, governments should prioritize implementing smoke-free policies in all indoor public places to safeguard their populations.

To combat tobacco-linked diabetes morbidity, population-level interventions are essential.

The World Health Organization (WHO) offers tools like the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the Global Diabetes Compact to reduce tobacco demand and enhance diabetes prevention and management. Implementing effective tobacco control measures not only reduces tobacco use-related morbidity and mortality but also aids in achieving global health targets.

glucose finger prick

Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that heavy use of smokeless tobacco and emerging nicotine and tobacco products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, further research is necessary to understand their impact fully.

Preventing type 2 diabetes morbidity associated with tobacco use requires a comprehensive approach. Health-care providers should raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use in relation to type 2 diabetes and promote cessation support. WHO recommends population-level interventions such as brief advice, toll-free quit lines, mCessation, QuitNow, chatbots, and pharmacological interventions to ensure comprehensive cessation support.

support group

Importantly, smoking cessation is associated with reduced cardiovascular risk and mortality among smokers with type 2 diabetes. Despite limited data on the effectiveness of tobacco control interventions for people with type 2 diabetes, interdisciplinary collaboration among health-care professionals is vital in implementing evidence-based strategies for behavior change in diabetes management. Therefore, it is imperative to encourage individuals with type 2 diabetes to refrain from tobacco use as part of their overall health management.

Read more about this in the WHO Tobacco Knowledge Summary



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