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A doctor appearing out of the smoke of a cigarette with a "NO" sign in his speech bubble.

If You Smoke, Your Eyes May Benefit From Quitting

Since most of us are “of a certain age,” I think you will remember cigarette ads on the television. Remember the antics of Joe Camel and the rugged, independent demeanor of the Marlboro Man? And, of course, if a woman wanted to be long, cool and oh, so sexy, she had to light up a Virginia Slim!

Smoking is a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration

I went to a pulmonology appointment the other week. It turns out I am fine. When you bother to look, sometimes you find old damage. Anyway, the nurse practitioner was trying to find out my risk factors for lung disease. Secondary smoke? Of course! Remember the clubs and the bars of the ‘70s? When you can cut the air with a knife, you might be inhaling a little, secondhand smoke!

Fortunately, I did not answer in the affirmative to being a smoker myself. Being a smoker is a well-known risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. If you smoke, your eyes may benefit from your quitting.

Smoking rates in the US have hit an all-time low

Things are much better than when we were young. A 2017 article in Healio reported that smoking rates among adults in the United States have hit an all-time low!1 14% of us now smoke. This is a 67% decrease since 1965.2

There are a lot of reasons smoking has declined. For one thing, you don’t see Joe, the Marlboro Man or the Virginia Slims lady on TV anymore. Smoke filled clubs are a thing of the past and we won’t even mention the taxes on tobacco products. Just the same, though, that 14% are still at increased risk of developing all sorts of conditions. This would include AMD. A fair number of that same 14% would like to quit but do not know.1

How to stop smoking

Ideas for smoking cessation are listed in a Helpguide article aptly entitled How to Stop Smoking. The Helpguide people suggest having a plan personalized to your lifestyle and needs. Know how you will handle both short-term and long-term challenges. What triggers you to reach for that pack? Is it a special activity or something more general such as stress? Be sure you know what triggers the urge for a cigarette in you.

After you set a quit date, announce it to the world! It is harder to sneak “just one” when people are watching you like hawks, ready to pounce when you slip. You know your family and friends. They can be brutal! Don’t slip up!

Make sure you remove all temptation from your house and car. If you succumb to the craving at 3 am, the price should at least involve a drive-in robe and slippers - to the local, convenience store.

Helpful resources to quit smoking

Not only do the good people at HelpGuide make long-term suggestions for quitting, but they also have a list of things to do when you are fighting the urge in the moment. Keep your hands and your mind busy. Put something in your mouth, do something physical. Any of these can be of help in keeping you from lighting up.

Remember, smoking is a significant risk factor for AMD. Smoking - unlike age or family history or race - is a risk factor we can actually control. And Joe Camel? I think he would understand.

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