Cigarette companies could do smokers a world of good by ensuring that packets contain a message about the enhanced risk of seeing impairment to those who light up, according to the Press Association.
Professor Andrew Lotery said in the article that people who smoke face four times the risk of coming down with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than do those who do not smoke. Lotery, who occupies a consultant ophthalmologist position at Southampton General Hospital, said in the article not only that smokers are at even more risk if their genetic risk factor is elevated, but also that smoking is a contributing factor to approximately 20% of seeing impairment in people older than 50. However, warnings on cigarette packets, similar to warnings that are already included on packets in Australia, would provide more incentive for people to stop smoking, he added in the article.
According to the article, most cases of vision loss in people older than 50 come courtesy of AMD. The vision ailment triggers a progressive loss of central vision that is critical to being able to accomplish tasks like driving and reading. The article added that AMD does not lead to complete blindness.
The article noted that Lotery made his comments on the heels of research released via the Eye journal. The research showed that under 50% of Southampton patients did not know that there was a connection between smoking and eye sickness. The article added that over two-thirds of the patients acknowledged that they would be either likely to give up smoking, or would most certainly stop smoking, if they had an elevated genetic risk of getting AMD.
Although people generally understand that those who smoke are at greater risk of experiencing cancer, heart disease and respiratory issues, these same people tend not to know about the link between smoking and blindness, said Lotery in the article. He attributed this lack of public knowledge to “apathy” in the health services sector as it relates to promoting eye health.
The article noted that over 75% of those who participated in the study said that they would mull over the possibility of undergoing a genetic test to determine their odds of getting AMD.