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Diabetes and Smoking Cigarettes: A Risky Combination

Diabetes and Smoking Cigarettes: A Risky Combination

Diabetes Alert Day should be a wake-up call on the serious consequences that tobacco use can have on this chronic condition.

Every fourth Tuesday in March is Diabetes Alert Day, sponsored by the American Diabetes Association. Held this year on March 23, the one-day event highlights the challenges of living with diabetes. The association urges Americans to take an online test to assess whether they’re at risk for type 2 diabetes.

But there’s one factor that doesn’t require an online test to determine risk level for diabetes: smoking cigarettes.

That’s because the evidence is clear. Smokers have a 30 to 40% higher chance of developing diabetes than someone who’s never smoked. For those who are already diabetic, the risks of smoking keep stacking up—and they include serious damage to your kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and eyes.

How Does Smoking Contribute to Diabetes?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), smoking can be a direct cause of type 2 diabetes, and the more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk.

Even if you have type 1 diabetes, smoking can make the condition harder to control, since smokers have more difficulty than nonsmokers with insulin dosing. That’s because smoking can change how your body processes and regulates sugar, making it harder to control blood sugar levels.

In addition, as a smoker, you’re also more likely to have other serious health problems, including:

  • Heart and kidney disease
  • Poor blood flow in legs and feet
  • An eye disease called retinopathy
  • Damaged nerves in the arms and legs
  • Increased risk of pancreatic cancer

The increase in diabetes in the U.S. is considered to be at epidemic levels, with over 29 million Americans living with the disease and about 1 in 3 adults at risk of developing diabetes within the next 5 years.

The good news is that quitting smoking can have a major impact, both on whether your employees or members develop diabetes, and on how well they manage their condition if they already have it.

Tailored Support for Smoking and Diabetes

Given the serious impact of smoking for those with diabetes, it’s essential to have tools that can support a quit effort. But it’s not enough to offer resources that provide general guidance and quit medications. Diabetics need support tailored to their condition.

That’s why the EX Program offers an experience for diabetics who smoke that is personalized to their needs.

This includes:

  • Text messaging content for tobacco users with diabetes
  • EX Coaches who are trained on chronic conditions and smoking
  • Expert content on diabetes and tobacco use, created in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, to guide decision making
  • Peer support through our active online community, like this post here, for example: “I’m a diabetic, is there anyone else here a diabetic?”

For our clients, we offer promotional campaign materials, too, such as this intranet ad below, to make sure diabetics who smoke know you offer an effective solution to help them quit.

How to Best Address Diabetes AND Smoking Cigarettes

On this Diabetes Alert Day, consider what diabetics need when it comes to lowering their risks—whether those with diabetes are in your workplace or members in your health plan. And promote support to help them quit smoking cigarettes if they have diabetes.

Need a proven digital health program for tobacco addiction that engages employees or members wherever they are? Visit our program page to learn more about the EX Program or easily schedule a demo today!


Jessie Saul, Ph.D.
Jessie Saul, Ph.D.

Client Success Director

Dr. Jessie Saul brings 16 years of experience in program evaluation and strategic planning with tobacco cessation. She applies this deep understanding to help clients improve program performance and reduce tobacco use among populations. She earned her Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University.

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