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Patients that have diabetes and smoke are more likely to develop serious, often fatal, complications. This article outlines the risk associated with smoking and diabetes and strategies to quit smoking.

The fact that smoking is detrimental to the health of everyone who does it has been proven repeatedly. Smoking is associated with the development of several different chronic, and potentially fatal diseases, one of which is diabetes. Smoking is not only an independent risk factor for diabetes, but it is also increases the risk of several different complications.

What diseases are diabetic smokers at risk of?

Like smokers, diabetics have a much higher risk of developing several different diseases. When combine smoking and diabetes, the risk of these diseases shoots up that much more. Diabetes and smoking can quite literally be a deadly combo.

These are the diseases you are more likely to get if you have diabetes and are a smoker:

  • Heart disease, stroke, and circulation problems. Smoking doubles the risk of heart disease for diabetics. This is because long-term high levels of glucose and smoking damage blood vessels, making it much easier for fatty deposits to develop in the arteries. Over time, the arteries (a type of blood vessel), start to narrow, making blood flow much harder. If the arteries that supply oxygen to the heart muscle are damaged, you have a heart attack on your hands, and if this occurs in the blood vessels of the brain, you can have a stroke.
  • Kidney problems. Smoking doubles the risk of kidney disease.
  • Erectile dysfunction. Smoking doubles the risk of erectile dysfunction.

Can smoking cause diabetes?

It is well known that smoking increases your risk of several different diseases, and diabetes is no exception. In fact, smoking has been shown to increase your risk of developing insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells are no longer sensitive to the effects of insulin (the hormone that helps metabolize glucose). Insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes. Thus, smoking can lead to the development of diabetes.

What are some strategies that can help me quit?

The first step is to actually want to quit. None of the strategies for quitting smoking will work if you don’t want to do it. Once you have decided that you want to make this decision and quit smoking, these are some tips that can help.

Set a time

You don’t have to quit right away, especially if you have a stressful even coming up that might make you want to smoke. Wait until you are past a major event or a work deadline that would be causing you stress and make that the day you quit.

Tell your loved ones and a doctor

It is important to have support from loved ones when it comes to quitting an addictive habit. If they know that you are ready to quit, they can help keep you distracted from smoking and provide general support. It is also good to tell your doctor as they can offer you resources to help you quit.

Make it inconvenient for yourself to smoke

Remove all items in your house that are conducive to smoking, including ash trays, lighters, matches and packs of cigarettes.

Come up with a coping mechanism when you want a cigarette

Whenever you feel the need to have a cigarette, take a deep breath, hold your breath for 10 seconds and then release your breath slowly. You can also substitute a non-addictive substance for cigarettes. For example, if you crave a cigarette, have fruit or a large glass of water.

Go to places that ban smoking

Being in places where people smoke can trigger you to start smoking. Fortunately, nowadays, there are many places that don’t allow you to smoke. This includes libraries, theaters, museums and even restaurants.

Hang out with people who don’t smoke

Being around smokers can be very difficult when you are trying to quit, so it’s best to spend as much time as you can around people who don’t smoke or are also trying to quit. Chances are, your non-smoking friends don’t like to be around smokers either, so they will go to places where people don’t smoke.


Many people smoke to reduce their stress. However, there are several ways to de-stress, one of which is exercising. As exercising is also beneficial for diabetes, you can kill two birds with one stone. Exercising regularly will also have you feeling great, which will reduce your need to reach for a smoke.

Limit caffeine and alcohol

Drinks that have caffeine, such as coffee and pop, can increase your need to have a smoke. Similarly, drinking alcohol can also cause you to reach for a cigarette.

Keep your hands busy

If you keep your hands busy with activities such as drawing, typing, knitting, texting or cooking, your hands will be too busy to reach for a cigarette.

Change your patterns

If you know you always have a cigarette when you go for a walk during your lunch break, then don’t go for a walk or go for a walk with a friend instead. Change your habits so you are no longer doing the things that triggered you to smoke before.

Make it hard to get to cigarette

If you still have a cigarette on you, you wrap it in paper and a rubber band. Since it will be harder to get to, it will take you longer to light up which will give you more time to stop and actually notice what you are doing.

Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy includes products such as nicotine patches, gum or lozenges. These can help stop your nicotine addiction by replacing your source of nicotine. Some of these are over-the-counter medications, while others require a prescription.


Smoking is extremely detrimental to your health and increases your risk of several different complications that you already at a high risk for if you have diabetes. Try to quit as soon as possible in order to reduce these risks. If you find yourself unable to stop smoking on your own, ask your primary care provider for help.

  • Chang, S. A. (2012). Smoking and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes & metabolism journal, 36(6), 399-403.
  • Eliasson, B. (2003). Cigarette smoking and diabetes. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 45(5), 405-413.
  • Fagard, R. H., & Nilsson, P. M. (2009). Smoking and diabetes—The double health hazard!. Primary care diabetes, 3(4), 205-209.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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