Vision damage linked to excessive cigarette smoking

  • PublishedFebruary 27, 2019

Are you a smoker below 45 years? Have you been finding it difficult to tell the difference between colours of late? Well you may want to pause and take a deep breath before lighting up that cigarette and puffing away. A recent study by a Rutgers University researcher has revealed that people who smoke more than 20  cigarettes a day are at a high risk of damaging  their vision.

The study which was published on the Medical Journal Psychiatry Research, sampled participants who were aged between 25 to 45 years and who had normal or corrected vision. 71 participants had smoked 15 or less cigarettes in their entire lifetime while 63 participants smoked 20 cigarettes a day.

The participants were assessed on how well they could discriminate between colours and subtle changes in shading while sitting approximately 60 inches from a monitor that was displaying visual stimuli. The study found that heavy smokers had a reduced ability to discriminate contrast and colours. In addition, the survey shows significant changes in the smoker’s red-green and blue-yellow colour vision, which suggests that consuming substances with neurotoxic chemicals, such as cigarettes, may cause overall colour vision loss.


Dr. Steven Silverstien, Director of research at Rutgers University Behavioural Health Care unit linked heavy smoking to age -related macular degeneration and yellowing and inflammation of the lens.

“Cigarette smoke consists of numerous compounds that are harmful to health. It has been linked to a reduction in the thickness of layers in the brain, and to brain lesions, involving areas such as the frontal lobe, which plays a role in voluntary movement and control of thinking, and a decrease in activity in the area of the brain that processes vision,” said Steven Silverstein.

Although the researcher did not give a physiological explanation for the results, Silverstein said that since nicotine and smoking harms the vascular system, the study suggested they can also damage blood vessels and neurons in the retina.

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