2 July 2019
Source: Association of Optometrists
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is today warning that millions of smokers in the UK are putting themselves at increased risk of blindness or sight impairment by continuing with the habit. This comes as almost all (96%) optometrists surveyed as part of the AOP’s annual Voice of Optometry panel say they examine a patient every month who has eye disease that they believe is the result of smoking.[I]
Despite this concern among the AOP’s optometrist members, only a fifth (18%) of the general population recognise the connection between smoking and poor eye health[ii]. This is compared to 76% who link cancer and smoking; 66% who link it with heart disease and 64% who recognise the connection between bronchitis and smoking.
It’s feared that those putting their sight at risk through smoking is also a much larger issue, as one in five (21%) of the public admitted they had not had a sight test in the last two years – with almost half (40%) explaining they did not feel the need to go because their vision seemed fine.
The AOP is reminding people that it’s never too late to benefit from stopping smoking, despite over half of the public (51%) saying they aren’t sure whether long-term smokers would see an improvement in their eye health if they quit. An additional 11% believe there would be no improvement as the damage has already been done.
Optometrist and AOP Head of Clinical and Regulatory, Henry Leonard said: “Smokers are up to four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration[iii] – the leading cause of sight loss in the UK and twice as likely to develop conditions which can lead to glaucoma and cataracts[iv]. There are of course numerous health reasons to stop smoking but we hope that highlighting these additional risks will give many smokers who are considering quitting, that last little push.
“Whether you are a smoker or not, it’s important to visit your optometrist regularly to have a full eye health check – so any conditions can be identified and treated early.”
The AOP is launching its national Stub it out campaign on 2 July 2019. An outdoor advertising campaign will be rolled out in areas that have some of the highest levels of smoking in the UK including London, Glasgow and Manchester.
As part of the campaign, the AOP are calling on the sector to support by downloading and sharing materials from the Stub it out campaign pages, http://www.aop.org.uk/stubitout
Notes to Editors
Association of Optometrists
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 80% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit http://www.aop.org.uk
[i] The Voice of Optometry panel was set up and launched in 2017 by the AOP and conducted by Alpha Research. 1063 practising optometrists completed the online survey between 12 February and 22 March 2019.
[ii] Research surveying 2006 UK adults conducted by Opinium between 14 – 17 June 2019
[iii]Kelly SP, Thornton J, Lyratzopoulos G et al. Smoking and blindness. BMJ 2004; 328:537-8
[iv] Lin et al, 2010, Cigarette Smoking as a Risk Factor for Uveitis, American Academy of Ophthalmology