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Smokers Twice Likely To Contract Preventable Blindness

Wednesday, 04 March 2009

Research indicates that smokers throughout Scotland are almost twice as likely to suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD)1

Despite these statistics nine out of ten (90%) smokers are unaware of the link between smoking and eye disease2

Peter Carson, regional chair for Specsavers in Scotland says: 'With No Smoking Day fast approaching on Wednesday 11 March, it's vitally important to also raise awareness of preventable sight loss. Many eye disorders are aggravated by the harsh chemicals in cigarettes.'

When you inhale a cigarette, approximately 4,000 chemicals enter your bloodstream and travel throughout your body. Some of these substances affect the blood vessels at the back of the eye and can cause damage to the macula, which is the most sensitive part of the retina, resulting in irreversible damage that will ultimately lead to loss of vision.

Peter warns: 'Nicotine slowly poisons the optic nerve causing impaired colour vision. Smokers also have a higher likelihood of developing cataracts, one of the most common causes of blindness and visual impairment. Alongside the ageing effects of smoking, there really are no benefits.' 

Peter adds: 'It is alarming that such a high number of smokers continue to be unaware of the link between smoking and blindness. We would urge them to use No Smoking Day as an incentive to give up and make an appointment for an eye examination. Smokers could even donate the money they save from buying cigarettes to a cancer or sight-related charity instead.'

To locate your nearest Specsavers store to book an appointment for an eye examination, log onto www.specsavers.co.uk.

Call the NHS HealthScotland Smokeline on 0800 84 84 84 to speak to an advisor on quitting smoking. Alternatively, log onto www.canstopsmoking.com for more support materials.




1. Perceptions of blindness related to smoking: a hospital-based cross-sectional study, G Bidwell et al. 2005

2. Ronald Klien et al, Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(1): 115-121 2008

Specsavers notes to editors                                               

  • Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world
  • The couple still run the company, along with their three children. Their eldest son John is joint managing director
  • Specsavers has more than 1,260 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Australia and New Zealand
  • Annual turnover for the Specsavers Group is forecast to reach a record £1.05 billion for the financial year 2008/9
  • The group plans to continue its successful international expansion by opening stores in New Zealand
  • Specsavers optical stores and hearing centres are owned and run by joint venture or franchise partners.
  • Specsavers employs more than 26,000 staff
  • Specsavers was voted Britain's most trusted brand of opticians for the seventh year running by Reader's Digest in 2008
  • One in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers Opticians - eight and a half million glasses were sold during 2007
  • Specsavers is the largest retail provider of home delivery contact lenses in Europe and one of the top two retail suppliers of continuous wear lenses in the world
  • Specsavers is now the largest retail dispenser of digital hearing aids in the UK and will offer a hearing service from more than 400 locations by the end of 2008
  • Specsavers supports numerous optical and hearing charities, including Diabetes UK, for whom they have raised more than £250,000 to fund research into diabetic retinopathy
  • Since 2003 a quarter of a million glasses have been collected and recycled by Specsavers stores for Vision Aid Overseas for use in developing countries