FILE PHOTO: An employee shows no smoking signs in a printing shop in Vienna
According to The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, 49% of men and 34% of women in South Africa are smokers. Although the detrimental effects of smoking to your overall health are well-documented, many South Africans are unaware of the damage smoking does to your eyes. Quitting smoking is most likely to prevent the following eye diseases and disorders:

Infant Eye Disease

Smoking is highly discouraged for pregnant women, as it transmits dangerous toxins to the placenta that can cause all manner of harm to the unborn baby, including vision problems. Complications include strabismus (crossed eyes), and the potential of an underdeveloped optic nerve, which can lead to blindness.


This is an inflammation of the eye’s middle layer, known as the uvea. This disease is serious and may result in complete loss of vision. Uveitis causes harm in the vital structure of the eye, which includes the retina and the iris.

Macular Degeneration

Smoking may also lead to age-related macular degeneration, which affects the centre of the retina. The retina is responsible for our sharp, central vision which is needed for everyday tasks. “Blind spots” are caused by macular degeneration, and this affects the central vision. Studies have shown that smokers are more at risk of having macular degeneration than an average older adult who doesn’t smoke.


The clouding in the eye’s natural lens is known as a cataract, and cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. Studies have shown that smokers double their chances of forming cataracts and the more a person smokes, the higher the risk.