Diabetes and smoking – just how bad is it?

Diabetes and smoking

Having diabetes and smoking is clearly and obviously a very bad combination. For those that need this confirmed in some way I will present you with some stats throughout this article. So before we continue let me shout it from the rooftop for you – having diabetes and smoking is a very bad idea!

I used to be a diabetic smoker but I am happy to report that I have not smoked cigarette in 9 months now. I am not sure what input I can give on how or why a quit, I just quit. I went completely cold turkey and although initially it was hard, it became easier after a few weeks. Now the thought of smoking I find a bit revolting.

Diabetes and smoking

Personal experience

It is amazing how the brain changes when it is no longer addicted to nicotine. I used to take exception to people that would criticise me for smoking. I enjoyed a cigarette, especially with a beer or a coffee or after a good meal. I knew the risks of having diabetes and smoking. I told my local doctor and also the professor I saw twice a year at the diabetes clinic. They both encouraged me to quit ASAP. They said that the older I got the harder it would be and the more chances of complications would be. The impression I got was that because I was young it was not an urgent, compelling, overwhelming situation but that it soon would be. To be honest I tried to quit a few times but then I grew tired and wanted to quit trying to quit and just quit :o) . It was a tough first 4 weeks but it got way, way easier after that.

Believe me when I say that if I can quit smoking then I know you can too!!

Did you know that smoking can cause type 2 diabetes?

The latest evidence points to a very strong correlation between smoking and diabetes type 2. Research suggests that smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers. It is a known medical fact that smokers have higher blood sugar levels than non-smokers.  If that evidence is not reason enough to quit then I am not sure what is. Smoking also makes diabetes harder to control as it creates insulin resistance. Quitting smoking will immediately reduce your odds of developing diabetes. If you are a diabetic your chances of developing complications down the track are lessened when you quit.

Heart attack and strokes

I am terrified of having a heart attack or a stroke. Diabetes complications already include the increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Smoking can double or even triple these odds as smoking and diabetes work in very similar ways. Diabetes and smoking can damage the walls of the arteries in such a way that fatty deposits can build up more easily. High blood sugar levels does this automatically whilst the nicotine in cigarettes also does it. This leads to blood vessels narrowing which makes the circulation of blood a lot more constrained. When this happens to arteries around the heart a heart attack maybe imminent. A stroke can occur when blood struggles to get to the brain. Diabetes and smoking limits circulation and the flow of blood to the heart and brain.

More problems for diabetic smokers

The fact is that all these problems are associated with diabetes. When you have diabetes and smoke these problems are magnified sometimes 10 fold. Other problems associated with diabetes and smoking include –

  • Amputation of the limbs due to blood vessel damage in the legs
  • Kidney disease
  • Erectile dysfunction due to the effects on blood vessels in the penis
  • Eye damage to the back of the eye causing blindness.


This article is a no brainer really. Smoking and diabetes is a very, very bad combination. Even using nicotine patches to quit smoking is not the best idea either as the nicotine that constrains the arteries is still in the blood stream. The best way, I believe, is to go cold turkey. The benefits you will experience will be almost instant and you will be increasing your life expectancy from day 1 as a non-smoker. Just think of your loved ones when making this kind of decision.

Please see my other articles on alcohol and diabetes and also steroids and diabetes. There is also an interesting article on drug use and diabetes

Please leave me a comment below especially if you are a diabetic who has quit smoking. How did you do it?

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  1. Josh

    Ben it was scary to read this article. I knew smoking was bad but I never knew smoking causes diabetes and also makes it worse.

    Also congratulations on having quit smoking, it’s damn difficult to quit smoking and being smoke free for 9 months is quite the achievement.

    Thank you for the informative post.

    1. Ben (Post author)

      Thanks Josh, it is a pleasure. Yes this article is scary. The new research does indeed suggest that smoking can cause type 2 diabetes as well as all the other harmful things, so you can add it to the lust ;o)

  2. Ben

    Smoking if you have diabetes is like putting a matchbox on fire. It’s the worst thing you can do. Diabetes you can’t control, but if you have it, you had better find a way to quit smoking, or else you are cooking up a disaster. It’s so hard to quit smoking, how in the world did you do it?

    1. Ben (Post author)

      I just went cold turkey and after a few attempts I eventually stuck to it. It is a very bad combination that is for sure!

  3. Chris

    My cousin is a sufferer of diabetes and it eventually led her to giving up the habit – she got very scared when she was told that smoking adds to the diabetes risk of developing heart disease, stroke and circulation problems. She’ll love this article – I’ll have to show it to her!

    1. Ben (Post author)

      Hi Chris. Yes please do. If she is a diabetic I am sure she will find plenty of useful blog posts on here. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do whether you are diabetic or not. Amazingly back in the 1950’s there used to be commercials from certified doctors talking about the health benefits of smoking. Who knows what they will be talking about in 2070 that we are doing to our bodies in 2016…?!?

  4. Anna

    Hi Ben,

    First of all, congratulations on quitting!! That takes tremendous willpower and to do so cold turkey is quite an accomplishment!!

    This is a fabulous article! I think people sometimes don’t understand the severity of smoking, especially when you pair it with a disease such as diabetes.

    The fact that you are educating people in this way is wonderful. I hope many people are able to do exactly what you did because it really will have a profound impact on the rest of their lives!

    All the best,


    1. Ben (Post author)

      Hi Anna. Thanks for the feedback. It took a long time for me to quit but I got there in the end. Thankfully. Diabetes and smoking is a terrible combination and will almost definitely ensure that you will run into more serious complications down the track. There are many alternatives to going cold turkey but I found it was the best way for me. After some initial cravings it did get a lot easier and here I am some 12 months later still a non smoker!.


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