The Impact of Nicotine on Blood Sugar and Insulin Resistance

More than 37 million Americans are living with diabetes today. If you’re part of this growing club, you know that managing blood sugar is a daily responsibility and, sometimes, it’s also a pretty big challenge.

The foods and substances we put into our bodies can majorly affect our blood sugar. In this post, we’ll look at how nicotine impacts blood glucose levels. Specifically, we’ll examine how vaping, certainly a growing trend across the United States, can affect blood glucose.

What is vaping?

Vaping is a nicotine delivery system that burst onto the scene in the early 2000s as a less harmful alternative than smoking cigarettes. How? Because vaping devices do not contain or burn tobacco, which means they also don’t contain tar or any of the other carcinogens that are known to enter the body when inhaling tobacco smoke.

There is solid evidence pointing to the fact vaping may be less harmful to overall health than smoking cigarettes. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comes right out and states that, yes, e-cigarettes (vaping devices) are less harmful than regular cigarettes. So, in theory, if you have switched from tobacco cigarettes to a vaping device, you are probably much better off than you were when smoking.

But this in no way means that vaping is safe, particularly for those who have already been diagnosed with diabetes or are living with telltale risk factors associated with the development of Type 2 diabetes, such as obesity and lack of physical activity.

Nicotine and blood sugar

Vaping is a relatively new phenomenon, so there needs to be a lot more research conducted to determine the actual health risks associated with it and how they compare to smoking. When it comes to diabetes management and blood sugar control, however, there is zero doubt that vaping can be highly detrimental.

What’s the big problem with vaping as it relates specifically to diabetes? Vaping exists as an alternative nicotine delivery system to tobacco. Some vaping devices deliver higher percentages of nicotine than traditional cigarettes.

Nicotine is known to impact blood sugar. It does so by changing the chemical processes in the body’s cells so that they do not respond as readily to insulin as they did before – a condition known as insulin resistance.

The body’s cells need insulin to absorb glucose from the bloodstream and transform it into energy needed to function correctly. Because nicotine inhibits this process, it can make blood sugar even more challenging to control for those with diabetes and speed the development of Type 2 diabetes in those who already find themselves in the prediabetic stage, when blood sugar is elevated but not to the point that a diabetes diagnosis can yet be delivered. Learn more about prediabetes and risk factors here.

Can vaping increase the risk of prediabetes?

Yes. A study conducted in 2022 by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that vaping may increase the risk of anyone developing higher than regular blood sugar (prediabetes). According to the study, individuals who vape experience a more than 20% increase in the risk of developing prediabetes compared to those who do not vape. This is a substantial increase in risk, and the most frightening thing about prediabetes is that it rarely presents any symptoms until the problem has worsened into full-fledged Type 2 diabetes.

Can vaping cause Type 2 diabetes?

The answer to this question is complicated, largely because vaping is a somewhat new societal trend, and gobs of research have not yet been done. That being said, the CDC directly relates smoking cigarettes to the development of Type 2 diabetes, stating that people who smoke cigarettes are up to 40% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people who don’t smoke. Additionally, people who are living with diabetes and smoke cigarettes tend to have significantly more difficulty with insulin dosing and blood sugar control than people with diabetes who do not smoke.

Since both cigarettes and vaping are nicotine delivery methods, one can logically conclude that vaping might very well contribute to the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Now, is there a direct cause-and-effect correlation? Can vaping lead to Type 2 diabetes? We don’t know enough to confirm or deny that level of connection.

It’s also important to note that habits like vaping and smoking are also often associated with other poor health behaviors in individuals, such as improper diet, lack of physical activity, lack of sleep, and body fat distribution (obesity). Then, there’s the role family history and genetics play in developing Type 2 diabetes. The point is that many people who vape may also be living with other risk factors for diabetes that all work together to increase the likelihood of a diabetes diagnosis.

Ultimately, it’s clear that the nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes and vaping devices impacts the body’s ability to process blood sugar negatively. On their own, vapes may not cause diabetes, but they can certainly contribute to the development of both Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.


Anyone who considers vaping must realize that simply because they may be less harmful than cigarettes doesn’t mean they don’t damage the body. For those with diabetes or at risk for diabetes, vaping can be particularly damaging as it makes the body more resistant to insulin, therefore making it harder to control blood sugar and manage diabetes properly. We know that prolonged high blood sugar associated with poorly managed diabetes can lead to related health complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and other health concerns. Anything that makes it harder to control blood sugar, vaping included, is something to avoid. We’re also unclear as to the long-term health consequences of vaping beyond how it impacts diabetes and blood sugar.

If you’re not vaping, don’t start. If you’re among the many who are considering vaping as a way to help kick a cigarette habit, first speak with your diabetes physician. There may be better alternatives to help you quit, such as smoking cessation patches and gums.


We hope you found this post informative and insightful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to helping those with diabetes manage their blood sugar by offering a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at prices up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and other suppliers.