Risks of Smoking with Diabetes

Everyone knows that smoking can lead to serious health complications, including lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, COPD, and many other life-threatening conditions. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking harms nearly every organ system of the body and is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Each year, smoking contributes to the deaths of more Americans than homicide, car accidents, alcohol, drug abuse, and fires all combined! Smoking is a killer. Which should be reason enough to quit those cigarettes. However, if you need one more here it is – Type 2 diabetes.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Individuals develop Type 2 diabetes because their bodies are unable to produce enough insulin or effectively process the insulin they do produce. Insulin is a hormone that allows the body’s cells to turn blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, into energy. When there’s a lack of insulin or the body’s cells can’t properly use it, it causes blood sugar to gradually build up in the bloodstream. Eventually, levels elevate to a point beyond the normal range and that person is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes accounts for nearly 90% of all diabetes cases. What’s even more shocking is that there are 96 million Americans out there who are prediabetic – on the verge of developing Type 2 diabetes – who don’t even know they have a problem. That’s more than one in three adult Americans!

Risk factors for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes include obesity, lack of activity, unhealthy diet, family history, and – you guessed it – smoking.

The Link Between Smoking and Type 2 Diabetes

Both the FDA and CDC confirm that the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is 30% to 40% higher among smokers versus non-smokers. This is a substantial increase, especially for those who also have other diabetes risk factors.

Additionally, those who have already been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes often have a far more difficult time managing the disease if they smoke. In fact, these individuals may be required to administer more insulin by syringe injection or insulin pen to control their blood sugar than would be required if they didn’t smoke.

The more you smoke, the higher your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and the harder it will be to manage the disease once you are diagnosed.


How Smoking Contributes to Type 2 Diabetes

Smoking impacts the body’s systems in a number of detrimental ways. Many of these are directly related to the development and management of Type 2 diabetes.

Nicotine Elevates Blood Sugar

Studies have shown that nicotine, the active chemical in cigarettes, can actually elevate blood sugar on its own. Since Type 2 diabetes is the result of overly high blood sugar levels, adding to the problem only increases the risk of developing the disease and makes it more difficult to control once diagnosed.

Increased Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance relates to how effectively or poorly your body uses insulin to process blood sugar. Smoking is known to increase insulin resistance, which means the body is less able to use the hormone efficiently, resulting in a rise in blood sugar.


The chemicals in cigarettes can damage the body’s cells. As the body tries to heal these cells it can lead to inflammation. Unfortunately, Inflammation makes it harder for the body to properly use insulin, which can again result in elevated blood sugar levels.

Diabetes-related conditions

Smoking doesn’t just increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and make it harder to manage the disease, it also increases the risk of experiencing dangerous conditions associated with prediabetes or diabetes. Smoking contributes to heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage and stroke – all of which are already heightened if you have diabetes. In other words, by smoking you’re compounding the risk.


How to Quit Smoking

The more you smoke, the greater your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and the harder it will be to manage the disease once you do develop it. But if quitting was easy, a lot more people would stop smoking.

If you smoke, diabetes or not, ask your doctor about smoking cessation products and programs available to you. You can also check out the CDC’s “Tips” website for information and resources to help you quit. Even cutting back can make a big difference, so make the effort today.

It’s not going to be easy but if you can quit smoking, it’ll do more than lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes, it very literally might save your life.


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