According to recent findings, regular smokers and people who are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
The study was published in the “Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology” journal and consisted in a meta-analysis of 88 prior research papers, which surveyed approximatly 6 million subjects in the United Kingdom. The aim was to assess if there was indeed a link between cigarette use and type 2 diabetes.
It was established that exposure to tobacco actually heightens the risk of developing metabolic disorders. Active smokers are 37% more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, and show the greatest vulnerability in comparison with the other categories investigated by researchers.
Findings suggest also that the risk grows as the individual’s addiction to nicotine leads to heavier smoking. In contrast to non-smokers, light smokers are 22% more likely to become diabetics, moderate smokers are 34% more exposed to this risk, and heavy smokers have a staggering 57% chance of developing the condition.
Although the likelihood diminishes once the habit is interrupted, to some extend the danger persists. Even after individuals have quit smoking, former cigarette use increases the risk of diabetes by 14%.
Passive smoking, which involves breathing in secondhand smoke, is also a health hazard, amplifying the likelihood of developing diabetes by 22%. In the past, the British National Health Service had also warned about the hazards posed by secondhand smoking, linking it with pneumonia, meningitis and cancer.
Overall, results suggest that, on a global scale, cigarettes may be contributing to around 12% of the diabetes cases affecting men, and 2% of the cases affecting women. In total, around 27.8 million people may have developed the condition because of being exposed to these toxic products.
“Cigarette smoking should be considered as a key modifiable risk factor for diabetes”, declared Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and study co-author.
Based on these findings, researchers call for more involvement from public health officials, with a view to raise awareness regarding the dangers of smoking. They believe that doctors should highlight not just the fact that cigarettes cause cancer and cardiovascular diseases, but also that they contribute to type 2 diabetes.
In addition, health staff should recommend alternatives to their patients, such as electronic cigarettes and safer nicotine products.
Experts also emphasize the need to implement the strategies detailed in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. These include price and tax measures to diminish demand for tobacco, restrictions when it comes to advertising and promoting cigarettes, smoking bans in enclosed public spaces and clear warning labels on cigarette packs.
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