The charity, which is urging smokers to say ‘eye quit’, pointed out that smokers are four times more likely to lose their sight than people who have never smoked.
This is because chemicals found in tobacco smoke trigger changes in the eye that can lead to diseases of the eye such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and thyroid eye disease, as well as playing a role in dry eye, uveitis and impaired colour vision.
Eye Health UK chairman David Cartwright said: “Cigarettes cause blindness, yet Britain’s seven million smokers are largely unaware of the dangers. Fewer than 10 per cent realise smoking can affect their eye health. This compares to 92 per cent associating smoking with lung cancer and 87 per cent identifying a link between smoking and the risk of heart disease.
“Half of all sight loss in the UK is avoidable and smoking is the single biggest modifiable risk factor. Saying ‘eye quit’ and joining the NHS smoke free programme will improve your eye health and significantly reduce your risk of losing your sight. After a decade or so of being smoke free your risk of sight loss reduces to that of a non smoker.”
Cartwright added: “Having regular sight tests once every two years unless advised otherwise by your optometrist is vital for everyone but never more so than for smokers. Early detection of conditions such as AMD is essential to prevent avoidable sight loss.”
Information on the link between smoking and sight loss is available on the charity’s website.