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Smoking and Diabetes in London: Everything you need to know

To mark #WorldDiabetesDay, we’ve put together a guide to highlight the dangers of smoking when diabetic, symptoms to look out for and useful tools for smokers seeking support.

Diabetes affects over 850,000 people in the UK and an estimated 537 million people globally. Whether you’re a smoker or are inhaling second-hand smoke from others, you’re at greater risk of developing diabetes and causing further complications to those managing diabetes.

To mark World Diabetes Day 2022 on November 14th, we look at the facts regarding smoking and diabetes, highlight the various adverse health effects and guide you to helpful resources to help you stop smoking.

Stop Smoking London brings you up to speed with everything you need to know regarding smoking and diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.

There are 2 main types of diabetes – Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells producing insulin.

Type 2 diabetes means that the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to insulin. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1 and it is estimated in the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.

The symptoms of diabetes

Understanding and acting when the main symptoms of diabetes appear are vital to diagnosing the condition in patients and sourcing appropriate professional medical care.

The main symptoms of diabetes are:

  • insatiable thirst
  • visiting the toilet more than usual
  • feeling very tired and experiencing a lack of energy
  • weight loss
  • recurring episodes of thrush
  • cuts or wounds that heal slowly
  • blurred vision

London Tobacco Alliance

London Tobacco Alliance is aiming for a smokefree London in 2030

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London’s ongoing fight with diabetes

Similar to the UK’s ambition to make London Smokefree by 2030, key medical personnel and system leaders across the capital are collaborating to tackle rising numbers of diabetes in Londoners.

Back in, a 2015 report from London Diabetes Strategic Clinical Network on diabetes in London stated that “Diabetes has been recognised as a growing problem for the NHS with prevalence set to rise to more than 700,000 – 10 per cent of the population – by 2030. This is a problem for London, due to the age and diversity of the population.”

Diabetes UK, the leading charity for people living with diabetes across the United Kingdom, stated that the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in London was recorded at 599,699 – 6.7% of the population in an analysis report published in 2021.

Harrow recorded the highest rate of diabetes at 9.9% in the entire UK, whereas the London boroughs of Brent, Redbridge and Ealing were all present in the top 10 for prevalence.

The facts on smoking and diabetes

Aside from being the largest preventable cause of death in adults across the UK, recent scientific studies have shown that people who smoke cigarettes are 30% to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers.

In their fact sheet on smoking and diabetes that was published in September 2021, Ash mentioned that an estimated 7,827 deaths in the UK were caused by diabetes in 2020.

The British Heart Foundation reported that adults with diabetes are 2-3 times more likely to develop heart and circulatory diseases and nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke than those without diabetes.

And according to another study part-funded by the British Heart Foundation, researchers at the University of Dundee stated that smoking and diabetes are the two leading risk factors for peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition resulting in the narrowing of the arteries which can lead to amputation. Researchers also stated that diabetics who smoked were 16 times more likely to develop PAD than non-smoking non-diabetics.

How does smoking affect diabetes?

Nicotine, the highly addictive chemical found in cigarettes, affects blood sugar cells meaning they don’t respond to insulin – the hormone commonly used by diabetics to regulate blood sugar cells.

Cigarettes contain toxic chemicals such as benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde. They are carcinogenic to humans and cause serious harm to cells within the body, resulting in inflammation and increasing the risk of developing several cancers such as myeloid leukaemia.

Diabetics are also at risk of suffering from a condition called diabetic retinopathy; a complication that causes progressive and irreversible damage to the retina that left untreated can lead to sight loss.

Need help quitting smoking?

It’s widely known that nicotine is an addictive substance found in cigarettes. Nicotine causes a powerful addiction in the brain and although relatively harmless when consumed, the debilitating illnesses and diseases caused by smoking originate from the thousands of other toxic chemicals in tobacco and cigarettes.

Studies have shown that smokers are three times more likely to quit smoking with the right support. The best chance of stopping is with a combination of personalised support and stop smoking aids such as nicotine replacement, e-cigarettes, or medication.

NRT, or nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, sprays and gum, are great sources of nicotine and are scientifically proven to be extremely effective in helping a smoker to stop.

For help to stop smoking, speak to your Local Stop Smoking Service, GP or pharmacist, or call the Stop Smoking helpline for free on 0300 123 1044.

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