AOP's Ian Beasley talk about the impact of smoking on eye health Banner overlay

Eat, sleep, rave, repeat

AOP's Ian Beasley talks about our changing attitude to smoking and the impact on eye health

29 Feb 2016 by Ian Beasley

Appearances can be deceptive. Who’d have thought that a slightly rotund, balding, bespectacled optometry professional (that’s me by the way) was a bit of a clubber in his day? And I’m not just referring to enthusiastic foot tapping to Come on Eileen at Auntie Agatha’s fiftieth. No, I’m talking about being an integral part of the so-called rave scene. Of course this phase of my youth has long since passed given that I can only comply with three-quarters of the clubber’s mantra: Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat.

My heady days of raving date back to the Bronze Age when patrons were perfectly entitled to chain-smoke, even in the company of unstable asthmatics like yours truly. As a consequence, in those days I spent most of my weekend’s passive smoking heavily in dubious venues. You can picture the scene: an awkward, wiry adolescent trying to ‘bust some moves’- glow stick in one hand, inhaler in the other. 

I suppose I have always resented smokers a bit if truth were told. I accept we all have our weaknesses; my addiction to chocolate is unrivalled. But I wouldn't dream of inflicting my guilty pleasure on others and can count on a single hand the times I have smeared chocolate on the cheeks of strangers in a bus queue. So, for me at least, it was a joyous moment when the public smoking ban was introduced in 2007.

In a professional capacity, educating patients is part of my job and smoking is a common talking point in the consulting room given that it is a key modifiable risk factor for eye disease. With many toxic chemicals contained within tobacco smoke it should come as no surprise that the habit can be damaging to the eye and in particular increase the likelihood of developing conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Heavy exposure to secondhand smoke can also generate biological changes in the eye that can lead to vision loss. Stopping smoking reduces the chances of developing or exacerbating AMD and although quitting early in life is important, it is never too late to give up.

I am thankful we have moved to an era where I am rarely exposed to the ills of passive smoking. Perhaps more importantly, those around me can breathe a sigh of collective relief safe in the knowledge that I have packed away my glow sticks for good.

Read more blogs from our 'For patients' section.

Ian BeasleyOptometrist, Dr Ian Beasley, is Clinical Editor for Optometry Today, Head of Education for the Association of Optometrists and postgraduate researcher at Aston University