Helen Lee, eye health policy manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), has praised the public health minister, Steve Brine’s commitment following the publication of the Government’s Tobacco Control Plan.
Ms Lee told OT: “We welcome the Government's Tobacco Control Plan, particularly its focus on addressing health inequalities. In the long-term it will have a very positive impact on eye health, reducing avoidable sight loss.”
However, when asked about the plan’s impact on the public’s eye health, Ms Lee warned that funding cuts could hinder its success.
“The shift from national to local action plans – at a time when local government and its public health function has experienced significant cut in resources – endangers the potential success of the plan,” Ms Lee explained.
The plan outlines the Government’s vision to create a smoke-free generation and reveals that 8% of 15 year olds smoke, which the Department of Health says risks a lifetime of ill health.
The Government revealed that since the previous Tobacco Control Plan, smoking prevalence has reduced from 20.2% of adults to 15.5%. Recent figures from Cancer Research UK revealed that there are 1.9 million fewer smokers in Britain following the introduction of the smoking ban.
Ms Lee highlighted to OT that smoking causes harm to the tissues of the eye, and is linked to a number of eye health issues, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
“Smokers double their risk of developing AMD, and tend to develop it earlier than non-smokers. The good news is the risk of developing AMD is reduced over a period of years after smoking or exposure to smoke is stopped,” Ms Lee explained.
“The most important thing smokers can do to protect their eye health is to stop smoking. Stopping smoking can halt or reverse the risk of certain eye conditions. It's never too late to stop smoking,” she concluded.