Tobacco use, including smoking cigarettes and vaping, poses significant dangers for people with diabetes. These products can worsen blood glucose control and increase risks for cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, and other complications.

Let's explore the mechanisms linking smoking and vaping with diabetes risks and discuss evidence-based strategies to quit

Key Facts

  • Smoking has been identified as one cause of type 2 diabetes. Cigarette smokers are 30%–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who don't smoke. The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to have trouble with insulin dosing and managing their condition than those who don't smoke.
  • If you smoke as a person with diabetes, you are more likely to have diabetes-related complications like heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy, foot infection, possible amputation, and retinopathy.
  • Quitting smoking will instantly benefit people with diabetes who smoke. Smokers with diabetes can better manage their blood glucose levels once they stop.

My Personal Experience Smoking

For more than seven years, I found myself trapped in the grip of a cigarette addiction. Naturally, my health consequences were constantly on my mind. Then, one day, I came down with a severe cold that made smoking even a single cigarette unbearable. After a week of refraining from my habit, I quit altogether.

Years later, I am proud to say that I have successfully maintained my smoking cessation without any nicotine replacement therapy. I gradually overcame the addiction on my own and have been reaping the benefits of better health ever since.

To me, it's clear that chronic disease prevention and quitting smoking are intertwined, and making that decision has been instrumental in my journey toward a healthier life.

Nearly 1 in 5 Diabetics Smoke Cigarettes or Use E-Cigarettes

The prevalence of smoking among individuals with diabetes is alarmingly high. About 20% of adults with diabetes smoke cigarettes, according to the CDC . Moreover, vaping has also gained popularity in recent years as an alternative to traditional smoking. Both practices pose considerable health risks for diabetics, making it critical to understand these risks and evidence-based ways to quit.

Why is Smoking Bad for Diabetics?

There are many reasons why people with diabetes should quit smoking - in addition to the well-known ones, like preventing cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance., and digestive and kidney diseases.

Diabetes is a complex metabolic disorder that requires diligent management to maintain optimal health and prevent complications. Among the many factors influencing the well-being of individuals with diabetes, smoking and diabetes stands out as a particularly detrimental habit.

We'll explore the reasons why smoking is so harmful for people with diabetes, delving into the effects on blood glucose control, cardiovascular health, kidney function, wound healing, and more. By understanding these risks, diabetic patients and their healthcare providers can work together to develop effective strategies to quit smoking and enhance overall health outcomes.

Smoking causes many health problems. In fact, it can worsen a diabetic's condition over time and can lead to many complications. Here is why you must quit:

Smoking Worsens Blood Glucose Control in Diabetics

Nicotine, the primary active ingredient in both cigarettes and e-cigarettes, increases insulin resistance and impairs blood glucose control. Studies show nicotine directly worsens insulin sensitivity, leading to chronically elevated blood glucose levels that are harder to manage. This substantially increases the risks of vascular complications over time.

Smoking Doubles Risk of Cardiovascular Death in Diabetics

People with diabetes already face an elevated cardiovascular risk, but smoking more than doubles the risk of dying from heart disease, according to the CDC. Smoking damages blood vessels, increases blood pressure, and promotes blood clots - exponentially heightening the chances of heart attacks, strokes, and other acute events.

Smoking Accelerates Kidney Disease Progression in Diabetics

Smoking accelerates the progression of kidney disease in diabetics. The CDC warns smoking directly increases the risk of developing diabetic nephropathy and renal failure over time. As kidney function declines, the body cannot filter waste and toxins from the blood - leading to life-threatening complications if untreated.

Delayed wound healing

Individuals with diabetes often experience slower wound healing, leaving them vulnerable to infection and complications. Smoking impairs the body's ability to heal by reducing blood flow to the skin, lowering oxygen levels, and impairing the function of immune cells. Consequently, diabetic patients who smoke are at an increased risk of developing severe infections and other complications.

Smoking Exacerbates Nerve Damage and Neuropathic Pain

By restricting blood flow and oxygen to peripheral nerves, smoking exacerbates diabetic neuropathy. Studies confirm smoking worsens nerve damage, leading to amplified neuropathic pain, numbness, reduced sensation, and motor control. This substantially increases disability and the risk of amputations over time.

Respiratory health

Diabetic individuals are at a higher risk of developing respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchitis. Smoking impairs lung function and weakens the immune system, making it more difficult for diabetic patients to fight off respiratory infections.

Eye diseases

Diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts are common eye complications associated with diabetes. Smoking can worsen these conditions by decreasing blood flow to the eyes, increasing oxidative stress, and promoting inflammation, leading to a higher risk of vision loss and blindness.

Joint pain

The nicotine in cigarettes can make it harder for the body to produce healthy cells called chondrocytes, which help maintain joint mobility. So, those who smoke will have an increased risk of developing arthritis or other conditions with symptoms like stiffness or joint pain. When smoking tobacco products, one has a higher risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis.

Elevated blood pressure

Smoking cigarettes can cause your blood pressure to rise and increase the risk of heart disease. This is a genuine concern for people who have diabetes, as they already have an increased chance of cardiovascular issues.

Higher blood sugar levels

Smoking has been linked to diabetes. The nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes cause the body's insulin levels to rise, which makes it difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels because they have a higher chance of unpredictably fluctuating glucose. This can lead to more problems like heart disease or kidney failure.

Increased cholesterol levels

It's not just fatty food that increases your cholesterol levels; it's also smoking cigarettes. It doesn't matter what you do in life if this is your habit -- the risk for heart disease will still be increased significantly.

Even though it may seem harmless to smoke just one cigarette, these small choices add up over time, leading many people into very unhealthy lifestyles that lead to early death.

In summary, cigarette smoking is bad for people with diabetes because it exacerbates existing health risks and introduces new ones, making it harder to manage diabetes treatment and increasing the likelihood of developing severe complications.

The Benefits of Quitting Smoking and Vaping

Quitting smoking and vaping can significantly improve the health of diabetic patients in the following ways:

Improved blood glucose control

Quitting smoking can improve blood glucose control for individuals with diabetes. When you stop smoking, your body's insulin resistance decreases, making maintaining target blood glucose levels easier. This improvement in glycemic control can reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications and make it easier to manage your condition effectively.

Reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases

By quitting smoking, individuals with diabetes can significantly lower their risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes. Smoking cessation helps reduce damage to blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and decrease the formation of blood clots. As a result, your cardiovascular health can significantly improve, protecting you from life-threatening conditions associated with both diabetes and tobacco use.

Lower risk of kidney damage and kidney disease progression

Quitting smoking can have a positive impact on kidney health in individuals with diabetes. Smoking is a known risk factor for kidney damage, and stopping this habit can reduce the risk of developing diabetic nephropathy, a type of kidney disease. Furthermore, quitting smoking can slow down the progression of existing kidney disease, preserving kidney function and potentially delaying the need for dialysis or transplantation.

Enhanced wound healing

One of the benefits of quitting smoking for people with diabetes is improved wound healing. Smoking impairs blood flow to the skin and reduces oxygen levels, hindering the body's natural healing process. When you quit smoking, your body's ability to heal wounds improves, reducing the risk of infection, complications, and even amputation in some cases.

Improve your taste

Smoking can impair your sense of taste, which can affect your overall enjoyment of food. When you quit smoking, your taste buds can recover, allowing you to experience the full range of flavors in your meals. This improved sense of taste can also help you make healthier food choices, which is particularly important for individuals with diabetes who need to follow a balanced diet to maintain blood glucose control.

Increased overall quality of life

Quitting smoking can have a tremendous impact on the overall quality of life for individuals with diabetes. In addition to the direct health benefits mentioned above, stopping smoking can improve lung function, increase energy levels, and enhance mental well-being. Moreover, by quitting smoking, you can reduce the financial burden associated with purchasing tobacco products and the social stigma often attached to smoking. These improvements can lead to a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life for individuals with diabetes.

The Role of Healthcare Providers in Supporting Smoking and Vaping Cessation

Healthcare providers play a critical role in supporting individuals with diabetes to quit smoking and vaping. By proactively addressing tobacco use during medical visits, healthcare providers can assess patients' readiness to quit, provide personalized counseling, and recommend appropriate pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. By working together, healthcare providers and diabetic patients can develop effective strategies to achieve and maintain a tobacco-free lifestyle.

The Importance of Public Health Initiatives and Diabetes Education

Raising awareness of the dangers of smoking and vaping for people with diabetes is crucial in promoting healthier lifestyles and reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications. Public health initiatives and diabetes education programs should focus on highlighting the risks associated with tobacco use and providing resources to help individuals quit. These efforts can empower diabetic patients to make informed decisions about their health and improve their overall quality of life.


In conclusion, quitting smoking is a crucial step for individuals with diabetes to improve their health and overall quality of life. By overcoming tobacco addiction, diabetics can experience better blood glucose control, reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, enhanced wound healing, and a range of other health benefits.

My journey has proven that quitting smoking is possible and can lead to a profound positive transformation in one's life. Those living with diabetes need to recognize the connection between smoking cessation and chronic disease prevention. With determination, support, and the right strategies, anyone can embark on this rewarding journey toward a healthier, happier, and smoke-free life.


At Diabetic Me, we are committed to delivering information that is precise, accurate, and pertinent. Our articles are supported by verified data from research papers, prestigious organizations, academic institutions, and medical associations to guarantee the integrity and relevance of the information we provide. You can learn more about our process and team on the about us page.

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Cigarette Smoking: A Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration How Smoking Can Increase Risk for and Affect Diabetes
  3. CDC Smoking and Diabetes
  4. WebMD Smoking and Diabetes
  5. National Library of Medicine Smoking and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes


  1. TammyJ on May 28, 2024

    hey Ely Fornoville, i was reading ur article about smoking n diabetes, and im just wondering, u said smoking makes blood glucose control harder for diabetics, but doesn’t nicotine sorta boost metabolism? how does that all fit together? trying to wrap my head around it cuz my brother’s diabetic and he smokes, but says it helps him keep weight off.

    • HealthNut22 on May 28, 2024

      That’s a common misconception, TammyJ. Nicotine might have a tiny effect on metabolism, but the damage to blood glucose levels and cardiovascular health isn’t worth it. Better off helping your brother find healthier ways to manage his weight.

    • GregP1984 on May 28, 2024

      lol HealthNut22, thats easy to say but quitting ain’t easy at all. plus, everyone’s different. maybe it works for TammyJ’s brother.


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About the Author

Ely Fornoville

Hi, I'm Ely Fornoville, and I am the founder of Diabetic Me. Being a type 1 diabetic since 1996, I developed a passion to help people learn more about diabetes. I write about diabetes and share stories from other diabetics around the world. I currently use a Medtronic Guardian 4 CGM and a MiniMed 780G insulin pump with Humalog insulin.

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