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Smoke gets in your eyes (but not for much longer)

Media Release
8 December 2003
For immediate release

Smoke gets in your eyes (but not for much longer)

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) applauds the passing last week of the Smokefree Environments Amendment Bill that bans smoking in schools, bars, and other workplaces.

Apart from the well publicised effects of second-hand smoke on general health, the RNZFB says smoking has been linked with the development of cataracts and more recently with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).

Both are potentially blinding eye conditions that affect thousands of New Zealanders. Cigarette smoke contains toxic chemicals that can build up in both the lens and the retina and damage the eye’s delicate structure, eventually affecting vision.

Chris Inglis, RNZFB divisional manager of the Blindness Awareness and Prevention Division says, “Limiting the number of public places where smoking occurs lessens the amount of second-hand smoke that people are exposed to. The ban also reinforces the message to smokers that every cigarette is doing damage to them and everyone around them.”

Ms Inglis points out, “The fewer people we have smoking, especially in public environments, the less second-hand smoke we will be exposed to. And the less smoke that gets in our eyes the better, for our vision as well as our general health.”

Indeed, international research suggests that smoking is a major cause of eye disease and blindness.

A study in the Hong Kong Medical Journal found that there was a strong correlation between smoking and a number of common eye diseases, and that ‘cessation of smoking and avoidance of passive smoking is advised to minimise the harmful effects of smoking on the eyes.’ (HKMJ 2000; 6(2):195-202)

In addition, international studies on the effectiveness of smoking bans and restrictions have indicated that smoking bans in the workplace reduced exposure to second-hand smoke by an average of 72% and also encouraged people to stop smoking.

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