Due to smoking being an eye irritant as well as being the leading cause of preventable disease, opticians have taken an active role in discussing its dangers with patients.
Daniel Bintz is one such optometrist that is attempting to help his patients quit the habit. “I start out by reviewing the EHR history where the techs will check the boxes on tobacco use,” Dr. Bintz says. “I will ask if their primary care physicians have talked to them about quitting and see where that leads.”
Once Dr. Bintz has begun talking about the subject to his patients, he addresses the situation further. “Then I will mention that ‘in addition to all the evil things that you know about smoking, you may not know that using tobacco puts you at four times the risk of developing macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S.' “And if they are interested, we will schedule an appointment with their primary care physician for possible prescription drugs to help them quit.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is at an all-time low in the U.S. Despite the new lows, there are still more than 36 million Americans who light up each day.
A recent study by Dr. Stanley Hatch at the Eye Care for the Adirondacks in upstate New York, revealed that 28 of 193 patients had quit smoking after counselling from their optometrist. The data recorded is helpful and makes optometrists hopeful they can help patients quit smoking.
Dr. Bintz believes smokers know the harm smoking poses to their health, yet they continue to do it anyway. “There isn't one smoker who doesn't believe tobacco can adversely affect his or her health,” Bintz says. “But then it turns into the ‘Well, something is going to kill me' attitude.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Hatch adds that smokers look for the immediate gratification smoking offers, rather than looking toward their future. “They get the message. They don't want to give up their immediate pleasure for future health,” Hatch states. “The Great American Smokeout is another day to draw attention that smoking is bad for your health. “The information is out there to support smokers.”
One group that continues to disregard the negative effects of smoking is new parents. A 2016 study in Norway published in theInternational Journal of Epidemiology linked a father's smoking with early onset asthma in children.
Although the warnings have been out in the public for decades now, parents and expecting parents continue to smoke.
“Another tobacco-related issue is warning pregnant women about the damage tobacco use does to the unborn child and after the child is born,” Dr. Bintz said. “They have heard this from the primary care physicians, but need to hear it often.”
Despite mothers and fathers not smoking around their children, the smoke still reaches young children. Parents who smoke get the tobacco smoke stuck in their clothes or on their hands. This can then be inhaled by children. In addition the smoke can get trapped in carpets and upholstery in vehicles or houses.
Optometrists like Bintz will continue to inform patients of the dangers smoking causes. If they can continue to reduce the U.S.'s low smoking numbers, they will be happy with the results they see in their eyecare clinics.