Do You Have Diabetes and Smoke? Read This

The most avoidable cause of death in the U.S., cigarette smoking, accounts for 400,000 deaths annually. It's a life-threatening habit for anyone, but for individuals with diabetes, smoking is even more lethal.

Nicotine increases glucose levels in the red blood cells, according to a study that was reported in Diabetes Forecast. And, research shows, nicotine patches may not be ideal for diabetics trying to kick the habit since nicotine-containing products may raise the blood sugar levels.

Future studies will try to determine if nicotine has the same effect on the entire body as it does on the red blood cells. "Anything that might disregulate the blood glucose is problematic for diabetics," says Daniel F. Seidman, Ph.D., director of smoking cessation services at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and the author of Smoke-Free in 30 Days.

For individuals with diabetes, depression often goes hand in hand with smoking.

"People with diabetes are twice as likely to become clinically depressed as non-diabetics," Seidman says, "and depressed people have an extremely high rate of smoking."

Calling smoking "a silent, ticking time bomb for diabetics," Seidman says that it's crucial for diabetics who smoke cigarettes to be evaluated for depression.

"It's one of the most important things they can do," he explains. "Getting proper treatment for depression can make it easier to stop smoking."

But just expecting someone who's depressed to quit smoking without support is unrealistic, he says. A person with diabetes who also happens to be depressed would benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy to cope with underlying depression, Seidman says.

"We have found this very effective for people with diabetes who may want to quit smoking but who need more psychological support," he says. "With cognitive therapy, they're less likely to relapse and start smoking again."

Anyone who's ever tried to quit smoking knows how agonizing it is, and how very easy it is to relapse. That's because nicotine is extremely easy to get addicted to. In fact, nicotine is as addictive as heroin, alcohol, or cocaine. All told, it's the most common form of chemical dependence in the U.S. Kicking the habit often doesn't work the first time, and may require multiple attempts.

Those who wish to quit smoking may call a toll-free number for help. You'll get "free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources," according to the CDC. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669.)




"Nicotine is linked to higher glucose levels." July 2011. Diabetes Forecast.

"First identification of nicotine as main culprit in diabetes complications among smokers:
Scientists are reporting the first strong evidence implicating nicotine as the main culprit responsible for persistently elevated blood sugar levels - and the resulting increased risk of serious health complications - in people who have diabetes and smoke."
Presented at the March 2011 meeting of the American Chemical Society.

"Smoking and Tobacco Use." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Smoking and Diabetes." Diabetes Care, American Diabetes Association.