Little girl with lit cigarettes around her

Smokers May be Setting Children Up for Future Eye Issues

If you need another reason to quit smoking this may be it!  Recent studies have begun to find a troubling correlation between second-hand smoke exposure and damage to children’s eyes; especially since, for young children, the damage occurs while their eyes are not fully developed and has the potential to be permanent.

Ages Kids are in Key Stage of Vision Development

According to Dr. Luxme Hariharan, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, children within the ages of 6 to 8 are in a key stage of their vision development and, “Once you’re 10, changes can be permanent”. Hariharan goes on to say that, “Anything abnormal can cause a permanent problem in the visual pathway as it’s forming.”

What Cigarette Smoke Does to the Eye

Based on a study conducted in Hong Kong, children as young as 6 years old are already showing signs of eye damage due to cigarette smoke exposure. The study found that the part of the eye that is the most vulnerable to cigarette smoke, whether first-hand or second-hand, is called the Choroid. The Choroid is one of the layers of the eye and contains blood vessels and connective tissues. Its responsibilities include supplying the retina with valuable oxygen and nutrients, as well as maintaining the temperature of the eye. This essential part of the eye begins to thin out in children exposed to smoke, causing an increased risk for vision impairment, dry eye, allergies, macular holes, and macular degeneration later in life. The degree of damage present in each child increased with the volume of cigarettes smoked in their household, suggesting a link between the two.

While the study is ongoing and has not unequivocally determined that the Choroidal thinning is a direct cause of smoke getting into a child’s eyes, there appears to be a strong indication that smoke, in general, does negatively impact the proper development of eyes in children and should therefore be avoided.

What About Vaping?

If you are wondering about vaping, there are no studies to indicate second-hand smoke from vaping causes the same issue.  However, there is a study that connects vaping to severe dry eye and lower-quality tear film.  Vaping is still somewhat new and future studies need to be conducted to fully understand the repercussions of vaping.