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Smoking and sight loss

News posted: 03/09/2013

Community eye care providers to help people give up smoking

A new quality standard for smoking cessation published last week by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) enables optical professionals to play a greater role in educating smokers about the harm tobacco can cause to their vision and in supporting them to kick the habit.

NICE quality standards are designed to drive and measure priority quality improvements within a particular topic. Smoking is the main cause of preventable illness and premature death in England but few realise that smokers also have three times the incidence of age-related macular degeneration compared with non-smokers and smoking is strongly associated with cataracts.

The Optical Confederation joined with the College of Optometrists to submit a joint response to the NICE consultation in April, noting that primary eye care providers are best placed to increase awareness of the link between smoking and avoidable sight loss.

As a result of this consultation response opticians and optometrists have been included on the list of healthcare professionals that can advise and counsel smokers on their increased risk, the benefits of stopping and, where appropriate, refer them to a local stop smoking service.

David Hewlett, speaking on behalf of the Optical Confederation, said: “This is an important milestone for optics, and shows how sight loss and the Eye Health Indicator are playing an ever more prominent role in the wider healthcare debate.”

Geoff Roberson, speaking on behalf of the Optical Confederation, said: “There is great scope for optometrists and opticians to support public health outcomes through either referring patients to stop smoking services or potentially providing these services themselves as part of a move into wider community health service provision.”