Smoking and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic eye disease that causes central vision loss. Read more about age-related macular degeneration...


Smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration. 1,2,3,4

Smokers are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop AMD than people who never smoked.2,3

In Canada, each year, there are nearly 200,000 new cases of AMD diagnosed.5

In most cases, there is no effective treatment for AMD. Treatment may slow down the progression of the disease.1,2

This health warning message addresses AMD for cigarettes and little cigars:

Risk of Blindness

What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration affects the macula, which is the layer of tissue on the inside back wall of the eye and is responsible for seeing fine details. As the macula degenerates, it becomes very difficult to read, write, drive and recognize faces, diminishing one's quality of life. It can even lead to blindness.1,5

The available treatment for AMD is limited and includes dietary supplements, laser interventions, and drugs that are injected into the affected eye. At best, these treatments may only slow down the progression of the disease.1,2

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 55 years and older, in developed countries.2,3

The benefits of quitting

When people stop smoking, the risk of age-related macular degeneration starts to decrease. Twenty years after quitting, the risk of developing AMD is similar to that of someone who has never smoked.6,7,8

Quitting is more effective than other measures to avoid the development of AMD and other smoking-related diseases. Need help to quit? Call the pan-Canadian quitline toll-free at 1-866-366-3667.


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2004. Ch.6, p.780-88.

2. Thornton J, Edwards R, Mitchell P, Harrison RA, Buchan I, Kelly SP. Smoking and age-related macular degeneration: a review of association. Eye 2005;19:935-944.

3. Chakravarthy U, Wong TY, Fletcher A, Piault E, Evans C, Zlateva G, Buggage R, Pleil A, Mitchell P. Clinical risk factors for age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Ophthalmol 2010 Dec 13;10:31.

4. Cong R, Zhou B, Sun Q, Gu H, Tang N, Wang B. Smoking and the Risk of Age-related Macular Degeneration: A Meta-Analysis. Annals of Epidemiology 2008;18(8):647-656.

5. Brown MM, Brown GC, Stein JD, Roth Z, Campanella J, Beauchamp GR. Age-related macular degeneration: economic burden and value-based medicine analysis. Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology 2002;40(3):277-287.

6. Vingerling JR, Hofman A, Grobbee DE, de Jong PT. Age-related macular degeneration and smoking. The Rotterdam Study. Arch Ophthalmol 1996; 114: 1193-1196.

7. Delcourt C, Diaz JL, Ponton-Sanchez A, Papoz L. Smoking and age-related macular degeneration. The POLA Study. Pathologies Oculaires Liees a l'Age. Arch Ophthalmol 1998; 116: 1031-1035.

8. Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Manson JE, Ajani UA, Buring JE. A prospective study of cigarette smoking and risk of age-related macular degeneration in men. JAMA 1996;276: 1147-1151.

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