Diabetes and Electronic Cigarettes: Advice From an Expert
18 great comments - add yours!
by: James Dunworth
Headshot of Sue Marshall.

Sue Marshall, author of Diabetes: The Essential Guide

I’ve had lots of questions about diabetes and electronic cigarettes, but not being a medical professional I’ve always been reluctant to share my opinions.

Fortunately for us, diabetes expert and author Sue Marshall kindly agreed to answer some of our questions.

Sue Marshall has had Type 1 diabetes since 1972. Following a career in journalism, she set up Desang, an online resource for people with diabetes, and is the author of Diabetes: The Essential Guide (Need2Know books).

James: What effect does smoking cigarettes have on people who have diabetes?

Sue: If you’re diabetic and you smoke, then you are doing double jeopardy. Diabetes alone is a huge strain upon your body, your heart and circulatory system in particular. To then put smoking on top of that, with its direct affect on lungs, heart and circulatory system really is just asking for trouble.

However, a diagnosis of diabetes does not shield you from the usual addictions that the rest of society may be tempted by at some stage or another. But if you do smoke and get diagnosed with diabetes, you could use that as your start point for giving up. And if you already have diabetes, steer away from smoking. It really isn’t at all good for you.

James: Why is smoking cigarettes worse for people with diabetes than people without diabetes?

Sue: Smoking is bad for anyone, but as mentioned, the body of someone who has diabetes is already under more strain than that of a non-diabetic. Adding smoking to the mix means twice as much strain, and the potential for twice as much damage.

James: In your opinion, would people with diabetes who can’t or don’t want to quit be better off switching to electronic cigarettes?

Sue: Electronic cigarettes may sound silly, but as an alternative to smoking, they should not be dismissed out of hand. The sheer habit of smoking and the need to ‘do something with my hands’ can be mimicked with these tools. They actually look like they burn red and produce smoke, although they can feel a little bit different from your normal ciggie. You get most of the familiar feel and action, but without the damage to your body that real cigarettes promise.

A diabetic who is struggling to give up can give themselves a helping hand by at least giving one of these a go. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain. If it suits you, it can mean that you can also stop smoking tobacco cigarettes without having to have lots of conversations about it – to everyone else, it will look like you still are smoking. Meanwhile, you are showing yourself that you are not as reliant on those cancer sticks as you thought you were.

James: Would there be a difference depending on the type of Diabetes?

Sue: No matter which type of diabetes you have been diagnosed with, you should be looking at giving up smoking or switching to an alternative, and the sooner the better. While the root causes of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are different, a treatment varies from person to person, the condition is one that increases your chances of heart disease and circulation-related problems, especially in relation to foot health. If you have Type 2 specifically because of weight issues, then smoking is again the addition of an extremely negative factor in your ongoing health, or attempt to improve your health.

James: Are the sugar flavourings in electronic cigarette flavours (inhaled not ingested) likely to affect people with diabetes?

Sue: While some of the sugars in the replacement electronic cigarettes could possibly affect your blood sugars, they are in very low concentrations, so in the big picture — so long as you are not chain-smoking — they should not affect your blood sugar levels. Giving up smoking may not have a direct reflection in your diabetes control – in many ways you need to watch out for increasing the number of snacks you have when you would previously have had a cigarette. But giving up or switching to e-cigs will improve your health. Your body can rejuvenate and you will feel better for it. And if you can’t give up completely, consider using electronic cigarettes!

Do you have diabetes and use electronic cigarettes? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

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18 Responses to “Diabetes and Electronic Cigarettes: Advice From an Expert”

  1. John Connell August 21, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Would definitely concur with the above comments. The main and striking comment is, “what do you have to lose.” The answer is a profound nothing, the reality is that you have everything to gain when compared to the reality of tobacco that is combustible. Excellent work James. We certainly need to here these words, especially from people familiar with diabetes and the real danger inherent in smoking.

  2. James August 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    Thanks, John! It looks like we are going to have a follow up, as blogger Erik Bogren from Vapers Voice, who has diabetes, has kindly offered to do a guest post.

  3. Janet Andersen August 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

    I’ve been a T2 diabetic for six years and vaping for just over three. My preferred vape is my own mix of about 60/40(pg/vg). I was particularly concerned about the vg, but after experimenting a little without vg, I can’t say that it influenced my numbers at all. Even when I indulge in some yummy raspberry or my favorite Essence-Orange Orgasm my numbers don’t change.

  4. James August 22, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Thanks for the feedback, Janet, good to hear it is going well for you!

  5. Matt D August 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Have been a Type 2 diabetic for 6 years as well as having a severe anxiety disorder for over 15 years.

    Started smoking due to stress 20 years ago and, until I tried vaping 5 months ago, nothing helped me stop.

    E-cigarettes have. Am now 5 months smoke-free and, apart from a few shaky days a week in, it’s been far easier then I ever thought possible.

    My GP and Diabetic nurse are thrilled. Yes, stopping smoking has meant a few pounds have gone on due to the metabolism change, but that’s short-term and I’m now far more able to do something about it without being out of breath after a few minutes.

    Still getting the nicotine and being able to mimic the physical act of smoking has meant my anxiety disorder hasn’t been aggravated too – in fact, removing the health worry of being a diabetic smoker is a relief and less stress = lower blood sugar!

    Can’t recommend vaping enough.

  6. James August 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Matt, I am really glad it has gone so well for you!

  7. prashant August 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    I was under the impression nicotine increases blood sugar levels. If that is true, how does vaping help? You are still inhaling nicotine while vaping as you did with a cigarette right? Please help me understand this.

  8. James August 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Hi Prashant, I am not an expert, and have asked Sue if she can comment. However, the best option is obviously not to use nicotine at all. The e-cigarette is only a good alternative for people who can’t or don’t want to quit smoking – nicotine on its own being a better alternative than nicotine with the additional tar and carcinogens generated by burning tobacco.

  9. James August 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    Hi Prashant, just had a reply from Sue:

    “As nicotine is a stimulant, it could increase adrenaline which is associated with releasing energy stored in the liver… but the amounts would be quite small, and therefore rises in blood sugars would be minimal, nothing on the same scale as, say, having a glass of coke or a chocolate bar. If the amounts of nicotine is less in an e-cigarette, than this rise will be even smaller, even negligible. You will also be getting less of the other toxins associated with smoking tobacco, so an e-cigg is a better option.”

  10. Steve September 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Have been a 30+ cigarette smoker for around 35ish years. I am now approaching 49yrs of age. I have been an insulin dependant diabetic for nearly 3 decades. Never thought or attempted to give up smoking. My general health is good. As a manager within a mental health treatment setting I became aware of e-cigs when a patient was using them to suppress the cravings for a cigarette. A week later I had bought an e-cig and currently I am at 3 months smoke free. Now enjoying vaping more than I ever did the smoking. Health wise, have now started jogging and cycling and feeling good.

  11. James September 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    That’s great, Steve, glad it is going well for you!

  12. Chris Price April 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    There are a large number of posts on ECF about the experiences of diabetes patients and e-cigarette use. The general consensus is that a switch to ecigs is equivalent to stopping smoking. Some reported improvements in their various diabetes-related metrics. Some mentioned that by vaping sweet-flavoured refills, snacking can be avoided. Some mentioned their weight had reduced, although it is hard to see a correlation. No one reported their diabetes had worsened, at any rate.

    Also, it seems that blood plasma nicotine levels for vapers generally show a nicotine level between half and two-thirds that measured in smokers, so less nicotine appears to be consumed for an equivalent effect. This would reduce any effects from nicotine, if any exist.

  13. Grumpy )ldGit June 18, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    Erm…Hello all.

    I don’t normally share my thoughts but this may help somebody, I am type two, insulin dependent diabetic (7 years since diagnosis, insulin injections had to start after my heart attack in May 2012 DOH!.. In truth it was smoking that led to my heart attack and probably the insulin requirement. I am obsessed with data analysis and record all myn diabetes events in a database I designed and wrote. The heart attack gave me a big shock and I said I’d stop smoking my pipe and cigarettes… I did, cut down to no pipe (two pipes thrown away by my sons, bless ‘em :) and (eventually) at most two cigarettes a day (morning and evening from 20/day – not bad but not good, useless, weak old git couldn’t stop). I wondered if I was improving but my measure before, have a smoke, measure again showed a glucose increase of at least 4 (e.g. on 26/04/13 09:00 Glukes=7.8, cigarette, measured at Glukes=12.4! stayed on not eating unless I was hungry) measure, inject insulin, eat something low CGI, Vape, measure after an hour showed slight drop in Glukes, oh dear, YaGa, YaDa Yada, the old git does go on doesn’t he? Sorry all. Coclusion, Vaping is a big improvement for me.. Take care all Byeeeee :D

    • James Dunworth June 19, 2013 at 8:32 am #

      Glad it’s working for you, hope you continue to experience improvements!

  14. Allan September 25, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I have been a type 1 diabetic for 25 years and a 20 cigarette a day smoker for 40 years. I have switched to vaping for about 2 years but still crave tobacco. Not sure why. I am determined to drop tobacco completely but still buy a pack occasionally.
    I don’t notice a difference in blood sugar levels when vaping.

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