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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