Request a demo here for our Tobacco Cessation Solution and receive a free Heart Health Gift Box.
Pivot Breathe

The Connection Between Diabetes and Smoking

October 18, 2023
By Pivot
smiling doctor speaking to patients

Smoking raises the risk of type 2 diabetes and exacerbates the challenges of managing this complex condition.

Studies have shown that people who smoke cigarettes are 30–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers. When looking at it from a different angle, about 25% of people who have diabetes smoke. 

Let’s explore the connection between diabetes and smoking and the benefits of quitting.

Impact on Insulin Function

Nicotine, a highly addictive substance in tobacco, raises blood sugar levels and reduces insulin sensitivity. This double whammy can disrupt the delicate balance of blood sugar regulation, making it harder for individuals to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Aggravation of Diabetes Complications

For those already living with diabetes, smoking can worsen the condition and increase the risk of complications.

Diabetic Nephropathy and Retinopathy

Tobacco use can worsen diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage) and retinopathy (eye damage), two common complications of diabetes. Smoking reduces blood flow to vital organs and increases inflammation, making these complications more likely and severe.

Cardiovascular Diseases

Individuals who smoke and have diabetes are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. The combination of diabetes and smoking creates a dangerous synergy that increases the risk of these life-threatening conditions.

The High Cost of Poorly Managed Diabetes and Smoking

Poorly managed diabetes can lead to acute complications, necessitating frequent visits to the emergency room. These interventions lead to escalated healthcare expenses owing to intensive treatments, medications, and prolonged hospitalizations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals with diabetes who smoke experience healthcare costs that are 62% higher than those who have never smoked and 27% higher than individuals who used to smoke.

A recent study has revealed that Americans with diabetes spend an average of $16,700 annually on healthcare costs, a staggering 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes. For individuals with diabetes who also smoke, these costs can skyrocket even further, emphasizing the urgent need to break free from tobacco addiction.

The Benefits of Quitting Smoking for Diabetes

Quitting smoking can bring about rapid improvements for individuals with diabetes. In as little as eight weeks after quitting, people with diabetes will begin to see positive changes. 

Quitting smoking enhances blood sugar control, reduces complications, and makes diabetes medications more effective. Additionally, quitting promotes faster wound healing. This is especially crucial for individuals with diabetes, who are more prone to slow-healing wounds.

Moreover, quitting can decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place.


The connection between smoking and type 2 diabetes is undeniable. Smoking raises the risk of developing diabetes and complicates its management, leading to more severe complications and higher healthcare costs. 

However, by quitting smoking, individuals with diabetes can regain control of their health, achieve better diabetes management, and reduce the risk of complications. This improves their quality of life and alleviates the burden of healthcare costs associated with poorly managed diabetes and smoking.


FAQs About Diabetes and Smoking

How does smoking affect the risk of developing type 2 diabetes?
Logo Illustrating of arrow pointing down

Smoking increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30-40% compared to non-smokers.

What is the impact of nicotine on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity?
Logo Illustrating of arrow pointing down

Nicotine, found in tobacco, raises blood sugar levels and reduces insulin sensitivity, making it harder to regulate blood sugar.

How does smoking worsen complications in individuals already living with diabetes?
Logo Illustrating of arrow pointing down

Smoking can worsen diabetic complications such as nephropathy (kidney damage) and retinopathy (eye damage) by reducing blood flow and increasing inflammation.

What health risks do individuals with both diabetes and smoking face?
Logo Illustrating of arrow pointing down

Individuals with diabetes who smoke are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes due to the combined effects of diabetes and smoking.

How does quitting smoking benefit individuals with diabetes?
Logo Illustrating of arrow pointing down

Quitting smoking improves blood sugar control, reduces complications, enhances the effectiveness of diabetes medications, and promotes faster wound healing, ultimately improving the overall quality of life for individuals with diabetes.

Yellow swirl illustration
Ready to learn more about smoking and diabetes?

Check out this blog post:

Right pointing arrow icon illustration
Right pointing arrow icon illustration
Why It’s Time to Address Alcohol Misuse Among Employees
How Alcohol Misuse is Draining Your Business Financially
woman on a run wearing headphones
Alcohol is a Slippery Slope for Employee Productivity
Take a Sober Curious Approach to Workplace Wellness
How Mindful Drinking Boosts Business and Employee Health