New smoking link to diabetesBreathing other people's smoke increases risk

26 January 2007

Smoking a cigarette

Health experts have warned that passive smoking can increase the risk of developing diabetes.

New research from the US shows that breathing other people's smoke raises the risk of developing glucose intolerance, the precursor to diabetes.

It's already known that smokers can have a higher risk of developing the disease but this is the first time scientists have been able to establish a link with passive smoking.

In the study, published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), researchers examined 4572 men and women in four US cities.

They were divided into four categories - those who smoked, those who had given up, those who had been exposed to other people's smoke and those who had never smoked and had never been exposed to second-hand smoke.

Not enough insulin

The study authors found 22 per cent of smokers developed glucose intolerance - a condition where the body can no longer produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar - over the 15 year study period.

Non-smokers who had no exposure to second-hand smoke had the lowest risk, with less than 12 per cent developing the condition.

But 17 per cent of those who had never smoked themselves but were subject to second-hand smoke also developed glucose intolerance.

Zoe Harrison, Care Advisor at Diabetes UK said: 'We already know that smoking is bad for us and that it increases the risk of complications in those already diagnosed with diabetes.

'But if further research continues to show this link between Type 2 diabetes and passive smoking, then it will certainly support the need for a total smoking ban in public places.

Blindness and amputations

'Diabetes is already increasing at an alarming rate and lifestyle factors definitely play a huge role in this. If this pattern continues, we will soon start seeing people losing their sight or having amputations at a much younger age.'