FDA lists cataracts as warning on cigarettes

April 22, 2020

It can be difficult, at times, to remember that other aspects of life (from personal life all the way up to the federal government) go on in spite of this global pandemic. This is especially true in optometry as ODs have gone from seeing hundreds of patients a week to just a few emergencies. The federal government and its agencies press on as well.

It can be difficult, at times, to remember that other aspects of life (from personal life all the way up to the federal government) go on in spite of this global pandemic. This is especially true in optometry as ODs have gone from seeing hundreds of patients a week to just a few emergencies. The federal government and its agencies press on as well.

One timely example of that is new requirements on cigarette warnings recently issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1

The final list included 11 warnings, including cancer and other lung disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and….cataracts. The dangers of secondhand smoke are addressed as well. One of the 11 warnings will appear on each cigarette package or advertisement with an accompanying image exemplifying the negative impact smoking can have on one’s health.

The link between smoking and cataracts has been reported for decades in the world’s scientific literature.2 It is not advances in science but advances in policy which have led to these recent changes to law with respect to the sale and advertisement of cigarettes. As a person who seeks on a daily basis to prevent eye disease, I applaud them.

In reading the FDA press release,1 I was reminded of an editorial I authored about a year ago on this very topic. My frame of reference was the Netherlands. I was on a family trip to Amsterdam and walking down a narrow street when something caught my attention (see Figure 1). It was a warning about the dangers of smoking on the door of a smoke shop. This was not the only warning sign. There were others, including a picture of a man who was obviously in respiratory distress. I stopped to take a picture of the signage, which also had instructions on seeking help for quitting smoking.

I was impressed at the time, and I commend the FDA in taking this step in an effort to make the public aware that essentially no human tissue is exempt from the adverse effects of smoking. We must take care of our sick and our elderly, but we must also put forth much effort in preventing disease in the future. If we don’t continue to press for preventative steps now, there may not be a bandage big enough in the future.

References:

1. Food and Drug Administration. FDA requires new health warnings for cigarette packages and advertisements. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-requires-new-health-warnings-cigarette-packages-and-advertisements. Accessed 4/9/2020.
2. Klein BE, Klein R, Moss SE. Prevalence of cataracts in a population-based study of persons with diabetes mellitus. Ophthalmology. 1985 Sep;92(9):1191-6.