Can smoking cause diabetes?

William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Diabetes is caused by a combination of genes and triggers. If your DNA, the genetic blue print that makes you...well, YOU...carries the foundation for diabetes, then the right combination of age and weight sets the process in motion.

So you cannot give yourself diabetes simply by eating too much sugar, by smoking, or by kissing a diabetic.

So no guilt over the whole smoking thing. It didn’t give you diabetes.

But, before you go away, now that you have diabetes, smoking is an even worse idea than it was before you had diabetes. And what I’m worried about is your heart. Most diabetics actually die from heart disease. Diabetes is a huge risk factor for heart disease. Others include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and yep—you guessed it—smoking!

Now smoking is not good for anyone, regardless of the rest of their health. It can quite literally kill you overtime. The great news is that once you stop smoking your body begins to repair the damage in a matter of days. Of course, it takes years to repair all the damage but consider the following:

  • 20 minutes after your last cigarette your blood pressure drops to normal, your pulse rate falls to normal levels, and your body temperature in your hands and feet rises to normal.
  • 8 hours after your last cigarette the carbon dioxide level in your blood drops to normal and the oxygen level in your blood returns to normal levels.
  • 24 hours after your last cigarette your chance of a heart attack drops measurably.
  • 48 hours after your last cigarette nerve endings start to re-grow, increasing your ability to smell and taste.
  • 72 hours after your last cigarette your body is free of nicotine, your bronchial tubes relax and your lung capacity increases.
  • 2 weeks after your last cigarette your circulation improves, walking becomes easier again.
  • 3 months after your last cigarette your lung function has increased by 30%.
  • Within 9 months coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease. You have more energy.
  • 1 year after your last cigarette your risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.
  • 5 years after your last cigarette your risk of stroke is the same as a nonsmoker.
  • 10 years after your last cigarette your lung cancer risk is now half that of a smoker. 
  • 15 years after your last cigarette your risk of heart disease in now back to that of a nonsmoker.
Ronald Tamler, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
There is a link between smoking and diabetes risk. In this video, I will explain how smokers who have diabetes are at greater risk for diabetic complications.
Smoking can increase your risk of diabetes by contributing to insulin resistance in the body. Increased insulin resistance is a cause of type 2 diabetes. The more you smoke, the greater the risk of developing diabetes. People who are considered heavy smokers, smoking more than 20 cigarettes daily, almost double their risk.
Smoking doesn’t cause diabetes, but over time, smoking damages your heart and circulatory system by hardening your blood vessels. Narrow blood vessels can restrict the flow of blood to cells in your body. These cells can die, and the damage can lead to lung disease, heart disease, impotence, and amputation. If you smoke now, talk to the members of your health care team about strategies that can help you quit.

A large body of research suggests that smoking is strongly "associated" with the development of type 2 diabetes. A review of 25 studies found that:,     smokers are 44% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and heavy smokers are 61% more likely than non-smokers to develop type 2 diabetes. Smoking or using any other type of tobacco raises blood sugar, which is thought to result in insulin resistance. Smoking can also cause complications to those who have diabetes. It increases:

the risk of heart attacks and strokes; blood pressure; cholesterol; damages blood vessels and preventing proper healing; increases the risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease; increases the risk of kidney disease; increases the risk of cancer; increases the risk of erectile dysfunction; increases the risk of lung problems

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.