To examine the relationship between smoking and both glycemic control and microvascular complications in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM).


This was a prevalence survey of 3,250 men and women aged 15–60 years with IDDM from 31 diabetes centers in 16 European countries. Participants completed a questionnaire, had retinal photographs taken, and performed a 24-h urine collection. HbA1c, frequency of hypoglycemic and ketoacidotic episodes, urinary albumin excretion rates, and retinopathy were compared by smoking category.


The prevalence of smoking was 35% in men and 29% in women. Current smokers had poorer glycemic control and, among men, were more likely to have had a ketoacidotic episode than were those who never smoked. Ex-smokers had equivalent glycemic control and marginally more hypoglycemic episodes did than those who never smoked. Current smokers had a higher prevalence of microalbuminuria and total retinopathy than did those who never smoked. Ex-smokers had a higher prevalence of macroalbuminuria and proliferative retinopathy than did those who never smoked, but both had a similar prevalence of microalbuminuria. Adjustment for either current or long-term glycemic control could not fully account for these differences.


Smoking is associated with poorer glycemic control and an increased prevalence of microvascular complications compared with not smoking. Ex-smokers can achieve glycemic control equivalent to and have a prevalence of early complications similar to that of those who never smoked. We suggest that poorer glycemic control can account for some of the increased risk of complications in smokers, and that quitting smoking would be effective in reducing the incidence of complications. Urgent action is required to reduce the high smoking rates in people with IDDM.

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