Paying to lose your eyesight is a new way to look at smoking cigarettes.

A recent study led by John R. W. Yates of the University of Cambridge and Tony Moore at the Institute of Ophthalmology in London has found that nonsmokers living with a smoker for five or more years had an increased risk for Age-related Macula Degeneration.

The macula lutea, commonly referred to as macula, is tissue on the eye’s retina where vision is the sharpest.

Macular degeneration doesn’t completely destroy vision, but it does cause a brown or black spot of blindness, while the person still is capable using peripheral vision.

Mile Brujic, an optometrist in Bowling Green, describes the macula as “the very center tissue in the back of the eye, and this tissue is very important to see well.”

Brujic said the macula’s degeneration is mainly linked to a balance between genetics and three environmental elements: exposure to ultra-violet rays, poor nutrition and smoking.

UV rays could damage cells, potentially harming healthy tissue and setting off the first stages of disease, if proper nutrients aren’t available to damaged cells. Antioxidants are essential in fixing UV damage, and are delivered to tissue, such as the macula, through the blood vessels.

But smoking narrows blood vessels that run all over the body, including the eyes, Brujic says.

The damage to an eye’s tissue can’t be easily repaired if blood vessels are inhibited by smoking and nutrients can’t get to the damaged cells.

Though he’s been trying to quit for some time, after finding out about the connection to loss of eyesight freshman Rob D. Woolley found new reason to give up smoking.

“I don’t want to go blind,” he said, adding that he’s been smoking since he came to BGSU, but started chew his senior year in high school; he’s given up chewing since then.

The study incorporated the amount that volunteers smoked, which increased chances of AMD occurring in the eyes of heavier smokers.

“The most important message is that what matters is not whether or not you smoke, but how much you smoke, and the more you smoke the higher the risk,” Yates wrote in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Smoking affects the macula more than any of the tissues in the eye, according to Brujic. The eye tissue is extremely vulnerable to UV radiation, making antioxidants that the blood delivers an important factor in maintaining healthy eyesight.

If blood vessels have been narrowed by smoking, then antioxidants can’t easily get to the eye to regenerate the damaged macula, Brujic explained.

Macular degeneration can happen in two ways. Either the macula becomes thin and stops working well, or newly formed blood vessels leak fluids and blood into the eye and cause vision loss, according the American Optometric Association.

Mark L. Dlugoss, editor-in-chief of Ophthalmology Times magazine, understood the results of the study to reveal that “people who smoke have a greater chance of macula degeneration,” but not that smoking will definitely cause loss of eyesight.

Dlugoss said, “nicotine destroys nutrients in eyes – antioxidant protection in the eye,” increasing chances of getting AMD.

Dlugoss mentions a recently approved drug, called Macugen, that helps to stop the bleeding in the eye, but is not a cure for AMD.

Brujic emphasized that educating people on the causes of vision impairment and prevention are the key.

“If they don’t understand it, it’s tough for them to see the value in it,” Brujic said.

But some still value the temporary relief smoking can bring.

“I need my cigarettes for college stress,” said freshman John Kulbis, adding that the connection smoking has to loss of eyesight doesn’t affect him.

Other studies have been done on the link between smoking and vision loss, but haven’t shown the connection as strongly as this study has, according to the British Journal of Ophthalmology.