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Smoking and Diving

Cigarettes in glass ashtray

Smoking and Diving

While smoking rates among the younger generations have been declining for years, lots of people still smoke cigarettes or vape e-cigarettes.

Scuba diving, on the other hand, is often concerned with breathing, as well as other lung-related topics.

This brings many new divers to the question whether it is save to scuba dive if they are a smoker.

Can You Scuba Dive If You Smoke or Vape?

Yes, you can scuba dive if you dive and many people do. However, smoking and diving is a dangerous combination and should be avoided. It increases the risk of pulmonary barotrauma, decompression sickness, and arterial gas embolism through air-filled dilations in addition to other long-term complications. It also negatively affects your stamina and air management as a diver.

Despite the many known risks and complications of smoking in general, many scuba divers smoke regularly.

Most often, they do so in between dives or after the diving day has ended.

Model of human lungs
Smoking increases the risk of many lung-related injuries.

However, smoking and diving is not without health risks and should be avoided.

Increased risk of decompression illness, lower oxygen saturation, and potential air traps are only three reasons that should make you reconsider smoking as a scuba diver.

The same is true for e-cigarettes, shishas, hookas, and any other smoking or vaping activities when scuba diving.

Health Risks for Smokers in Scuba Diving

There are many known and suspected health risks for smokers. Among them are:

  • Increased blood pressure & heart rate
  • Emphysema
  • Pulmonary Barotrauma
  • Decompression Illness
  • Arterial Gas Embolism
  • Air-Trapping
  • Vascular Diseases
  • Increased Cancer Risk
  • Toxic Blue Haze
  • Lower Oxygen Saturation

Do I need a scuba medical checkup as a smoker?

Scuba divers should regularly get their health checked by a certified physician. Smokers should be even more careful and also request a chest X-ray and pulmonary functions exam (spirometry). If you have any known medical complications from smoking, get them cleared by a doctor before scuba diving.

Medical checkups are required for children under the age of 15 and scuba divers starting to dive above the age of 40 at many places.

They should be renewed bi-annually, or every year if you have a medical condition.

Doctor holding x-ray results
As a smoker, you should ask for chest x-rays.

Vaping and Scuba Diving

There is no ammonia in most vaping juices, so the nicotine impacts the brain in a less direct manner with vaping than with cigarettes. This reduces the physically addicting effects of nicotine and also makes it less dangerous for scuba divers. However, the general risk of air-trapping, as well as lung-related injuries remains.

Conclusion

If you smoke or vape you can still scuba dive and many divers do. It is not uncommon to see half of a dive boat take decompression cigarettes together.

As a matter of fact, I’d say about 70% of all dive instructors and guides I know smoke heavily so you can definitely do it.

However, this doesn’t mean you should.

Smoking comes with a number of health concerns like long-term lung damage, increased cancer risk, and decreased lung capacity.

In regard to scuba diving safety, it increases the risk of DCI, AGE, and other decompression-related lung injuries.

Vaping is similar although health concerns aren’t as well researched yet.

Long story short: You can smoke and dive, but you should not.

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Always dive with friends and happy bubbles. 😃

Cheers

Julius

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