Do I Have To Quit Smoking For Bariatric Surgery?

Quit Smoking For Bariatric
Do I Have To Quit Smoking For Bariatric Surgery? Bariatric surgery and smoking are not a good combination. Individuals who do not quit smoking before having bariatric surgery pose risks of serious complications and long-term risks during and after surgery.

Weight Loss Surgery and Smoking

Having bariatric surgery can save a person’s life. With just 28% of adults in the United States maintaining a healthy BMI range, obesity has become an epidemic in the country. BMI, which stands for body mass index, is a vital calculation to assess an individual’s weight status.

Higher weight is considered by the rest of the adult population in the United States. Type 2 diabetes is caused by obesity and other serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses are associated with it. Between 30-38% of individuals who are of higher weight also smoke or use tobacco regularly.

Numerous studies have consistently shown that smoking and tobacco use lead to various health problems. Additionally, they are the primary contributors to avoidable mortality worldwide.

Approximately 16 million individuals are currently living with a disease directly related to smoking, reports the CDC. For every person that smoking kills, there are thirty more people seriously affected by an illness related to smoking.

Smoking increases the chances of many different types of cancer, emphysema, heart disease, etc. Considering these facts, individuals with a higher weight and smoking face a higher likelihood of developing serious health issues.

Quit Smoking For Bariatric Surgery: Weight Loss Surgery and Smoking

Deciding to undergo bariatric surgery is a huge step in the right direction to improve your health and well-being. If you are a smoker or you use tobacco products regularly, this is the time to choose to leave those behind in your old life as well.

Aside from the standard risks that smoking poses to your health, it also can quadruple your risks of experiencing serious surgical complications. This is why bariatric surgeons have mandates regarding smoking before they will consider candidacy for weight loss surgery.

Many doctors require patients to quit smoking ranging anywhere from a few weeks to a year before they will commit to performing the surgery.

What Happens If I Smoke Before Bariatric Surgery?

Studies have shown a correlation between surgery-related complications for weight loss patients who smoke compared to non-smoking patients. The seriousness of this situation prompts some bariatric surgeons to conduct nicotine-level tests on patients before proceeding with surgery. In the event of elevated nicotine levels, the surgeons will opt out of performing the procedure.

Nicotine consumption raises the risk of heart attack, pneumonia, lung disease, stroke, blood clots, cancer, ulcers, and infection. More specifically:

Respiratory Complications

The use of tobacco or smoking disrupts the normal functioning of the lungs and reduces an individual’s breathing capacity. Bariatric surgery patients who smoke are at a greater risk of developing pneumonia.

Dangerous Blood Clots

Individuals who smoke have a 23% higher risk of developing venous thromboembolism. The more cigarettes consumed in a day, the higher the risk. Blood clots that develop in the body (pulmonary embolism) and clots that form in the deep veins (deep vein thrombosis) can break off and travel to another area of the body resulting in a blockage.

Blockages can lead to strokes or heart attacks. If left untreated, the mortality rate is 30%. However, if diagnosed and treated, mortality reduces to 8%. Additionally, 10% of individuals who experience a pulmonary embolism die suddenly with no warning.

Prolonged Healing of Wounds

Smoking or the use of tobacco products can also affect how fast your body can heal itself. Cigarettes contain toxic ingredients that impede wound healing including:

  • Nicotine.

  • Carbon Monoxide.

  • Hydrogen Cyanide.

Injuries trigger white blood cells to act as paramedics, aiding in oxygen delivery and overseeing the healing process. However, the toxic elements found in cigarettes hinder their effectiveness, leading to delayed wound healing and prolonged recovery.


Smoking cigarettes can cause the formation of ulcers and complications resulting from ulcers such as bleeding, obstruction of the stomach, and perforation of the stomach. These can be life-threatening and require emergency surgery. Smoking is also one of the main causes of the failure of ulcer medication.

What Happens If I Smoke after Bariatric Surgery?

Choosing to undergo bariatric surgery and commit to a total lifestyle change should include quitting smoking. Having weight loss surgery provides you with an amazing tool and opportunity to get healthy. It would not make sense to go through everything weight loss surgery entails becoming healthy, only to sabotage the whole process by smoking.

Smoking can adversely affect your ability to lose weight and also compromise your health. Not only can smoking increase surgical risks, but it also increases the risk that patients will have complications after bariatric surgery.

Weight Loss Surgery and Smoking Side Affects

Patients have experienced severe pain, nausea, and vomiting due to strictures (narrowing) of the entrance to the stomach pouch caused by smoking.

There have been patients who experienced ulcer formations several years after bariatric surgery due to smoking. Ulcers are a commonly known side effect of smoking. However, bariatric surgery reduces the stomach size, making ulcers even more prevalent. If the complications are severe enough, the doctors may have to perform surgery to reverse the bypass (if possible) as a result.

As mentioned previously, smoking causes the blood vessels to shrink and decreases the amount of blood flow that is getting to your smaller stomach. The carbon monoxide that is produced due to smoking restricts the red blood cells’ ability to transport oxygen. These two issues not only affect your ability to heal from surgery but can be problematic for years after surgery.

Patients who continued smoking after bariatric surgery faced numerous complications, leading to additional surgeries or even death.

Smoking Relapse and Bariatric Surgery

A 7-year study was conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate Public School Of Health on 1,770 patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery. 45% of the patients reported a pre-surgery smoking history but almost all the patients were able to quit smoking by at least the month before surgery.

A year after surgery about 10% of patients were smoking again. Not only did they relapse but they were smoking more cigarettes per day than before surgery. At the seven-year mark, 14.5% of the patients who had gastric bypass surgery were smoking and interestingly, this included 3.8% of people who had never smoked before.

Patients Need Ongoing Support to Avoid Smoking after Bariatric Surgery

Based on the findings from this study, it is evident that patients’ response to nicotine undergoes significant changes after gastric bypass surgery. This is further supported by a separate study examining the effects of different drugs on individuals who have had the surgery.

The study findings highlight the importance of pre-surgery smoking cessation. However, continuous post-surgery support is necessary to prevent or address relapses effectively.

If you are interested in bariatric surgery or want to know if you are a candidate take this quick quiz to find out. IBI Healthcare Institute provides wrap-around support before, during, and after your weight loss surgery. Contact us today and set up a consultation to learn more about weight loss options that are right for you.

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