Stop The Smoke Before You Croak

So you’re going to have Bariatric Surgery?

Why should we stop smoking before Bariatric Surgery?

Tobacco smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia, followed by obesity. Smoking leads to a wide range of diseases including many types of cancer, heart disease and stroke, chest and lung illnesses and stomach ulcers.


If you are going to such lengths to get rid of one of these chronic issues, why would you want to keep the other?

Bariatric surgery itself has a rather low risk, with under a one percent mortality rate. Among smokers, however, that risk doubles. This means that you are twice as likely to experience serious surgical complications leading to death if you are a smoker. Smokers are 1.5 times more likely to experience non-fatal surgical risks, too. This is just part of the reason why your surgeon asks that you stop smoking as soon as possible however a minimum of one month prior to surgery and wait three months after.

Smoking increases your risk of experiencing the following surgical complications:

  • Problems with anesthetic
  • Blood clots
  • Pneumonia
  • Gastric ulcers and gastric leaks
  • Increase risk of perforation
  • Surgical wound infection
  • Increase reflux after surgery

Smokers have almost a 30 percent complication rate after weight loss surgery, which is much higher than the surgical complication rate for non-smokers.


Even after weight loss surgery, smoking could inhibit your ability to lose weight and will negatively influence your health in drastic ways. Weight loss surgery puts the power to improve your health in your hands, offering you a chance to drastically increase your lifespan, sometimes by as much as 10-15 years. Smoking puts a huge damper on your health and makes living up to the lifelong dietary and behavioural changes even harder.

If you have a history of smoking, quitting before surgery is a must.

Don’t be fooled. Vapour cigarettes also need to be ceased prior to surgery as well. The key difference between traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes is that e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco.  But, it isn’t just the tobacco in cigarettes that cause cancer. Traditional cigarettes contain a long list of chemicals that are proven harmful, and e-cigarettes have some of these same chemicals. There are no long-term studies to back up claims that the vapour from e-cigarettes is less harmful than conventional smoke.

WLSA Quit smoking

One option is nicotine replacement therapy. These products provide you with small doses of nicotine without the toxins found in cigarette smoke. By receiving gradually-decreasing doses, you will be weaned off the nicotine with less severe withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine replacement is available in three over-the-counter delivery methods: chewing gum, lozenges and skin patches. Two prescription options — nasal sprays and inhalers — are also available.

These products can’t be used immediately prior to or during surgery, as they cause some of the same problems with healing as cigarettes. Let your surgeon know if you are using a nicotine replacement and he can advise further.

Non-nicotine prescription oral medications can also be used to help you quit smoking. Buproprion (brand name Zyban), also prescribed as an antidepressant, reduces the craving for nicotine. Varenicline tartrate (brand name Champix) targets the part of the brain that is affected by nicotine. In addition to reducing withdrawal symptoms, it dampens the pleasure a smoker gets if he or she relapses and lights up, thereby reducing the temptation to resume smoking.

Other resources are available to help you quit, including hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and support groups (both online and in the community).

Be honest with your registered nurse and bariatric surgeon about how much you smoke and about your history of quitting attempts. As your surgery date approaches, continue to keep us informed of your smoking cessation efforts. We are here to help you and we want to see you succeed and become the healthiest and best version of yourself you can be.


Angela Pettit