Remember all those old magazine ads and billboards for cigarettes that invariably showed some hot young couple having fun, or lying in bed together? How about that tired cliché of lighting one up after a particularly invigorating roll in the hay?
Well, like most things in advertising and movies, reality isn’t quite as fantastical. The truth is, the regular consumption of nicotine can have rather dramatic effects on your sexual health. Three of the most common effects of smoking are:
- Decreased libido
- Erectile dysfunction
Several studies have suggested a link between smoking and a lower sex drive in men. Others, most notably originating from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, identified negative impacts of nicotine on fertility, finding that smoking damages the DNA found in both eggs and sperm.
The most common sexual issue that arises in men who smoke regularly however, is erectile dysfunction. Time and time again, science has proven a direct link between smoking and ED. It all comes down to a very simple, straightforward biological process.
How Smoking Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction and Impotence
The key issue here stems from nicotine’s effect on your cardiovascular health. Obviously, the occasional cigarette or cigar won’t result in immediate erectile dysfunction (ED)—but those who are deep in the habit are likely already familiar with this symptom.
Whether it be cigarettes, cigars, or pipe tobacco, regular ingestion damages the lining of your blood vessels.
This reduces arterial flow throughout your body. As you may recall from middle school biology class, a reliable level of blood supply in the arteries of the penis is required to achieve and maintain a strong erection. When you’re aroused, these arteries open and fill with blood. However, poor blood flow means a poor showing; meaning a weak or even nonexistent erection.
The main culprit here is nicotine—a well-known vasoconstrictor—which as its designation implies, constricts blood flow.
Severity often depends almost entirely on level of exposure. This means that reducing or quitting the habit can go a long way toward mitigating or even eliminating your ED.
The Scientific Link Between Smoking and ED
A 2004 study monitored both smokers and ex-smokers diagnosed with ED for a year-long period. The results found that 25% of those in the latter group experienced marked improvements in their erectile dysfunction.
Those in the smoking group didn’t fare nearly as well—an overwhelming majority showed no improvement at all, while for some their ED actually got worse.
A review of other similar studies returned consistent results: regular smokers demonstrated a significantly higher risk of experiencing ED than non-smokers, regardless of age.
That’s right, ED related to smoking has been seen in men as young as 20. This isn’t a matter of age; not even youth can completely blunt the damage that habitual smoking can cause in the bedroom.
How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction Caused by Smoking
There is some good news for smokers who are experiencing ED, however. There is a straightforward, though not necessarily easy, solution: quit smoking.
Nearly all data has shown that men who quit experience relatively rapid improvements in their sexual performance.
Keep in mind however, the act of smoking isn’t actually the issue at hand. Because nicotine is the chemical causing the blood flow issues, a skin patch won’t do the trick. A 2008 study even found a link between chewing nicotine gum and erectile dysfunction.
If quitting seems like a daunting task, it may seem more manageable by the fact that going cold turkey isn’t necessary. Gradually reducing exposure to nicotine will typically result in gradual improvements in occasions of impotence.
Some tried and true suggestions to make quitting—or at least reducing—your smoking habit more easily can include:
- Making a list of reasons to quit
- Noting why any of your earlier attempts were unsuccessful
- Paying attention to your triggers, like the consumption of alcohol or coffee
- Finding new activities or routines that can help distract you from cravings
- Understanding that setbacks and slips do happen, and not becoming discouraged
Also, men need to know that quitting smoking isn’t a cure-all. Erectile dysfunction can arise from a myriad of underlying factors, both physical and mental. Other unhealthy habits may be contributing to your ED.
This is why it is recommended that those who do quit simultaneously take up new, healthier practices that can further lower blood pressure—like aerobic exercise.
Consult a Trusted ED Clinic and Reclaim Your Sexual Health
The medical experts at Proactive Men’s Medical Center in Cincinnati can help you reclaim your sex life.
Our experienced professionals can help you to not only identify the causes behind your erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or other sexual challenges—but map out an achievable, customized plan for combating them. Contact us today to secure your appointment, and begin your journey back to your best self today.