What Impact Might Smoking Have on Your Sex Life?

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Cigarettes contain about 600 ingredients and create thousands of chemicals when they are burned, at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer (American Lung Association, 2020). By now, it’s no secret that smoking has adverse health effects. Many studies have demonstrated the link between smoking cigarettes and serious health conditions including cancer, heart disease, chronic lung diseases, stroke, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Perhaps lesser known is the impact that smoking can have on a person’s sexual function. The following are the ways in which smoking could impact your sexual health.

Effects of Smoking on Sexual Function

Erectile dysfunction (ED): Smoking damages the vascular system which is crucial in the process of facilitating erections. Erections require good blood flow to the penis, so men who smoke are more likely to experience ED because smoking damages the blood vessels and keeps them from functioning as well as they should. What’s more, the more a person smokes, the greater their risk of ED, according to the results of a study presented at one of the American Heart Association’s Annual Conferences on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. In this study, men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day had a 60% higher risk of ED than men who never smoked. Fortunately, erectile function can improve when a person quits smoking. One prospective study showed a 25% improvement in ED for ex-smokers one year after quitting compared to no improvement in the current smokers.

Decreased genital response: Although research is still limited on this topic, early studies indicate that nicotine may significantly reduce the genital arousal response in typically arousing situations. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial demonstrated that women who had 6 mg of nicotine 40 minutes before watching an erotic film experienced a 30% decrease in physiological sexual arousal. Smoking is harmful to sex hormones (androgens and estrogens), which can also have the effect of blunting sexual response and, for women, decreasing vaginal lubrication. Finally, reduced blood flow to the genitals caused by damaged blood vessels may decrease their sensitivity and further impair sexual response.

Reduced fertility: Smoking can negatively impact fertility in both men and women. In men, smoking has been linked to decreased semen volume, sperm count, and sperm motility (capability of movement). For women, smoking has been associated with impaired ovarian function, decreased eggs, and an increased likelihood of early menopause.

Decreased physical stamina and other factors: Because smoking accelerates a decline in lung function, many smokers become out of breath more quickly and have less endurance for physical tasks. This could also impact their stamina during sex. Additionally, physical changes such as stained teeth and bad breath may be unappealing to potential romantic partners.

The Bottom Line

Not only is smoking harmful to your overall health, but it can also hurt your sex life. If you need support or advice for quitting smoking, reach out to a trusted counselor or other health care professional.