Tobacco and Impotence
Cigarettes cause impotence, also known as erectile dysfunction.Footnote 1
- Key facts about tobacco use and impotence
- What is impotence?
- How does tobacco use increase the risk of impotence?
- How does quitting reduce the risk of impotence?
- Health benefits of quitting tobacco use at any age
- Call for free help to quit
Key facts about tobacco use and impotence
- The risk of erectile dysfunction increases with past and present smoking habits as smoking reduces blood flow to the penis.Footnote 2Footnote 3Footnote 4
- People who smoke have a greater risk of erectile dysfunction than those who do not smoke.Footnote 5
What is impotence?
Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is the inability to have and keep an erection for sexual purposes.Footnote 1 Erectile dysfunction is usually caused by poor vascular function that reduces blood flow to the penis.Footnote 8
Smoking increases the chances of developing erectile dysfunction. One study has shown that in people younger than 40, smoking is a significant factor in experiencing impotence.Footnote 9 40% of men experiencing erectile dysfunction also smoke, compared to 28% of men in the general population.Footnote 10
Once erectile dysfunction is diagnosed, treatment can include medications, testosterone replacement therapy, and penile implants.Footnote 11
How does tobacco use increase the risk of impotence?
Tobacco smoke contains many toxic chemicals that enters the body when the smoke is inhaled.Footnote 7 Smoking increases the formation of plaque along the walls of blood vessels. Plaque builds up along the inside of the blood vessels causing them to narrow, which can disrupt proper blood flow. This condition is called atherosclerosis.Footnote 1Footnote 7
Atherosclerosis in the blood vessels of the penis can disrupt blood flow to the penis, making it more difficult to have and maintain an erection.Footnote 12
Smoking can also damage sperm cells, leading to fertility problems, including birth defects and decreased chances of survival of the fetus at birth.Footnote 7
How does quitting reduce the risk of impotence?
Quitting smoking leads to a reduced risk in the development of atherosclerosis. The progression of atherosclerosis slows the longer someone remains smoke-free.Footnote 2
For someone who smokes, their risk of erectile dysfunction increases with how much they smoke and for how long. This means that the earlier someone quits smoking, the smaller the risk for erectile dysfunction will be.
Health benefits of quitting tobacco use at any age
Quitting tobacco use reduces the risk of premature death, improves health, and enhances quality of life.Footnote 2 Quitting at any age is beneficial to one's health.Footnote 2 Even people who have smoked or used tobacco heavily for many years benefit from quitting.Footnote 2 Quitting is the most important thing someone who smokes can do to improve their health.
Read more about the benefits of quitting smoking.
Call for free help to quit
Call the toll-free pan-Canadian quit line at 1-866-366-3667. Quit line counselling, alone or in combination with cessation medications, increases success in quitting.Footnote 2
- Footnote 1
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.
- Footnote 2
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2020.
- Footnote 3
Biebel MG, Burnett AL, Sadeghi-Nejad H. Male sexual function and smoking. Sex Med Rev. 2016;4(4):366‐375. doi:10.1016/j.sxmr.2016.05.001.
- Footnote 4
Yafi FA, Jenkins L, Albersen M, et al. Erectile dysfunction. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2016;2:16003. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2016.3.
- Footnote 5
Bacon C, Mittleman M, Kawachi I et al. A prospective study of risk factors for erectile dysfunction. J Urol. 2006;176(1):217-21. doi: 10.1016/S0022-5347(06)00589-1.
- Footnote 6
Polsky J, Aronson K, Heaton J, Adams M. Smoking and other lifestyle factors in relation to erectile dysfunction. BJU International. 2005;96(9):1355-9. doi:10.1111/j.1464-410X.2005.05820.x.
- Footnote 7
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2010.
- Footnote 8
John Hopkins Medicine. Erectile dysfunction. Accessed May 2, 2022. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/erectile-dysfunction
- Footnote 9
Kovac JR, Labbate C, Ramasamy R, Tang D, Lipshultz LI. Effects of cigarette smoking on erectile dysfunction. Andrologia. 2015;47(10):1087‐1092. doi:10.1111/and.12393.
- Footnote 10
Tengs TO, Osgood ND. The link between smoking and impotence: two decades of evidence. Prev Med. 2001;32(6):447‐452. doi:10.1006/pmed.2001.0830.
- Footnote 11
Najari BB, Kashanian JA. Erectile Dysfunction. JAMA. 2016;316(17):1838.
- Date modified: