Impotence and Smoking

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is twice as likely to occur in smokers than non-smokers. Exposure to second-hand smoke is a significant factor in becoming impotent.Footnote 4 

What is Impotence?

  • Impotence is the constant inability of a man to maintain an erection for sexual purposes. It is estimated that impotence affects over 30 million men in the United States.Footnote 1


  • Sexual functioning requires the coordination of several functions in the body. This includes the nervous system (mental stimulation) working in coordination with hormones, and the vascular system which pumps blood into the muscle tissue that maintains the erection. Smoking can affect all these systems, thereby, causing impotence.Footnote 2 
  • Many diseases caused by smoking involve blockage of the arteries, meaning that smoking inhibits the flow of blood throughout the body. Strokes and heart attacks are one result of severe bloodflow blockage. Impotence is another result of arterial blockage.
  • Long-term smoking causes more physiological damage. In a United States studyFootnote 2 , healthy men who smoked, with no history of impotence, heart disease or diabetes, were interviewed twice over 8 years. The second interview revealed that although these men still had no heart disease or diabetes,they were twice as likely to experience moderate or severe impotence.Footnote 4 
  • A secondary studyFootnote 5  indicated that smoking is an independent risk factor contributing to impotence. After considering other risk factors, it was found that current smokers were twice as likely to experience impotence as non-smokers.
  • Another independent studyFootnote 3  grouped impotent smokers,according to how many cigarettes they smoked each day. The study concluded:
    • heavy smokers (40+ cigarettes/day) had the "softest" night-time erections;
    • smoking was related to an abnormal decline of blood pressure in the penis.

What You Can Do

  • It is possible to fully or partially recover erectile function by just quitting smoking. The problem in recovery is the degree of damage that has been inflicted, and the identification of which system has been affected. The greater the length of time spent smoking, the greater the damage to the biological systems that cause impotence.Footnote 3 
  • Men who have reported losing their erections before orgasm have completely reversed this situation by quitting smoking.Footnote 3 

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