The short answer is that yes, smoking can cause ED. In fact, the more you smoke, the more likely you are to experience erectile dysfunction (ED). Even if you don’t experience ED, smoking will decrease the hardness of erections, leading to a loss of size. In short, smoking is bad for the penis.
According to a study of nearly 5,000 Chinese men, smoking is directly linked to ED. Men who smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day are 60% more likely to suffer from ED than men who never smoked. Fifteen percent of past and present smokers have experienced ED while only 12% of non-smokers have erection problems. Impotence is 30% more common in men who currently or formerly smoke.
A 2011 study of 65 sexually active male smokers took the research one step further by examining the effects of smoking cessation on erectile quality. Men who were successful in quitting smoking showed a number of positive benefits. Seventy-five percent stopped having erectile problems. They also experienced harder erections, achieved tumescence more quickly, and reported increased libido. Interestingly, the study found that the results were only experienced after the men stopped using nicotine patches. In other words, nicotine appears to have a deleterious effect on erectile function.
Smoking has long been associated with increased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart disease. The same process that leads to plaque build-up and narrowing of the arteries in the hearts of smokers is also thought to damage the vessels that supply blood to the penis. This theory, however, has never completely explained the high incidence of erectile dysfunction among smokers. The new study, discussed in the paragraph above, indicates that nicotine itself may also be contributing to the problem.
The mechanism by which nicotine affects erectile function is only partially known. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it causes blood vessels to shrink and thus reduces the volume of blood that can pass trough them. Long-term use of nicotine may even cause permanent arterial damage, making it difficult for vessels to regain function even after smoking ceases. This latter effect may explain why former smokers are more likely to suffer from ED than men who have never smoked. Whatever the precise mechanism may be, the combination of nicotine’s deleterious effects along with increased hardening of the arteries are a one-two punch that leads to ED at a very high rate in smokers.
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