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How smoking can ruin your sex life

Why smoking may seem attractive in movies and magazines, it’s not all the glitz and glamour it appears. Smoking has devastating effects on your health, especially in the long run. It is a major risk factor for health conditions such as lung and heart disease, as well as several types of cancer.

It can also cause erection problems in men, and given that smoking incidence continues to be higher in men Trusted source Office for National Statistics (ONS) Government Source Go to source , erectile dysfunction rates continue to rise. It’s not just a problem for older men. 1 in 4 Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source men diagnosed with ED are younger men, which is interesting considering the highest prevalence of smoking is in men who are 25 - 44 Trusted source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Government Source Go to source years of age.

Thankfully, there are methods and treatments that can help you quit smoking and treat your ED. Keep reading to find out more.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 08-10-2023

What does smoking do to your body?

Smoking, whilst common, causes the inhalation of several harmful ingredients in the tobacco that damage the body. When you burn a cigarette, it's estimated that you burn upwards of 7,000 different chemicals Trusted source National Cancer Institute (NCI) Government Source Go to source , 250 of which are deemed to be harmful.

There are 2 main chemicals in cigarettes that cause health problems.

  • Carbon monoxide - a poisonous gas that takes the place of oxygen in your blood, forcing your heart and lungs to work much harder and preventing sufficient oxygen intake for the muscles and organs that need it.
  • Tar - a sticky brown substance which damages the lungs by narrowing the small tubes that absorb the oxygen (bronchioles), and by damaging the small hair (cilia) that protect your lungs from dirt and infection.

These chemicals damage the blood vessels and the lungs, causing medical conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis and emphysema. It has also been linked to impaired cognition and neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia.

“75,000 deaths a year are caused by smoking.”

Moreover, a lot of the chemicals in cigarettes are carcinogenic, meaning they can cause cancers such as lung cancer, oesophageal cancer, laryngeal cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer among many others.

Smoking has a high mortality rate. In fact, two thirds Trusted source BMC Medicine Peer-reviewed Journals Biomedical Research Publication Go to source of lifelong heavy smokers die because of their habit. In addition, in 2020, the NHS recorded almost 75,000 deaths Trusted source NHS Digital Government Source Health and Social Care Digital Services Go to source as a result of smoking and continues to put a significant strain on public health.

What does nicotine do to your body?

Nicotine is the drug in cigarettes. It is not as harmful as the toxic chemicals, but it does have significant effects on your brain. When inhaled, it takes 20 seconds Trusted source Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Healthcare Institution Mental Health Services Go to source for nicotine to be delivered to the brain and cause neurological effects.

“Nicotine has an effect on the brain 20 seconds after smoking.”

Firstly, when nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream, it goes to the adrenal glands. This triggers the gland to release adrenaline, the hormone responsible for “fight or flight”. This increases your heart rate, your blood pressure and your breathing rates.

Secondly, nicotine also evokes pleasurable feelings. More specifically, nicotine mimics several neurotransmitters such as dopamine involved in your brain pleasure response. This is why smoking makes you feel relaxed,

Finally, nicotine is addictive which causes you to experience withdrawal symptoms if you don’t smoke, such as irritability, cigarette cravings and anxiety. This happens due to the pleasurable response as well as your body becoming accustomed to having nicotine in your blood.

How to quit smoking

Quitting smoking is much more difficult than other lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy and exercising, because it is a drug. Fortunately, there are several smoking cessation treatments available.

The most common and accessible type of treatment is nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT contains a small dose of nicotine that helps reduce any withdrawal effects. It’s available in the form of patches, lozenges, gum, inhalators, tablets, nasal and oral sprays. It is readily available over-the-counter in the UK. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for more advice on NRT.

There are also prescription medicines available like Zyban (Bupropion). It’s a clinically-proven treatment that reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings by targeting dopamine production in the brain. It also doesn’t contain any nicotine, which may be beneficial if you struggle with ED.

You can order Zyban online at HealthExpress using our stop-smoking service.

Start your stop-smoking consult today

The main takeaways

  • Smoking affects your sexual performance.
  • The toxic chemicals damage the blood vessels whilst the nicotine affects blood vessel dilation.
  • Quitting smoking alone can improve your erections within a few months.

Further reading

Obesity as a cause of ED

Erectile Dysfunction Causes Obesity as a cause of ED

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Stress, anxiety and how it can cause ED

Erectile Dysfunction Causes Stress, anxiety and how it can cause ED

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
Heart disease: the leading cause of erectile dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction Causes Heart disease as a cause of ED

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
How diabetes can cause erectile dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction Causes Diabetes as a cause of ED

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
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