Male reproductive system damage
Men who smoke have a significantly higher risk of developing impotence (erectile dysfunction) than non-smokers. This risk increases the longer you smoke and the more cigarettes you smoke.1,2
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve and maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance. 3 Erectile dysfunction can impact on the ability of men to have a full sex life and may inhibit their ability to have a child. 4
There are a number of causes of erectile dysfunction, with circulatory and vascular problems being the most common physical cause. 4 Smoking can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which occurs when there is narrowing and clogging of the arteries reducing blood supply, this includes decreasing blood supply to the penis. In addition, the nicotine in cigarette smoke can result in vasospasm (temporary constriction of the penile arteries) which can also affect blood flow to the penis. 4,5,6 Also see the fact sheet ‘Smoking clogs your arteries’ for more information on atherosclerosis.
There is evidence to suggest that cigarette smoking exacerbates other risk factors for erectile dysfunction, such as coronary heart disease and diabetes. 4,6
Cigar smoking and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke are also associated with erectile dysfunction. 5,6
Almost one in 10 Australian men aged 16-59 years report having experienced erectile dysfunction that lasted a month or more. 1 Compared to non-smokers, men who smoked up to 20 cigarettes a day were 24% more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. For men who smoked a pack or more of cigarettes daily, this risk increased to almost 40%. 1
Quitting smoking will reduce your chance of developing erectile dysfunction. 5 For those who already experience erectile dysfunction, it is uncertain whether quitting smoking will be helpful. Some studies indicate that quitting smoking can lead to recovery if there is a limited period of smoking. 5 Reduce your risk by never starting smoking or quit smoking as soon as possible if you already smoke. 7
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Smoking may also affect the development and quality of sperm, decrease the sperm count and reduce the volume of semen. 5 Toxins found in tobacco smoke such as cadmium, nicotine, benzopyrene and related by-products can damage the genetic material in sperm cells. 4
While many studies have not shown a reduction in male fertility associated with smoking, 8 there is emerging evidence that the damage to sperm may affect male reproduction. 9
Studies suggest that children of fathers who smoke have an increased risk of developing childhood cancers, possibly as a result of the damage to the father’s sperm. 9,10 While not yet conclusive, there is also some emerging evidence that the repercussions for children of fathers who smoke may extend beyond cancers. 11
Cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of developing invasive penile cancer. This risk is approximately four times more than for non-smokers. 12 While penile cancer is rare, in Australia, 30% of penile cancer in men is estimated to be attributed to smoking. 13
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1. Millet C, Wen LM, Rissel C,Smith A, Richters J, Grulich A, de Visser R. Smoking and erectile dysfunction: findings from a representative sample of Australian men. Tob Control 2006;15:136-139.
2. Tengs, T and Osgood, N. The link between smoking and impotence: Two decades of evidence Preventive Medicine 2001;32(6):447-452.
3.NIH Consensus Conference. Impotence. Consensus Development Panel on Impotence. JAMA 1993;270:83-90.
4. British Medical Association. Smoking and reproductive life: The impact of smoking on sexual, reproductive and child health (This link was valid at the time of submission). Board of Science and Education and Tobacco Control Resource Centre, February 2004.
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: 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, 2004.
6. American Council on Science and Health. Cigarettes: What the warning label doesn’t tell you. Second edition. New York, American Council on Science and Health, 2003.
7. The Scoop on Smoking from ACSH: what every teen should know about tobacco – erectile dysfunction. [downloaded 7/8/07].
8. Vine MF. Smoking and male reproduction: a review Int J Androl. 1996;19(6):323-37
9. Zenzes MT. Smoking and reproduction: gene damage to human gametes and embryos Human Reproduction Update 2000;6(2):122-131
10. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.
11. Yauk CL, Berndt ML, Williams A, Rowan-Carroll A, Douglas GR and Stämpfli MR. Mainstream tobacco smoke causes paternal germ-line DNA mutation (This link was valid at the time of submission). Cancer Research. June 1, 2007; 67:(11) 5103-5106.
12. Daling JR, Madeleine MM, Johnson LG, Schwartz SM, Shera KA, Wurscher MA, Carter JJ, Porter PL, Gllowary DA, McDougall JK, Krieger JN. Penile cancer: Importance of circumcision, human papillomavirus and smoking in in situ and invasive disease. International Journal of Cancer. 11 April 2005. 116 (4) 606-616. [abstract] printed 8/8/07
13. AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) & AACR (Australasian Association of Cancer Registries) 2007. Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2006. Cancer Series no.37. Cat. No. CAN 32. Canberra: AIHW.
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