Why Tobacco Smoking Can Lead to Impotence

Why Tobacco Smoking Can Lead to Impotence

There is an undeniable link between tobacco smoking and impotence or erectile dysfunction. Of course, impotence can also be caused by a range of physical and psychological factors. But researchers and health experts have also concluded smoking as a risk factor.

Separate studies from S. G. Korenman and I. Peate revealed that the incidence of impotence is about 85 percent higher in men who smoke compared to non-smokers. Smoking cessation can lower the risk of erectile dysfunction and improve male sexual potency.

Why Tobacco Smoking Can Lead to Impotence? How does Smoking affect Erectile Health?

Damage to the blood vessels explains the link between tobacco smoking and erectile dysfunction. Several chemicals in tobacco or cigarette smoke can affect blood circulation, injure the lining of the blood vessels, and affect cardiovascular health.

Remember that erection happens when arteries in the penis expand and fill with blood due to sexual arousal signals from the brain. Any obstruction in blood flow would make erection impossible despite having a properly functioning nervous system.

It is important to note that the effects of exposure to chemicals in tobacco smoke such as nicotine have been linked to other medical conditions ranging form skin problems and hair loss to cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension.

Below are more specific facts explaining why and how smoking can lead to impotence:

• Nicotine inhaled from tobacco smoke is a vasoconstrictor or an agent that narrows the blood vessels, thus reducing nutritional blood flow to tissues and organs of the body.

• Take note that nicotine increases the adhesiveness of platelets, thus increasing the likelihood of tissue ischemia or a restriction in blood supply to the tissues. Carbon monoxide also affects blood circulation

• Other chemicals in tobacco smoke damages the cell lining the inside of the arteries, thus causing plaque build-up and obstruction blood flow. Note that atherosclerosis is a condition caused by plaque build-up in the arteries.

• Burning tobacco produces thousands of reactive oxidative substances that generate more free radicals, activate oxidative-sensitive cellular pathways, and induce DNA damage, that in turn, trigger inflammation both at molecular and cellular levels.

Special Note on the Link between Erectile Dysfunction, Endothelial Function, and Cardiovascular Health

A study by M. Kendirici, S. Nowfar, and W. J. G. Hellstrom noted that the penis is a barometer of the endothelial function of the male human body. Furthermore, impotence is more likely to occur with an increased in the number of vascular comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and atherosclerosis.

The researchers suggested that erectile dysfunction may be the first symptom of any of the comorbidities mentioned above. Hence, this condition may be a clinical presentation of failing endothelial function and cardiovascular health.


  • Kendirici, M., Nowfar, S., and Hellstrom, W. J. G. 2005. “The Impact of Vascular Risk Factors on Erectile Dysfunction.” Drugs Today. 41(1): 65. DOI: 1358/dot.2005.41.1.875779
  • Korenman, S. G. 2004. “Epidemiology of Erectile Dysfunction.” Endocrine. 23: 87-91. DOI: 1385/ENDO:23:2-3:087
  • Peate, I. 2013. “The Effects of Smoking on the Reproductive Health of Men.” British Journal of Nursing. 14(7): 362-366. DOI: 12968/bjon.2005.14.7.17939
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