When we think about the health impacts of smoking, we often (and understandably) focus on how it increases your risk of cancer, lung disease and heart disease. Sometimes these can feel like a future problem. Or something that hopefully won’t happen to us, despite what the statistics say. But perhaps a more compelling reason to quit the habit is the impact it can have on your sex life. Right now. Struggling with your erections? Not feeling as up for a session as you used to? Or perhaps you’re a little more out of breath when you’re getting busy? Here’s how the habit affects sexual performance.
1. Erectile dysfunction
If you’re a smoker, you’re more likely to struggle with getting or maintaining an erection strong enough for sexual activity. The risk increases the more a male smokes, and the longer they smoke for. Smoking increases the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels, which affects blood flow everywhere in the body including your penis. And vaping isn’t a better solution — erectile dysfunction is twice as common among men who vape every day, compared to those who have never vaped. Quitting as soon as you can is the best way to recover erectile function.
2. Low sex drive
Sexual desire is different for everyone and fluctuates naturally over the course of your life. But if you’re experiencing less interest in sex than before and it’s impacting you and your relationship, ditch the darts. Smokers are more likely to experience low sex drive than non-smokers. Fortunately, former smokers report having better libido than current smokers.
There are a range of ways smoking impacts your physical fitness and performance between the sheets. Lower lung capacity can make it harder to breathe and reduce endurance, and poor circulation can contribute to exhaustion. Smoking-related health problems such as heart disease, respiratory diseases and diabetes can also impact your overall health and stamina. Quitting can help you recover lung capacity pretty quickly — within two weeks to three months your lungs begin to work better, and your circulation improves.
Sex isn’t always about starting a family, but if that’s the goal for you and your partner, smoking could make that difficult. Smoking is linked to reduced sperm quality, causing a lower sperm count, less semen and poorer sperm movement. The more cigarettes you smoke, the worse your sperm quality is, but even ‘light’ smokers (less than 10 cigarettes a day) have reduced sperm quality compared to non-smokers. Smoking can also affect the health of your future kids — heavy smoking (more than 20 cigarettes a day) at the time of conception increases your child’s risk of developing childhood leukaemia.