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Health Concerns

Impotence and Smoking

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is twice as likely to occur in smokers than non-smokers. Exposure to second-hand smoke is a significant factor in becoming impotent.4

What is Impotence?

  • Impotence is the constant inability of a man to maintain anerection for sexual purposes. It is estimated that impotence affectsover 30 million men in the United States.1


  • Sexual functioning requires the coordination of several functionsin the body. This includes the nervous system (mental stimulation)working in coordination with hormones, and the vascular systemwhich pumps blood into the muscle tissue that maintains the erection.Smoking can affect all these systems, thereby, causing impotence.2
  • Many diseases caused by smoking involve blockage of the arteries,meaning that smoking inhibits the flow of blood throughout thebody. Strokes and heart attacks are one result of severe bloodflow blockage. Impotence is another result of arterial blockage.
  • Long-term smoking causes more physiological damage. In a UnitedStates study2, healthy men who smoked,with no history of impotence, heart disease or diabetes, wereinterviewed twice over 8 years. The second interview revealedthat although these men still had no heart disease or diabetes,they were twice as likely to experience moderate or severe impotence.4
  • A secondary study5 indicated thatsmoking is an independent risk factor contributing to impotence.After considering other risk factors, it was found that currentsmokers were twice as likely to experience impotence as non-smokers.
  • Another independent study3 grouped impotentsmokers,according to how many cigarettes they smoked each day. The studyconcluded:
    • heavy smokers (40+ cigarettes/day) had the "softest" night-time erections;
    • smoking was related to an abnormal decline of blood pressure in the penis.

What You Can Do

  • It is possible to fully or partially recover erectile functionby just quitting smoking. The problem in recovery is the degreeof damage that has been inflicted, and the identification of whichsystem has been affected. The greater the length of time spentsmoking, the greater the damage to the biological systems that cause impotence.3
  • Men who have reported losing their erections before orgasmhave completely reversed this situation by quitting smoking.3


  1. Impotence. National Institutes of Health ConsensusStatement, 10:1, December 1992.
  2. Feldman, H.A., Goldstein, I., Hatzichristou,D.G., Krane, R.J., McKinlay, J.B. Impotence and its Medical andPsychological Correlates: Results of the Massachusetts Male AgingStudy. The Journal of Urology, January 1994; 151(1):54-61.
  3. Hirshkowitz, M., Arcasoy, M., Karacan, I., Williams,R., Howell, J. Nocturnal Penile Tumescence in Cigarette Smokerswith Erectile Dysfunction. Urology, February 1992; 39(2):101-107.
  4. Feldman, H.A., Johannes, C.B., Derby, C.A.,Kleinman, K.P., Mohr, B.A., Araujo, A.B, McKinlay, J.B. ErectileDysfunction and Coronary Risk Factors: Prospective Results fromthe Massachusetts Male Aging Study. Preventative Medicine 2000;30:328-338.
  5. Mannino, D.M., Klevens, R.M., Flanders, W.D. Cigarette Smoking: An Independent Risk Factor tor Impotence? AmericanJournal of Epidemiology. December 1994; 140(11):1003-1008.