Can Tobacco Use Affect Your Penis and Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
A stimulant made of dried and fermented leaves, tobacco is addictive due to its nicotine content, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, aka adrenaline. This hormone activates the central nervous system and causes the release of dopamine, which makes you feel good.
The most common form of tobacco use is smoking cigarettes; more recently, tobacco vapes have increased in popularity. Other forms of tobacco include cigars, cigarillos, pipe tobacco, shisha and smokeless products such as dip, snuff and chew.
How does tobacco use affect physical health?
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. Smokeless or dipping, any kind of tobacco use causes harm to virtually every organ in the body and increases the risk for a litany of diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, to name a few.
Check out three tobacco-related stats that should give everyone some pause:
- In the U.S., 1 in 5 deaths can be attributed to tobacco.
- Worldwide, half of users die of the drug's effects.
- Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States.
Tobacco use also increases your risk for hypertension, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, leukemia, type 2 diabetes and pneumonia. Pregnant women who smoke are at risk for miscarriage and premature birth; their children may develop learning disabilities and behavioral problems.
Smokeless products, such as chew or dipping, cause dental diseases and cancers of the head, neck, throat and oral cavity. Even the immediate effects of use can be negative, such as nausea, vomiting, headache and dizziness.
Attempting to quit can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, difficulty concentrating, increased appetite, difficulty sleeping and strong cravings for the drug.
How can tobacco use cause erectile dysfunction?
Tobacco is one of the most common causes of drug-induced erectile dysfunction (ED). Like other stimulants (such as cocaine), nicotine constricts blood vessels, reducing blood flow into the penis and makes it difficult to get and stay erect.
A 2006 Australian study reported heavy smokers—those are people who smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day—were 39 percent more likely to experience ED than non-smokers, and if smoking permanently damages the blood vessels, ED can become chronic. Some of the 41,000 chemicals in cigarettes, including acetone, arsenic and carbon monoxide, are additionally linked to erectile dysfunction.
Occasional erectile dysfunction is normal—too many drinks or stress about one thing or another can lead to short-term incidents—but frequent episodes can take a toll on your confidence, your sex life and your relationships.
If you struggle with ED, talk to a doctor who can identify the cause and recommend treatment options. If tobacco is a factor in your ED, consider if continuing to use tobacco is worth it.
Are vaping & other alternatives safer than tobacco?
There is no "safe" form of tobacco. While vaping and e-cigarettes have a reputation for being less harmful, the Food and Drug Administration has warned about associated lung diseases and deaths.
Further, vaping produces the same risk for tobacco-induced ED, because nicotine is what restricts blood flow to the penis.
How can you reduce or cease tobacco usage?
Blood vessel damage caused by previous tobacco use can often be partially reversed by abstaining. Improvement depends on age and ED severity: Quitting earlier is better.
Nicotine addiction is powerful, and cessation attempts are more likely to be successful if they are supported by a clinician or a monitored program.
Ask about behavioral treatments (counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy) and medication (nicotine replacement therapy, varenicline (Chantix) or both, since the two often work best in combination.
Tell family, friends, and your partner or partners about your goal, and ask them not to smoke in front of you, to reduce the temptation.
The bottom line
Smoking was once considered cool, even sexy. Fortunately, as public awareness of the health risks has grown over the decades, the number of smokers has declined.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 percent of Americans age 18 and over smoked cigarettes in 2019, down from 20.9 percent in 2005.
If you use tobacco, be aware of its potential harm. If you’re thinking of quitting, your body and penis will be happier for it.