You’ve probably heard the recent reports of a fatal lung disease attributed to vaping. But cigarettes, electronic or traditional, can do even more harm than you may think. Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor in the development of erectile dysfunction, a fact that is backed by a formidable body of medical research. And since vaping tobacco products delivers nicotine to the body, the risk likely extends to e-cigarettes as well.

While smokers are twice as likely to develop erectile dysfunction as nonsmokers, they are twenty times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers. That is to say, physicians can offer convincing scientific proof that smoking causes lung cancer. Such a direct causation is more difficult to come by when assessing the effect of smoking on the development of erectile dysfunction—though the connection is undeniable.

The negative impact of smoking on erectile dysfunction is strengthened by the effect of nicotine on the veins and arteries of the penis and on cardiovascular disease in general.

In the heyday of Freud, impotence was assumed to be a psychological problem. In fact, a man who was unable to get an erection had to be psychoanalyzed to find out the deep, dark root of his neurosis! With the advance of science, erectile dysfunction is now known to be associated with many true medical conditions: atherosclerosis, elevated cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, hormonal disorders, and vascular diseases. Nicotine use aggravates all these conditions and directly affects erectile function as a result.

Erection is a complex, multistage process involving endocrine, vascular, and neurologic systems. The process starts with nerve stimulation that causes microscopic blood vessels in the shaft of the penis to dilate. Blood then rapidly fills the penis, which becomes engorged and erect. The retention of this blood in the penis by a valve mechanism is critical to maintaining an erection.

Nicotine impairs this valve function and makes it more difficult to sustain an erection. Smoking, vaping, or chewing nicotine gum will have the same effect—nicotine in the bloodstream is the culprit.

To add insult to injury, nicotine has a profound effect on the development of atherosclerosis—a condition leading to heart disease—by thickening and hardening arteries and reducing the diameter of all arteries, including those to the penis. The effect on increased erectile dysfunction is obvious because all smokers have reduced blood flow to the penis and abnormally low penile blood pressure (which is not good for erections).

In addition, nicotine causes vasospasm, a violent constriction of arterial walls, which interferes with proper blood flow. This condition has its main implication in neurologic disorders such as strokes but affects erectile dysfunction as well by restricting arterial blood flow in the penis.

The longer one smokes and the more packs per day, the greater the impact on erectile dysfunction. From all the evidence available, it is safe to conclude that smoking is an enemy of the lungs, the heart, and the penis!


Photo by Thijs Paanakker, CC BY 2.0