6 Ways Smoking Hurts Your Sex Life
Long gone are the days when smoking was considered sophisticated or cool. In fact, smokers today are viewed with some suspicion, as in what could be taking them so long to realize that smoking is not only not cool but also seriously hazardous to your health.
And it’s not just the well-being of your heart and lungs that will suffer if you smoke. Your love life is almost certain to take a hit as well. The damage that smoking does in that department ranges from some fairly subtle cosmetic damage that could make you less appealing to potential sexual partners to the inability of men to get and keep an erection.
Men Take Biggest Hit
And although smoking has serious negative effects on the sex lives of everyone, it seems to affect men most seriously, at least in the more obvious aspects of sexual health and function.
If you still haven’t managed to kick the habit but value your sex life and don’t want to do anything to threaten it, the preservation of your sexual health should be motivation enough to stop smoking once and for all.
If you still need a bit more persuasion, here are a few of the many ways in which smoking can harm your love life:
Reduces Sex Drive
Although the precise mechanisms involved are not clear, smoking appears to reduce the sex drive, particularly in men, according to WebMD.com. In an interview with the website, Mark Jordan, an early-20s substitute teacher in Phoenix, Arizona, said that after only a year or so of smoking, he began to notice a decreased interest in sex. And Jordan’s nicotine habit wasn’t particularly heavy, averaging half a pack of cigarettes daily, although on weekends his smoking tended to increase.
¨Sex was suddenly getting boring,¨ Jordan told WebMD. ¨I didn’t want to have it. I would get out of breath so easily, and I simply felt gross.” He recalled one time when he was having sex in the shower and began to feel as if he might pass out. That incident convinced to make some changes. He stopped smoking altogether, started eating a healthy diet, and began exercising on a regular basis. After making those changes, he told WebMD, his interest in sex returned and grew stronger, and his enjoyment of sex improved significantly.
Damages Your Physical Appearance
In a host of relatively subtle ways, smoking over time damages your physical appearance. According to a Johns Hopkins study, smokers are four times more likely than nonsmokers to feel unrested after a night’s sleep. While the precise reasons for this are unknown, some have speculated that the nightly nicotine withdrawal may lead to a more restless sleep with much tossing and turning. Whatever the reason, smokers tend to wake up with bags under their eyes much more often than nonsmokers.
Smoking also accelerates the aging process, contributing to wrinkles at an earlier age than would otherwise be the case. Studies have found that smokers look 1.4 years older than nonsmokers on average. The reason? Smoking impairs the blood flow that helps to keep skin looking supple and healthy.
And the damage doesn’t stop with wrinkles and bags under your eyes. The nicotine in tobacco eventually stains teeth, fingers, and fingernails a most unattractive yellowish color that won’t help win you any dates. It can also lead to premature graying and loss of hair, slower healing of wounds, and a condition described in a 1985 study as ¨smoker’s face.¨ The latter is an umbrella term coined to describe the gauntness and gray appearance of the skin that is common to most longtime smokers.
Causes Bad Breath
For nonsmokers, kissing a smoker has been likened to licking an ashtray. Not a particularly inviting prospect, is it? While smokers can try to cover up the telltale signs of smoking on their breath, it can still be a turn-off to nonsmokers who are particularly sensitive to the smells associated with tobacco use. On top of so-called smoker breath, the chemicals in tobacco smoke tend to linger in the mouth, leading to a host of other causes of bad breath, or halitosis.
Damages Gums, Teeth
Periodontal disease is a serious infection of the gums that can ultimately damage the bone structure that supports your teeth. Left untreated, it can lead to the loss of some or all of your teeth. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking has been implicated as a cause of serious gum disease. In fact, the risk of gum disease for smokers is twice what it is for nonsmokers. Smoking weakens your immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight off a gum infection. And continued smoking once you have a gum infection makes it far more difficult for your gums to heal.
Can Compromise Fertility
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, smoking has a negative effect on fertility in both men and women. Among females, the chemicals in tobacco smoke accelerate the loss rate of eggs, which cannot be regenerated or replaced once they’ve died. As a result, women who smoke tend to begin menopause one to four years earlier than females who don’t smoke.
In men, smoking leads to significant declines in sperm quality that are reflected in both lowered sperm count and a weakened ability to move. Additionally, men who smoke may have an increase in abnormally shaped sperm, and smoking can decrease the sperm’s ability to fertilize eggs.
Leads to Erection Problems
For most men, the inability to get and keep an erection strong enough for intercourse is the ultimate injury. And smoking can certainly put a crimp in a man’s romantic life. The nicotine in tobacco smoke constricts blood vessels, reducing the flow of blood to the penis as well as other vital organs. And smoking also has been implicated as a cause of atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque on artery wells, thus leading to compromised blood flow.
Offering further insight into the negative effects of smoking on erectile function, an article posted at WebMD.com reported on the results of a large-scale Chinese study that analyzed data from 4,764 men with an average age of 47. The men completed questionnaires that featured multiple questions on smoking history and the quality of their sexual relations. Among the study’s findings:
- Men who smoked 20 or more cigarettes daily had a 60 percent higher risk of erection problems than men who had never smoked.
- Among past and present smokers, 15 percent reported that they had experienced erection problems.
- Of the men surveyed who had never smoked, only 12 percent reported erection problems.
- Men who currently or previously smoked were 30 percent more likely to suffer from impotence than men who had never smoked.
Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.