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Smoking and your sexual health

What impact do cigarettes have on your sexual health?

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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We all know that there are lots of health risks associated with smoking, not least of which are cancer and heart disease. But did you know that smoking can affect your sexual health in a pretty significant way too?

Yes, that’s right, if you keep on smoking, bedroom problems might start to occur more frequently than you’d like.

Erectile dysfunction

You might have read this one on the label of a cigarette box. But how does it actually work? Basically, smoking restricts blood circulation all over your body. When there's less blood flowing to your penis, you might have some trouble getting hard when you’re aroused, which certainly isn’t going to help the mood.

Lubrication problems

There is less research conducted on this than on smoking’s impact on erectile dysfunction, but some studies do suggest that the reduced blood flow to the vagina, can also affect its ability to produce lubricant, which in turn could make sex more painful and less enjoyable. Also, the restricted amount of blood flowing to the labia, clitoris, and vagina may have a negative effect on sensation and arousal.

Menstrual cycle

Some studies suggest the the occurrence of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is higher among smokers than non-smokers. Symptoms of this include bloating, backache and cramps, during or before your period. Other research suggests that smokers are more likely to have irregular periods.


There is strong evidence that smoking seriously harms fertility, in people of any sex. In fact, infertility rates are twice as high in smokers as in non-smokers. Research has confirmed that smoking kills sperm, and smokers have lower sperm counts. Smoking also accelerates the loss of eggs (which speeds up infertility), and can also harm ovaries and tubes. Smoking interferes with the functioning of the fallopian tube and can hinder the egg from travelling to the uterus which can lead to an etopic pregnancy.

Sex drive and sex life

It’s hard to say whether quitting smoking is going to make huge improvements to your sex life in the short-term - there are lots of factors that influence the quality of the sex you have, and it’s a very complex issue. Much of the impacts that smoking has on your sexual health are specifically related to genital health, and your sex life is influenced by a much broader range of factors than just genital stimulation.  However, if you quit smoking, you will have tonnes more energy, healthier teeth and skin, and fresher smelling breath and hair - the combination of these might improve your sex life in a big way.

Quitting smoking certainly isn’t going to harm your sex drive, so why not just go for it?

One thing is for definite - although the short term impacts on your sex life may vary from person to person, the long-term impacts of smoking on sexual health are certain. So look after your sexual health for the long haul and quit smoking while you're ahead.

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

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Published October 9th, 2014
Last updated December 22nd, 2017
Tags sexual health smoking
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