Most smokers are well aware that puffing down nicotine increases risk of heart disease and cancer. They know that smoke clings to their clothes, and hair, and rooms, and that the habit yellows their teeth over time. But many men who smoke may not realize that lighting up can also hamper their bedroom activities. Indeed, smoking has been cited by several researchers, including those who have presented at American Heart Association conferences, as a leading cause of erectile dysfunction (ED). What’s more, the more a man smokes, the higher his risk of developing the disorder.

Cigarette smoking and erectile dysfunction have long been linked. That’s because smoking negatively impacts blood flow and circulation. Smoking causes plaque buildup in the arteries, what is known as atherosclerosis, which obstructs blood flow through the vessels, causing circulatory troubles.

One study of nearly 5,000 Chinese men found current and former smokers to be 30 percent more likely to suffer from impotence than men who never smoked. Additionally, men who smoked 20-plus cigarettes daily were found to be 60 percent more likely to develop ED compared to men who never smoked.

Another more recent 2011 study of 65 male smokers who wanted to quit and were sexually active found that the 31 percent who kicked the habit successfully during the eight-week cessation program (involving counseling and nicotine patches) and remained smoke-free experienced firmer and wider erections than study participants who relapsed. Among those who reported having erectile dysfunction at study-start, 75 percent of them who quit smoking by study-end no longer experienced ED.

Important to note, though, that the benefits did not appear until the men who quit stopped wearing the nicotine patches. This led researchers to believe that not only the act of smoking, but also the nicotine, can cause erectile malfunction.

Bottom line: Quitting smoking significantly enhances sexual health in long-term male smokers. If you are seeking support in helping to once-and-for-all quit smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or go to SmokeFree.gov. You and your health are worth giving quitting a try, whether it is or isn’t the first time.

If you liked this article, check these out: