When most people think of the health hazards of smoking, they naturally think of consequences like lung cancer. But smoking does a lot of other bad things to your body, some of which are directly related to things that guys care a lot about: their sexuality and fertility.
Smoking makes it harder to get and maintain an erection because it releases adrenaline and other stimulating compounds that clamp down on the flow of blood to the penis. Less blood means weaker erections and erections more likely to fail. (Maybe that’s why people often smoke after making love – doing so beforehand can put a damper on things.) In studies of erectile dysfunction, smoking consistently ranks as one of the biggest modifiable risk factors.
Smoking may also hurt a man’s ability to father children. Several studies show that men who smoke have lower sperm counts, on average, and their sperm are somewhat more likely to be abnormally shaped. Both of these factors lower a man’s fertility; so if you’re trying to have kids, try to kick the habit first.
Recently, links were found between smoking and two other problems of the reproductive tract. The National Institutes of Health released a study showing that half of all bladder cancers in both men and women can be prevented by not smoking. Smoking-related bladder cancers have been rising in incidence in women, which the NIH attributes to "greater prevalence of smoking among women."
A survey in Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that women who smoke are about three times more likely than non-smokers to suffer from intense feelings that they need to urinate (called “urinary urgency”) and above-normal frequency of urination. These bladder symptoms, while not life-threatening, can nonetheless be bothersome. They can also disrupt sleep, and sleep deprivation has a range of negative effects on mood, energy, attention span, and your immune system.
I realize that quitting smoking isn’t easy. But nicotine replacement products and some prescription medications that reduce cravings can really help. If you smoke, I urge you to talk to your doctor about ways to increase the chances that you can quite smoking as soon as possible. You’ll be doing your fertility and your sex life a big favor!