Do E-Cigs Cause Erectile Dysfunction? Here’s What to Know

A new study finds a link between e-cigarettes and sexual dysfunction in men.

by Ethan Freedman
Originally Published: 
A man smokes an e-cig

By age 40, about 40 percent of men experience erectile dysfunction. Everything from prostate issues to anxiety to (possibly) COVID can lead to erectile dysfunction. The list doesn’t stop there. People who use e-cigarettes are more likely to experience trouble in the bedroom, according to a new study.

For the study, researchers analyzed health profiles of more than 10,000 men in the U.S. to test for a link between e-cigarette use and erectile dysfunction. Overall, daily users of e-cigarettes were 2.24 times more likely than non-users to suffer from erectile dysfunction, after accounting for variables such as age, race, physical activity and some medical issues like diabetes. The results were published this week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

The link between erectile dysfunction and e-cigs held even after the researchers excluded people older than 65 and those with a history of cardiovascular issues. Daily e-cigarette users in this younger group who didn’t have heart trouble were 2.41 times more likely to experience erectile dysfunction than similar non-users. There was not a significant difference in erectile dysfunction between people who used less than daily and non-users, or former users and non-users.

The researchers speculate that nicotine could be one reason for the association between e-cigs and erectile dysfunction. Erections are caused by blood flow into the penis, but nicotine can affect blood vessel function, says Omar El-Shahawy, PhD, a medical researcher at New York University and one of the paper’s authors. But exactly what might drive the connection between e-cigarettes and erectile dysfunction isn’t clear from this study – they simply found a connection, not a direct causation.

Previous research has revealed a connection between regular cigarette usage and erectile dysfunction. But interestingly, the new study didn’t find a significant association between erectile dysfunction and regular cigarette smoking – though El-Shahawy says there could be other variables such as smoking frequency that could account for that, and that it needs more research. In addition, the study didn’t account for potential non-cigarette vaping, such as weed vaping, he says.

This kind of research is important to quantify the relative risk of smoking an e-cigarette compared to smoking a conventional cigarette, El-Shahawy says. “If you’re a clinician, you want to tell someone e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes – but to what extent?” he says. This research is also important to quantify risks for young people who only smoke e-cigarettes because they think it’s safer.

Although the health risks of cigarettes are well-known, the risks of vaping are still being discovered. So far, they range from the potential risks of formaldehyde exposure to lung damage. Nicotine is also addictive, no matter what form it comes in.

And now, to top it all off, e-cigs might be connected to a less satisfying sex life.

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