HomeHealthA nasty habit that can more double your risk of impotence

A nasty habit that can more double your risk of impotence

You wouldn’t be far off thinking that vaping is overtaking cigarettes in the smokers’ lounge.

There’s a ‘vape shop’ on every corner and a walk down any high street would expose you to any number of pleasant and awful smells emanating from vapers.

Vapes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-powered devices that look just like a real cigarette or pen. Some have refillable tanks filled with liquid often comprised of nicotine, flavourings and other chemicals. A heating device turns the liquid into vapour that the ‘vaper’ inhales. They’re often marketed as a way to get a nicotine fix without the danger of cigarettes.

The science is still out on whether this is indeed true. What they have ascertained is that vaping can be tough on the lungs. But there’s a new discovery that may scare the pants off most men.

US-based research has revealed that vaping may more than double the risk of erectile dysfunction.

Researchers tracked erectile dysfunction (ED) risk among nearly 25,000 men aged 20 and older and found that even vapers saw their risk of impotence rise more than twofold.

Even those with no history of heart disease or other health issues typically associated with impotence saw their risk increase.

Read: Dealing with erectile dysfunction

“Any tobacco or nicotine product is not risk-free, especially for those who are thinking of starting to use it,” cautioned lead study author Dr Omar El Shahawy.

“There is abundant evidence that consistent exposure to high nicotine levels [in traditional tobacco products] can impair normal erectile function.

“[And] some e-cigarettes have very high nicotine concentrations, especially when using newer generation e-cigarettes that have high nicotine delivery. This made us examine the possible relationship between using e-cigarettes and erectile dysfunction.”

Researchers pooled 25,000 men, two-thirds of whom were white, into two teams. One included nearly 14,000 men aged 20 and up, some of whom had a history of heart disease. The other included around 11,000 men of the same age, but without any prior heart disease.

Around half of the men in the larger group were former cigarette smokers, with a fifth still smoking and 14 per cent saying they used other tobacco products.

Read: We’re champions – but is it a title we want?

Nearly 5 per cent of those in the larger group said they vaped to some degree – 2 per cent daily. In the heart-healthy group 5.6 per cent said they vaped on occasion and 2.5 per cent were daily vapers. Some of vapers in both groups said they’d never smoked traditional cigarettes.

Erectile dysfunction was cited as a problem among two in 10 (20.7 per cent) of the men in the larger group, and more than 10 per cent of the men in the heart-healthy group.

Regardless, vaping in both groups was linked to more than twice the risk for ED, compared with those who never vaped.

Dr El Shahawy said his team expected some degree of higher risk among vapers, as smoking traditional cigarettes has been linked to impotence in past studies.

While more research is needed, what surprised researchers involved in this particular study was that “the association was consistent in all types of evaluations we did, even when we excluded people with prior heart conditions”.

Read: How these blue pills could be saving men from heart disease

“At this point, we simply don’t know enough … whether this may be only due to the nicotine in e-cigarettes, or [whether] there could be other components in the e-liquid that can potentially impact erectile function,” he noted, warning vapers to exercise restraint.

While some may hail vaping as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, the director of the Northwell Health Center for Tobacco Control in Great Neck, New York, says: “It is not clear that e-cigarettes are safer or a step up from traditional cigarettes.”

“Although the manufacturers of e-cigarette contend that the products are safe and effective in assisting smokers of traditional/combustible cigarettes in quitting, the research has not demonstrated that,” warned Patricia Folan.

“Data show that e-cigarettes can cause exacerbations of asthma, serious respiratory illnesses, harm to cardiovascular health, and initiation of nicotine/tobacco products by youth, who most likely would never have smoked.

“It does make sense that ED might be a side-effect, since there have been studies showing harm to cardiovascular health from vape products.”

The new year is a popular time for cigarette smokers to kick the habit but picking up electronic cigarettes to end a cigarette habit, it seems, has potential downsides.

“Overall, e-cigarettes are likely less harmful than smoking cigarettes,” said Dr El Shahawy.

“But e-cigarettes should be used to help reduce overall use of nicotine, rather than embraced as a new habit with its own set of risks.

Have you ever vaped? Why not share your thoughts about vaping and vapers in the comments section below?

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