Sex, Smoking and the Electronic Cigarette
How does smoking affect sex? What can we do about it (besides giving up)? And could using the electronic cigarette lead to a better sex life? We both look at studies and talk to experts to get to the heart of the matter.
In one electronic cigarette video a couple writhe together, falling to the bed and knocking off the bed lamp. The light goes out, then a tiny light pops on as an electronic cigarette lights up.
Smoking and sex just seem to go together. And it's not that surprising - smoking affects the same part of the brain as sex and food.
When we are young, smoking seems cool and sexy - the very fact that we are told that it is wrong and bad makes those who use it symbolise risk and rebellion at a time when we are chafing at the constraints of school and home.
And once you are an established smoker, in an established relationship, what is nicer after sex than to lie back on the pillow and light up?
Smoking's Effect on Sex
However, according to one expert, Professor Louise Van Der Velde, also known as the Love Doctor of GMTV, smoking has both a long term and a short term effect on smoker's ability and desire to have sex:
"The toxins that build up in your system contribute to feelings of lethargy. But instantly, after just one cigarette, the body's ability to function decreases, which means erections can be a problem. It also affects libido and general desire, as smoking massively effects the hormonal balance, and testosterone levels are responsible for libido."
Dr Murray Laugeson, who has carried out an analysis of the electronic cigarette, agreed that smoking, at least in the long term, could damage people's ability to have sex.
"Smoking long term damages the blood vessels and moderate arterial insufficiency is a precondition for most impotence. Once this state is reached, impotence may persist as long as smoking continues, and may persist despite quitting if the vascular damage is severe."
One study published in Addiction Behaviour (referenced in VHI healthcare) seems to back up the opinion that smoking effects sex even in the short term. In the study 42 smokers were hooked up to penile sensors. Some of the smokers were given candy to eat, while others were given high nicotine cigarettes. The study found that two high nicotine cigarettes could significantly reduce penile erection. (Ever that or candy is a previously undiscovered aphrodisiac!)
There are also the social aspects. Helaine Smith, author of Healthy Mouth Healthy Sex, told us that smoking reduced the amount of partners that people were likely to have. With only 20% of people now smoking in the US, and with people put off by anti-smoking propaganda as well as the real stink of cigarettes (sorry, smokers, you don't realise until you have quit!) that may well be true. Of course, smoking in the doorways of pubs also causes endless opportunities for starting up conversations with the opposite sex...
Smoking is not much good for the teeth either. Helaine told us that she treated a number of closet smokers, who denied that they touched a cigarette - but that she could always tell by the stains on their teeth! And of course yellow stains on your teeth are not the first thing you want your potential partner to notice when you start chatting them up!
Nicotine and Sex: Is impotence cause by nicotine?
As an e-cigarette user, I was interested in whether nicotine alone would affect my sex drive.
Professor Louise told us that nicotine could damage the blood vessels in the long run, thereby reducing smoker's ability to have sex. However, new research suggests that when isolated from other harmful substances contained in cigarettes nicotine actually promotes the growth of healthy blood vessels. (Source: Science Daily.)
Nicotine is, however a vasoconstrictor, which means it narrows the blood vessels. Theoretically at least, this should reduce men's ability to have sex, and would even reduce arousal in a women.
While most studies (including some which conclude nicotine has a negative effect on the sex drive) actually test the effect of cigarettes on impotence, impotence has been induced by an intravenous injection of nicotine into dogs.
Of course, dogs are not human and an injection is not smoking. However, a second study gave non-smokers nicotine gum to chew while watching erotic movies. The study found that nicotine can have a significant effect on sexual arousal when watching porn.
So my initial disappointed conclusion was that e-cigarettes would not revert me to the sex obsessed teenager I once was. But read on...
What can smokers do to improve their sex life (besides giving up)?
Tips we have had from the experts have been fairly useless. (Inhale less, smoke less - yeah,we would if we could! Or wanted to.) So we've come up with our own. (Before taking my advice, please remember I am not expert and could be talking complete bollocks...)
1. Save the cigarette till after sex! Who cares what effect it has on your erection if you are having a cigarette after the session. (Unless, of course, you are going for a double whammy!)
2. Don't smoke while watching porn! (Unless you are a man with your girlfriend and you want to pretend you are not interested in other women...)
3. Think about other causes: Smoking is only one of many causes of impotence - check out the other causes. Other steps such as an improved diet and better exercise could help get things back up again! (If you are suffering from impotence, a general check-up would also be a good idea!)
4. Alternatively, sod the diet and use viagra...
But what about the electronic cigarette...
Can the electronic cigarette help you to have a better sex life?
As an electronic cigarette user I was keen to find out if the electronic cigarette could improve my sex life.
My initial conclusion was no.
As we saw before, nicotine can reduce sex drive, at least temporarily.
However, what we forgot was that the amount of nicotine contained in an electronic cigarette - or at least those which have been tested - is substantially lower per puff than in real cigarettes.
Dr Murray Laugeson told us:
"With respect to e-cigarettes, the nicotine dose per puff is only about 10% that of a puff from a regular tobacco cigarette, and so e-cigarettes alone are unlikely to cause impotence."
So assuming that long term damage has not already been caused by cigarettes, perhaps switching from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes could improve sex life.
Let's remember that all sorts of other crap has been removed from cigarettes, and in general smokers should have more energy and libido. This seem to have been confirmed by our ongoing e-cigarette survey, with a number of smokers reporting:
- an improved ability to do exercise (makes for a more energetic romp in bed)
- an improved improved sense of smell - (smell can both arouse and improve the experience of sex)
- an improved sense of taste (use your imagination!)
(We'll release exact figures when the results have been analysed - sign up for our newsletter if you want updates!)
Of course, without solid lab evidence we can't know for sure. Unfortunately, it is unlikely I can persuade my boss to fork out for sex research in the near future. (She doesn't even know I am writing this article...) Until we do so, and if you are an e-smoker, consider taking our short, fun e-cigarette sex survey!