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Can vaping cause erectile dysfunction? Here's what the science says

If you're a vaper who isn't performing as well in the bedroom, you've come to the right place.

Written by
Lucinda Starr
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 18, 2024
min read
Can vaping cause erectile dysfunction? Here's what the science says
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If you're a vaper who isn't performing as well in the bedroom and you're looking for an answer on how to get it back up (and stay up), then you've come to the right place.

You might already be aware that smoking cigarettes can impact erectile function. But with new research being done into the long-term effects of vaping, daily e-cigarette vaping may also be contributing to poor erectile function.

In this article, we'll explore what the science says about the impact of e-cigarettes on erectile function in blokes and whether ditching the e-cigs can bring back normal erectile function and improve your bedroom activities.

What is erectile dysfunction?

First up, let's start with the basics.

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for penetrative sex. Although from time to time it is common to not be able to get or keep an erection, if the issue becomes ongoing, it could be indicative of either a physical or psychological issue [1].

Like all sexual dysfunctions, erectile dysfunction can negatively impact your self-esteem and cause additional stressors in your life, particularly when there's so much shame and stigma attached to it.

But while ED can be uncomfortable and a tad embarrassing, more blokes are navigating it than you might realise. In fact, 1 in 5 men over the age of 40 report erectile dysfunction, with this figure increasing as you age [2].

What is vaping?

Just to give you a quick refresher, vaping involves consuming a vaporised liquid through a vape pen or e-cigarette.

Typically, this liquid (often called vape juice) contains a mix of nicotine as well as artificial flavours and a range of chemicals. This liquid is heated through a battery-powered device and turned into an aerosol that can be inhaled.

If you're noticing more of your mates vaping than before, you're not alone. The latest stats show nearly 1 in 10 Aussies have used a vaping device at least once, with men nearly twice as likely to vape when compared to women [3].

In a lot of cases, cigarette smokers turn to vaping as a way to wean themselves off cigarettes. However, there is a lot we still don't know about what vape liquid contains, and how it can impact our health over the long and short term.

Can vaping cause erectile dysfunction?

Now, the bit you came here for: why do we know about the link between vaping and ED?

The research suggests that there is some correlation between vaping and erectile dysfunction in men. In fact, a recent study examining this link found that healthy men aged between 20-65 who vape nicotine were twice as likely to experience erectile dysfunction in comparison to non-smokers [4].

Research has also shown that sexual health issues are directly linked with how much and how often nicotine is consumed — meaning that the more you vape, the more potential health risks you're susceptible to [5].

The main issue with vaping and erectile dysfunction is nicotine. Erections require constant blood flow to the penis to maintain a firm, stable erection. Nicotine's effect on erectile dysfunction can reduce blood flow to a variety of organs, including the penis.

However, since vaping is relatively new and it's not heavily researched, more research is needed on the conclusive effects of vaping and erectile dysfunction in men.

What are other factors that cause erectile dysfunction?

There are various causes of erectile dysfunction in men from physical factors to psychological reasons you may not be getting it up [6].

Physical causes

First up, there are a bunch of physical reasons and conditions that might impact your ability to hold an erection, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Atherosclerosis: clogged blood vessels
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Smoking cigarettes and e-cigarettes
  • Alcohol and substance use
  • Low testosterone levels

Psychological causes

The brain can play some serious tricks on your mind and body. Psychological factors can have a negative impact on various sexual functions including erectile dysfunction.

Stress, depression and other mental health issues can all contribute to erectile dysfunction in men. Anxiety about sexual performance can cause persistent fears which may lead to the development of erectile dysfunction.

Some anti-depressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can cause a variety of sexual side effects including erectile dysfunction. It's estimated anti-depressant medication makes up 25% of all erectile dysfunction cases [7].

What are the side effects of smoking versus vaping?

Although the safest option for your health is to not smoke or vape, smoking cigarettes delivers nicotine by burning tobacco which can cause smoking-related illnesses [8]. In comparison, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine by heating a liquid in a way that can reduce the level of harm.

Tobacco smoking is currently accepted as riskier due to the harmful and toxic chemicals contained in tobacco products that are not contained in e-cigarettes. However, there have been reported lung injuries and deaths associated with e-cigarette smokers [9].

Upon investigation, these cases generally occurred as a result of people modifying their electronic cigarettes by adding vitamin E and THC — so if you are vaping check your ingredients and avoid mixing them with these toxic chemicals [9].

Both e-cigarette use and regular cigarettes contain nicotine which is a highly addictive chemical causing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine also causes an increase in blood pressure and spikes adrenaline which can increase your heart rate and risk of cardiovascular disease.

Can quitting vaping cause erectile dysfunction?

Currently, there isn't much evidence to suggest quitting vaping can cause erectile dysfunction or other sexual dysfunction. Everybody is different and will react differently to withdrawal from nicotine, with some people having the ability to go cold turkey and others needing some assistance.

Withdrawal symptoms from vaping may cause erectile dysfunction or reduced libido just like withdrawal symptoms from other substances. Nicotine withdrawal can be uncomfortable and cause the following symptoms:

  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Lowered mood
  • Anxiety
  • Tiredness or grogginess
  • Trouble concentrating and thinking clearly
  • Increased appetite and hunger
  • Sleep disturbances or trouble sleeping
  • Intense cravings for nicotine and e-cigarettes [10].

Is nicotine erectile dysfunction permanent?

The good news is that once you quit smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes, normal erectile function is likely to return. Research has shown that once your nicotine-free erectile dysfunction can improve [11].

However, a long cigarette smoking history can narrow the vessels that supply blood which results in restricted blood circulation [12]. With lowered blood circulation, erections are less likely to occur.

How long after quitting smoking does erectile dysfunction improve?

Along with other obvious health benefits, ditching the ciggies has positive effects on erectile dysfunction and research of former cigarette smokers suggests once you quit smoking you can experience firmer and faster erections [12].

It is difficult to estimate exactly how long erectile dysfunction begins to improve following smoking cessation. However, one study showed that 50% of participants who quit smoking reported erectile dysfunction improvements at the 6-month mark [13].

Other research has shown that circulation improves within 2-12 weeks of smoking cessation which can aid in bringing back normal erectile function [14].

How is erectile dysfunction best treated?

There is light at the end of the tunnel: blokes, erectile dysfunction is not permanent in most cases. There are plenty of medications and psychological treatments out there to help you out.

Medication is used as the first line of treatment for erectile dysfunction that works to target the enzyme responsible for the contraction of blood vessels in the penis, improving blood flow and maintaining firm erections throughout sex.

Pilot's ED treatment offers both on-demand and daily treatment plans for whatever your needs are. And, with treatment, 78% of men will achieve lasting erections.

It can be scary to talk about erectile dysfunction with your partner or rock up to your family GP to chat about what's happening down there. That's why Pilot offers judgement-free treatment with consultations with a practitioner and discreet shipping — taking the stress out of seeking treatment.

Often times erectile dysfunction can be caused or exacerbated by psychological factors which can all be improved by psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy. Therapy can be used in combination with medication to get you functioning normally again.

And, in some cases, exercise can also prove helpful for treating ED as can certain foods, which are both worth a try in your ED treatment journey.

To improve erectile dysfunction and improve a range of health outcomes, your best bet is to ditch the e-cigarettes with the help of Quitline or other smoking treatments like patches and gum. But, with the help of Pilot's discreet and judgement-free treatment plan, you'll be on your way to improving your erections and improving your sexual activity in no time.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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