An erection depends on an intact nervous system and adequate blood flow to the penis. When a man is sexually stimulated, the brain sends signals to the arteries in the penis causing them to dilate and fill up with blood. Special sponge-like erectile structures that run the length of the penile shaft, two corpus cavernosa and the corpus spongiosum, become engorged with blood causing the penis to become firm. The swollen erectile tissue compresses the veins, preventing the blood from draining and thus the erection is maintained.
The penile arteries are very small, about 1/3 the size of the coronary arteries so they are very vulnerable to damage. Damaged blood vessels do not allow adequate blood flow, and low flow equals a weak or non-existent erection.
The four most common causes of erectile dysfunction are smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. All of these heath problems damage blood vessels. Of the four, only smoking is a otherwise healthy young man’s problem. Smoking doubles the risk of moderate to severe erectile dysfunction.
A man who starts smoking at the age of 18 and continues for 20 years may have his sex life seriously derailed by the age of 38. Smoking is the most common cause of ED for men under 40. The more cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk. As men age other conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may develop further compounding the problem.
This kind of damage is very hard to reverse – only 25% of men will see improvement in their erectile dysfunction if they quit smoking. Other options include drugs like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis; however, these therapies are most effective when combined with smoking cessation.
The good news – smoking rates in California are on the decline and are the second lowest in the United States. The bad news is 17% of Californian men and 9% of women still smoke.
In Canada, graphic pictures of smoking related diseases, including erectile dysfunction, appear on cigarette packages; in studies more than 70% of adults and 90% of teenagers found these warnings effective and 44% of smokers said these images increased their motivation to quit. Why don’t we have these warnings on cigarette packages in the United States? Maybe the $100,000 a day Big Tobacco spends on Washington lobbyists has something to do with it.
May 31 is World No Tobacco Day. Pass it on.Go to free consultations