NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cigarettes Make You (un)Sexy

March 8, 2004

Smoking is harmful to the sexual and reproductive health of both men and women, according to a comprehensive report by the British Medical Association. Doctors now blame cigarettes for the impotence of 120,000 young men, 1,200 cervical cancers, up to 5,000 miscarriages and for many couples' fertility problems within the United Kingdom.

The study also found:

  • Women who smoke take longer to conceive than those who do not, and their chances of conceiving at all are reduced by between 10 percent and 40 percent; in addition, they are twice as likely to be infertile if they smoke.
  • Smoking reduces the quality of semen; sperm is more likely to be malformed, and by products of nicotine have been found to interfere with their motility, making it less likely that they will reach and fuse with the egg.
  • If a couple which smokes end up at the fertility clinic, their changes of successful test-tube treatment are reduced by their cigarette habit.
  • Smoking also increases the chances that a pregnant woman will miscarry by as much as 25 percent.
  • Babies born to smokers are on average 7-9 ounces lighter than those of non-smokers; they are also more likely to be ill and more likely to die in infancy.

These findings are all the more worrying because while smoking is decreasing among most groups in society, it is going up among young women: 35 percent of women aged 20 to 24 years smoke and girls and young women account for the majority of new smokers.

The researchers recommend that the government set more ambitious targets for reducing overall smoking rates and legislation smoke-fee public places.

Source: Sarah Bosely, "Smoking Linked to Impotence in Young Men," Manchester Guardian, February 12, 2004; based upon "Smoking and Reproductive Life: The Impact of Smoking on Sexual, Reproductive, and Child Health," British Medical Association, February 2004.

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