This association was true even for men without any other health issues or habits related to sexual dysfunction, including smoking, a known contributor to erectile dysfunction.
“Our analysis represented the smoking history of participants, including those who had never smoked cigarettes to begin with, ”said study author Dr Omar El Shahawy, assistant professor in the Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs section of the Grossman School of Medicine at New York University. .
“It is possible that daily e-cigarette vaping is associated with higher risks of erectile dysfunction, regardless of smoking history,” he said.
“We excluded people with high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, which are a major cause of erectile dysfunction, and we excluded those with a history of smoking. We adjusted everything. that and we nonetheless found a very strong and significant association between vaping and ED, ”said El Shahawy.
“For men who had a history of heart problems, there was more than three times the risk of erectile dysfunction,” he said.
There are two main reasons for this, said Ahmad Besaratinia, a research professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, who was not involved in the study.
“One is the fact that nicotine and other chemicals in vapers can reduce the ability of arteries to enlarge and dilate, and this is what causes erectile dysfunction. These chemicals can also lower testosterone levels, another main cause of erectile dysfunction, ”said Besaratinia, who studies the impact of vaping on genetics.
Due to the presence of nicotine and thousands of other chemicals, smoking cigarettes can have the same effect on the body’s systems that control blood flow to the male reproductive organs, as well as causing cancer and many other problems. serious health problems.
The risk of erectile dysfunction may increase as more tobacco cigarettes are smoked and therefore nicotine levels rise, which is also true in the e-cigarette study, El Shahawy said.
“The risk has increased for daily vaping, rather than vaping in general,” he said. “More exposure is what increases the risk of erectile dysfunction.”
An additional factor, he said, is that “newer generations of electronic cigarettes provide a lot of nicotine – some of them have higher nicotine levels than cigarettes. So it stands to reason that if you are vaping a lot, you will have the side effects of nicotine. “
There was good news – physical activity was associated with a lower likelihood of erectile dysfunction, according to the study.
Because the research was cross-sectional, “which means we are looking at how things relate to each other at a specific time,” the study could only show an association between vaping and erectile dysfunction and not a direct cause and effect, El Shahawy mentioned.
Vaping as a smoking cessation aid
The survey found that a quarter of young people – 500,000 – report vaping daily.
More than three-quarters of teens preferred flavored e-cigarettes, especially fruit, candy, mint and menthol flavors, according to the survey.
But even e-cigarettes labeled as nicotine-free can pose a risk, El Shahawy said: “Baseline studies have looked at nicotine-free e-cigarettes and they will find traces of nicotine in them.”
Another problem is the delivery of nicotine, El Shahawy explained, because the amount of nicotine actually drawn into the body can differ depending on the delivery mechanism.
“It’s not just the amount of nicotine that is advertised in the e-liquid,” he said. “The device, the heating coil, the way heat is generated – anything that can change the levels of nicotine actually delivered to the person using the vape.”
At present, El Shahawy said, researchers are uncertain whether there are permanent changes in male performance due to vaping.
“Will erectile dysfunction go away if someone stops vaping, or is this something that may have residual effects in the future? We need better studies to be able to assess the impact in the short and long term? long term, ”he said.
Based on the research, what advice does El Shahawy give to men who are considering vaping for pleasure or using e-cigarettes to quit smoking?
“If you don’t smoke anything, don’t start. There is no point in vaping because it is not inherently safe. But if you already smoke cigarettes and want to quit, then ration your vaping use. at a minimal level, just enough to get over your cravings, then quit. “
CNN’s Maggie Fox contributed to this report.