How Does Marijuana or Cigarette Smoking Affect Erectile Function?

Fact Checked

Does smoking marijuana or cigarettes decrease sexual function? Here’s what science has to say.

Last Updated: 04/13/2023

Written by

Kimberly Wilkes

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Paul Thompson, M.D.

If you use marijuana or smoke cigarettes, you might be wondering if it’s affecting your libido and/or sexual performance. For cigarettes, the answer to that question is definitely yes. For marijuana, the question is how much marijuana is too much?

If you engage in either or both of these two habits, you’re going to want to take part in our 90-Day Challenge, where each week you change one aspect of your lifestyle in order to have better sex. In part eight of our 90-Day Challenge, we’re urging you to give up cigarettes and take a close look at how much marijuana you use daily. 

In this blog post, we’ll dig deep into how each of these habits affects your sexual stamina and libido and offer some helpful hints on how to give up smoking and cut back on marijuana use. 

Does Smoking Reduce Libido and Performance?

Smoking cigarettes narrows your blood vessels and doesn’t allow good, healthy, oxygenated blood to feed your tissue.1 Cigarette smoking lowers levels of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule that promotes healthy blood flow and sexual function.2

Blood flow is important to sexual arousal. When you’re aroused, the brain tells the blood vessels leading to the penis to widen. This engorges erectile tissue with blood, leading to erections. In order to stay hard during sex, not only do you want plenty of blood to arrive in the erectile tissue, you also want the blood to remain there until you’re finished.

Interesting fact: a healthy erection needs up to eight times the amount of blood compared to when the penis is flaccid. 

Because smoking causes blood vessels to narrow, research found that smoking doubles your risk of developing sexual decline.3 Other research discovered that men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day were 60% more likely to develop sexual decline compared to non-smokers.4 

What’s more, smokers who developed vascular disease were three times more likely to develop sexual decline compared to non-smokers who did not have vascular disease.2 

Some studies suggest that the more you smoke over time, the worse your sexual decline. For example, several studies have found the more a man smokes over a longer period of time, the greater his risk of sexual decline.5,6  

Does Quitting Smoking Increase Libido and Performance?

The sooner you stop smoking the greater the chance quitting smoking will improve your sexual decline. The damage is usually reversible if smoking is stopped prior to middle age (around the age of 50) and is not restarted. Even in heavy smokers, stopping smoking for 24 hours can lead to significant improvements in sexual endurance, and researchers observed similar improvements in men who gave up smoking for a month while on a nicotine patch.7 

Likewise, in a group of 143 men with sexual decline who had quit smoking, more than half reported improvements in their sexual function at six months—double the rate of those who weren’t able to quit.8  

Another study investigated the effect of eight weeks of nicotine replacement therapy on men who had no other risk factors for sexual decline other than smoking. At one year of follow-up, the men’s sexual decline had significantly improved after quitting smoking.9 

The heaviest smokers and men with severe ED may not notice as much improvement after quitting smoking. In one study, nearly half the men who had experienced improvements in sexual function after giving up smoking had only mild ED. None of the men with severe ED experienced any improvements.10 Heavy cigarette smokers and those with severe ED who want a better sex life will need to be especially dedicated in taking part in all the lifestyle changes of our 90-day challenge. 

How To Quit Smoking 

Quitting smoking can improve your sex life and at the same time improve your overall health. That’s why giving up smoking is an important part of our 90-day challenge. There are a number of ways you can kick the habit. Here are some suggestions:

Nicotine Replacement Therapy 

You can try nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, or nasal spray to wean yourself off cigarettes. But this strategy might not work to improve your sexual stamina, at least not right away. In one study, men who used nicotine gum in an amount equal to that found in one high-yield cigarette had a 23% lower sexual arousal to erotic films compared to men using a placebo.11  

Prescription Drugs

Your doctor can prescribe medications such as bupropion SR (Zyban, Wellbutrin) and varenicline (Chantix) to help you stop smoking. Nortriptyline (an antidepressant) and clonidine (a high blood pressure drug) are also used off-label for cigarette withdrawal. Talk to your doctor about which medication—if any—is right for you, as well as potential side effects. 

Counseling and Support Groups 

Visiting a professional counselor, especially one who specializes in substance abuse and addiction, can help you get through your cravings during cigarette withdrawal. A support group with other people who are in the same situation also can help you stay away from cigarettes. 

Call a Quitline  

Cigarette withdrawal hotlines—also called quitlines—are good resources for people trying to kick the smoking habit.12 You’ll get free coaching with a highly trained quit coach that can help develop an individualized plan of action. 1-800-QUIT-NOW is an example of a quitline.    

Wait Until The Craving Passes

Did you know that most tobacco cravings pass within five to 10 minutes? If you’re trying to quit smoking that amount of time can seem like forever, but wait until the urge passes and you’ll stay on track with your goal. Occupy yourself with other activities until the craving goes away. 

Avoid Your Triggers

You might associate smoking with certain places or situations. If you liked to smoke at parties or bars, for example, stay out of those situations until you stop craving cigarettes. If stress is a trigger for you, find other ways to cope with it such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing. 

Can Marijuana Decrease Your Libido and Sexual Performance?

One of the biggest studies on whether marijuana can lower sexual stamina is a review of five published papers that included a total of 3,395 men. That review found that sexual decline is twice as common in marijuana users compared to men who don’t use weed. About 69% of marijuana users suffered from sexual decline compared to only 34% of controls.13 

So how does marijuana impact sexual activity? Scientists don’t know for sure, but they’ve pinpointed a few possibilities. 

Marijuana can interact with receptors on the corpus cavernosum, columns of spongy tissue that make up most of the shaft of the penis. The blood vessels in the corpus cavernosum fill with blood to create an erection. By affecting the corpus cavernosum, long-term use of marijuana may promote sexual decline.14 

The hypothalamus of the brain, which is involved in erections, also has receptors that interact with marijuana. 15 

Finally, some—but not all—human studies show that marijuana can reduce levels of testosterone, a hormone involved in sexual arousal.16,17 In animal studies, the ingredient in marijuana that makes you high (THC), triggers a series of events that cause testosterone levels to tank because the Leydig cells of the testis aren’t making enough of it.18 

However, some studies in humans link marijuana use to having higher testosterone levels or no change in testosterone levels compared to non-users.19,20 

Another factor that might explain why marijuana smoking reduces sexual arousal may be that weed causes levels of the stress hormone cortisol to rise.21 Cortisol narrows the blood vessels of the penis and is known to interfere with sexual function.22

How Much Marijuana Is Too Much?

Smoking marijuana from time to time likely won’t cause any problems with your sexual health. However, daily use may cause your testosterone levels to drop and your cortisol levels to rise. This is one time when the saying, “everything in moderation” applies. 

If you use marijuana to calm down or relax, find other stress-coping mechanisms like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and using lavender aromatherapy oil. 

If you’re having a hard time letting go of your daily marijuana habit, try professional counseling or a support group. As with smoking cigarettes, you can wait five or ten minutes until the craving passes and occupy yourself with other activities to get your mind off the urge to smoke weed. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Smoking Cigarettes, Marijuana, and Sexual Health

Does smoking cause erectile dysfunction?

Yes, smoking is bad for sexual function since it narrows blood vessels and decreases blood flow to the penis. Research suggests that smoking doubles your risk of developing sexual decline.3 Other research revealed that men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day were 60% more likely to develop problems with sexual function compared to non-smokers.4

How long after quitting smoking do erections improve?

Each man is different. However, one review found that in half the men who quit smoking, their sexual function improved in six months.2 

Another study found that 25% of men who quit smoking had better sexual function. The researchers followed the men for a year and compared them to current smokers. The study found that sexual decline got worse in 6.8% of current smokers while only 2.5% of ex-smokers experienced a worsening of their sexual function during that time.23 

Most men who stop smoking experience improved circulation within two to 12 weeks. These improvements after quitting smoking are likely to improve sexual function in many men.  

Does marijuana decrease sexual function?

Although occasional use of marijuana isn’t likely to cause sexual problems, smoking it every day might affect sexual function. 

One of the biggest studies on whether marijuana can lower sexual stamina is a review of five published papers that included a total of 3,395 men. That review found that sexual decline is twice as common in marijuana users compared to men who don’t use weed. About 69% of marijuana users experienced sexual decline compared to only 34% of controls.13 

Missed weeks 1 - 7 of the 90-Day Challenge? Check out the links below to give you some ideas of what you can do together with Li-ESWT to have the best sex of your life. 

Week 1: Does Intermittent Fasting Work to Improve Men’s Sexual Performance? 

Week 2: Sugar and Sodas: Two Important Causes of Low Libido in Men

Week 3: Is Late-Night Eating Bad for Sexual Health?

Week 4: How To Stop Drinking Coffee and Alcohol to Boost Your Sex Drive

Week 5: Foods that Cause Inflammation and Decrease Libido in Men

Week 6: How to Increase Sexual Stamina with Exercise 

Week 7:  Can TV and Smartphone Addiction Cause Low Libido?