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Men who use e-cigarettes are more than twice as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction compared to non-vapers, a study has found.
Researchers surveyed more than 13,000 men over the age of 20 and found that daily vapers were 2.2 times more likely to report impotence compared to men who had never vaped, regardless of other risk factors.
Similarly, in a smaller sample of men with no history of cardiovascular disease, vapers were 2.4 times more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction compared to non-vapers.
It is worth noting that the study - published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine yesterday (Tuesday 30 November) - did not identify a causal link. Furthermore, vaping has been proven to be far less harmful than smoking.
However, the research team from New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University hope the study will serve as a reminder that vaping is not risk-free.
Dr Omar El Shahawy, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone, told Insider: "Overall, e-cigarettes are likely less harmful than smoking cigarettes to the degree that they substitute cigarette smoking.
"For men who smoke and want to switch because vaping is less harmful, they should try to limit their vaping because it is simply not risk-free."
Smoking has long been linked to sexual dysfunction, potentially due to the impact of inconsistent nicotine levels on blood vessel function. It is thought e-cigarettes could have a similar effect.
Dr El Shahawy said: "Our analyses accounted for the cigarette smoking history of participants, including those who were never cigarette smokers to begin with, so it is possible that daily e-cigarette vaping may be associated with higher odds of erectile dysfunction regardless of one’s smoking history."
It was acknowledged that a limitation of the study was the fact it was based on participants' self-reporting, which could be inaccurate.
Dr El Shahawy continued: "We need to fully investigate the relationship between vaping products and erectile dysfunction, and potential implications for men’s sexual health.
"Our findings underscore the need to conduct further studies to contextualize the e-cigarette use pattern that is relatively safer than smoking."
Responding to the study, consultant uro-andrologist Giulio Garaffa - of private health clinic International Andrology in London - said the damage caused by vapes is likely to be reversible and less severe than cigarettes.
According to the Daily Mail, he said: "The idea of e-cigarette use negatively impacting men's ability to get erections does have a foundation.
"Nicotine has an immediate, short term vasoconstrictor effect, and therefore it may reduce the blood flow to the penis and may impact negatively the ability of getting an erection.
"With time the vasoconstrictor effect of nicotine disappears with no long term damage to erections.
"Instead, the chemicals inhaled by tobacco smokers, will also cause long term damage to the vessels of the cardiocirculatory system thus causing long term worsening of the erections on top of the short term effects of nicotine."