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How Long After You Quit Smoking Does Erectile Dysfunction Improve?

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 03/12/2019

Updated 06/03/2024

The link between smoking and erectile dysfunction (ED) is not only widely accepted within the medical community but also proven by research. Numerous studies have linked current smokers to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction, largely due to the negative effects that smoking can have on your overall health.

But if you’ve quit the habit, you may now be wondering: How long after quitting smoking does erectile dysfunction improve? The truth is, it depends on the individual. You could see improvements in as little as one day, or as long as one year.

Below, we’ll explain how smoking causes erectile dysfunction and discuss how quitting smoking may improve your erectile function over time.

Smoking — whether that’s tobacco products or the effects of nicotine you get by vaping — is a clear and proven risk factor for erectile dysfunction (ED). 

However, smoking itself is not a direct cause of erectile dysfunction. Instead, the conditions associated with ED — hypertension, sexual desire disorders, stress — are common among smokers.

Make no mistake: Smoking can contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction and other types of sexual dysfunction, alongside various other health problems. The dangers of ED, as they relate to smoking, are noted by the National Institutes of Health in numerous publications, in addition to other causes like obesity, stress, heart conditions, depression, anxiety, and different medical conditions.

Meanwhile, the CDC, another American health authority, connects tobacco use to everything from cardiovascular disease and lung disease to low sperm count and infertility in men.

First and foremost, smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipe tobacco on a regular basis can damage your blood vessels, reducing arterial blood flow throughout your body. In other words, it’s really bad for your heart. 

The key culprit here is nicotine, which is a known vasoconstrictor (something that reduces blood flow throughout the body — the opposite of a vasodilator like nitric oxide). This can be seriously damaging to your sexual performance, as erections rely on a mix of signaling from your brain and a sufficient blood supply through the arteries of the penis. 

It’s also why smoke-free alternatives like nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), nicotine gum, and other alternatives to reduce the lung cancer risk of a nicotine habit might not resolve ED.

But smoke itself is clearly very bad as well. Research shows that the severity of erectile dysfunction in smokers is closely linked to their level of exposure to cigarette smoke — which is to say, the more you smoke, the worse your ED will be. It also appears to show that quitting smoking could help reduce or even eliminate ED symptoms.

As for the marijuana question, while there haven’t been as many studies looking into the associations between cannabis and ED, there’s strong evidence that marijuana presents an increased risk for ED. One study estimated that the rate of ED among cannabis users was as high as double the control groups.

More research needs to be done on vaping as well, but the available studies do show a link between vaping and negative sexual health outcomes, including ED. 

The good news is that the symptoms of ED in smokers do improve overall after you quit smoking. You could see results as soon as 24 hours after you stop smoking, according to one prospective study. But it might take up to a year.

In one study from 2004, smokers and ex-smokers with erectile dysfunction were monitored for ongoing ED over the course of a year. The ex-smokers experienced a measurable reduction in erectile dysfunction symptoms, with an improvement seen in approximately 25 percent of study participants.

The smokers, on the other hand, saw no improvement at follow-up — all who had erectile dysfunction at the beginning of the study also had it at the end. In fact, about 7 percent of the smokers who took part in the study experienced a worsening of their erectile dysfunction symptoms, compared to just 2.5 percent of non-smokers.

Other studies show similar results. A review of erectile dysfunction studies concluded that men who smoke have a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction than non-smokers, regardless of age.

That said, some men might find that their ED symptoms don’t disappear after they quit smoking. In this case, it’s important to seek medical advice because (while smoking likely wasn’t helping), your ED could be related to another health condition.

Smoking’s effects on sexual health don’t stop there. As mentioned, smoking can cause infertility, along with low sex drive and poor sexual stamina. There’s also the carbon monoxide, the smell, and the cancer risk associated with smoking.

Consider the following facts before you light up or vape again:

  • Smoking is linked to sperm damage and other fertility issues, as it causes inflammatory activity in the glands related to sperm production.

  • Analysis of data from nearly 7,000 men suggested a strong link between libido and smoking — men who smoked saw lower libido levels overall.

  • The same analysis also suggested that smokers regularly recorded less sexual activity overall. We have to assume that’s either because of the health effects of smoking or the reduced options due to bad breath.

In other words, if you don’t think smoking is taking a toll on your sex life, you’re probably not paying attention. In the best-case scenario, you’re not seeing the consequences yet because there’s still time to prevent them.

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Most people with ED need to make changes. But treatment can range from medication and therapy to something as simple as taking better care of yourself.

Quit or Reduce How Much You Smoke 

Let’s start with the obvious: quit smoking. How you do it, however, can make a difference.

Since a large part of erectile dysfunction caused by cigarettes is a result of the nicotine content, switching to a nicotine patch might not be entirely effective in preventing ED. A 2008 study even linked isolated nicotine (in the form of chewing gum) to erectile dysfunction.

Instead, treat the source of the habit. Many people smoke (or begin smoking) to ease feelings of stress. Taking care of your mental health concerns with online therapy is much healthier than pulling out your lighter.

There are also medications out there that can help with smoking cessation (a fancy term for quitting). For instance, take a look at what an option like bupropion XL can do for you.

Choose your chew

Build Healthy Habits

ED can be related to poor general health, a sedentary lifestyle, too much drinking, frequent drug use, obesity, and other whole-body health issues. With this in mind, you have to look at the big picture to effectively treat it.

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and a good night’s rest are great for your erectile health — and your health in general. Lifestyle changes can improve your vascular health and reduce high cholesterol over time, both of which can contribute to better sexual function and improved sexual arousal.

Consider ED Medications

In some cases, quitting smoking might not be enough to restore full erectile function.

Erectile dysfunction drugs might be the most safe and simple solution if your ED problems go beyond tobacco consumption. Luckily, a number of effective medications for ED are recommended by health professionals and approved by the FDA.

Just keep in mind that since smoking is closely linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular conditions, that can cause issues, when combined with ED medication (like Viagra®). That’s why it’s best to talk to your doctor before considering these drugs.

There are a range of options your healthcare provider may talk to you about: Viagra, Cialis®, Stendra®, or Levitra® (or the generic versions of these medications, sildenafil, tadalafil, avanafil, and vardenafil, respectively). 

Most are sold as tablets, though if you’re looking for convenient ways to take ED medication on date night, check out our chewable ED meds hard mints.

Talk to a Mental Health Provider

Mental health support isn’t just for people who want to quit smoking, or those who are a little too stressed out. Online psychiatry can help with a number of things, including low self-esteem, performance anxiety, and depression — three key risk factors for erectile dysfunction.

Whether you’re a cigarette smoker or not, your mental health plays a critical role in your erectile health and function, so don’t ignore it.

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Men who smoke have a higher risk of ED, but guys who quit smoking can — and very often do — experience improvements in sexual performance and a reduction in erectile dysfunction symptoms.

If you have erectile dysfunction as a result of cigarette smoking, the best course of action is to quit smoking. Yes, withdrawal symptoms can be miserable, but so can a life of avoidable, smoking-related health conditions.

In fact, it’s probably the most important of the three recommendations we’ll leave you with:

  • Stop smoking. Quitting cigarettes is usually the most effective erectile dysfunction treatment for people who smoke. You could even see improvements within a day, though it could take up to 12 months.

  • Adopt a healthier lifestyle. Taking up healthy habits, such as exercise (particularly aerobic exercise, which lowers blood pressure and is linked to improved sexual health), can help improve your ED.

  • Consider medication and/or therapy. Look into medications and therapy to treat the biological and mental risk factors for erectile dysfunction as well. These options are particularly applicable if you stop smoking and still can’t shake symptoms of ED.

Need more help? Check out our sexual health resources for more information about medications, symptoms, and other issues related to intimacy, libido, and erections.

12 Sources

  1. Black, C. E., et. al. (2001). Effect of nicotine on vasoconstrictor and vasodilator responses in human skin vasculature. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11557615/
  2. Cao, S., et. al. (2013). Smoking and risk of erectile dysfunction: systematic review of observational studies with meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3616119/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Health effects of cigarette smoking. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm
  4. Guay, A T, et. al. (1998). Cessation of smoking rapidly decreases erectile dysfunction. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15251760/
  5. Kovac, J. R.,et. al. (2015). Effects of cigarette smoking on erectile dysfunction. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4485976/
  6. Mima, M., et. al. (2022). The impact of smoking on sexual function. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35166438/
  7. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (n.d.). Symptoms & causes of erectile dysfunction. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (n.d.). Treatment for erectile dysfunction. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/treatment
  9. Pincus, J., et. al. (2022). E-Cigarette-Associated Endothelial Damage: A Potential Mechanism for Erectile Dysfunction. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33931382/
  10. Pizzol, D., et. al. (2019). Relationship Between Cannabis Use and Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893937/
  11. Pourmand, G., et. al. (2004). Do cigarette smokers with erectile dysfunction benefit from stopping?: a prospective study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15610111/
  12. Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. (2023). Erectile Dysfunction. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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