Don't let sex life go up in smoke

PHOTO: Don't let sex life go up in smoke

KUALA LUMPUR - Eight in 10 men who smoke may end up having sexual problems, according to a doctor who performs clinical evaluation on male fertility.

Dr Ismail Tambi, a clinical andrologist, said this could even affect men who smoked a packet a day and preferred to be called social smokers.

He based his findings on patients who had come to see him for sex-related matters, including those suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED), low sperm count and fertility issues.

His patients include passive smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.

"This is an easier group to handle as they just need to avoid friends who smoke," he told the New Straits Times.

He said there were a few factors that caused poor semen quality in men including stress but the primary factor was smoking.

Dr Ismail said more younger men, especially those in their 20s, were coming to see him about fertility problems and poor quality semen while men in their 30s and 40s complained of low sex drive, ED and poor sexual performance.

"They usually have a poor sperm profile which can be immediately related to smoking," he said, adding that he saw 10 to 14 patients a day.

He said it was not easy convincing men to give up smoking as they always told him that they could maintain an erection any time.

"But they often forget that it's their fertility that they should be worried about."

He said patients would often argue that they knew of friends who were heavy smokers who had no problems with infertility having fathered children.

"Different people react differently to smoking according to their genes. Besides, you don't really know what kind of problems the friend is facing," he said, adding that men were not keen to discuss sexual problems with anyone.

He said apart from reducing men's testosterone level, smoking could also bring down the quality of erection.

"Most men can get a erection 20 to 30 times a day but smokers are only able to manage half of this."

He advises men facing fertility and erection problems to stop smoking and see the changes.

"I've asked my patients to stop smoking and within two to three weeks, their sperm count had increased by 50 per cent. This is a remarkable improvement."

He also often encouraged his patients to come with their partners as wives could help husbands to quit smoking.

Meanwhile, Institute of Respiratory Medicine director, Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Muttalif, said there was a strong link between smoking and impotence.

Citing a survey conducted in Hong Kong in 2006 on 800 men aged between 31 and 60, he said the study found that those who smoked 20 cigarettes a day suffered from sexual problems like being unable to get a full erection.

He said smoking could also cause problems with fertility for women.

Health Ministry senior principal assistant director in the Tobacco Control Unit, Dr Zarihah Mohd Zain, said smoking had serious effects on men as it blocked blood vessels that supply blood to the penis.

She said the ministry had come up with posters, advertisements and pamphlets last year to create awareness on the link between smoking and sexual problems.

"Studies have also found that other than affecting sperm quality, smoking also causes erectile dysfunction in men and infertility in males and females."

She said countries like Brazil, Canada, Egypt and Mauritius had started to emphasise the effect smoking had on male fertility.

They had also come up with graphic warnings on cigarette packs carrying images of unhappy couples in bedrooms or limp burnt-out cigarettes.