Smoking & Sperm Health

Everyone knows that smoking has significant health hazards ranging from lung diseases to cancers. But are smoking and sperm interlinked? Yes. Smoking can negatively impact your sperm parameters and can even contribute to male infertility.

It is because smoking does not always mean infertility. However, if you look at your semen analysis results, your sperm parameters have prominent alterations due to smoking.

This article will review the relationship between smoking and sperm health and its possible impacts on male infertility.

  1. How Are Smoking And Sperm Health Interlinked?
  2. What Are The Effects Of Smoking On Male Reproductive System?
  3. Does Vaping Or Chewing Tobacco Have the Same Results?
  4. Tips For Quitting Smoking While Trying To Conceive

How Are Smoking And Sperm Health Interlinked?

Tobacco smoking is loaded with toxic chemicals and mutagens. They not only influence the lungs but almost all cells of your body, which include sperm. The effects of tobacco on sperm cells are well-documented. The research studies suggest the following issues with sperm health:

Smoking Decreases Sperm Concentration And Sperm Count

The total sperm count and density face a major blow due to tobacco. The toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke kill sperm cells, reducing sperm quantity and sperm concentration per ejaculate. The research shows that the sperm count of men who smoke declines by 16%, which decreases the chances of fertilization.

Smoking Inhibits Sperm Motility

Tobacco destroys some enzymes responsible for the production of energy in sperm cells. The mitochondria in the midpiece of sperm become incapable of providing fuel for movement. So, the possibility of forward progression and motility of sperm diminishes.

Smoking Causes DNA Fragmentation

The analysis of seminal fluid in smokers shows a deficiency of zinc. As zinc plays a crucial role in protecting sperm cells from chromatin damage, DNA fragmentation is predictable. Due to this damage to chromatin, tobacco causes poor fertilization outcomes and recurrent miscarriages.

Smoking Damages Sperm Morphology

The sperm morphology or shape of sperm deteriorates with tobacco smoking. You need to have at least 4% of structurally robust sperm cells to achieve fertilization. Smoking decreases this proportion due to head, tail, or other defects in shape.

Smoking Reduces Seminal Volume

The optimum range of seminal volumeis imperative for healthy sperm parameters. However, the semen analysis of those who smoke shows a noticeable dip in semen volume. The experts speculate that it is due to the poor performance of the prostate and other seminal glands.

What Are The Effects Of Smoking On Male Reproductive System?

Semen analysis parameters alone often do not lead to complete infertility. They may delay pregnancy until you improve your fertility levels (subfertility), but severe infertility has other reproductive abnormalities in conjunction.

Tobacco smoking alters reproductive health through hormonal and other changes.

  • Tobacco smoking damages the lining of the epididymis, which is a tubular structure where sperm mature and develop tails. The researchers have found tufts of detached cilia (hair-like structures) in the epididymis of smokers. It points towards the possibility of damage to sperm maturation because, without cilia, sperm cannot reach the epididymis.
  • Smoking disturbs normal hormonal equilibrium, which is crucial for male fertility. The testosterone levels largely remain consistent, but estrogen slightly increases. Smoking also reduces FSH and LH hormones responsible for successful sperm production in Leydig cells of the testes. Therefore, smoking poses a risk of low spermatogenesis.
  • Many semen-producing glands also perform poorly in smokers. Each gland secretes particular substances in semen that depict its nutritional status. These markers are low in a smoker, indicating seminal deficiencies like lack of zinc, amino acids, and some sugars.
  • Smoking results in erectile dysfunction and poor sexual performance. Although it does not directly result in infertility, healthy sexual life is a prerequisite for pregnancy.

Does Vaping Or Chewing Tobacco Have the Same Results?

Vaping and chewing tobacco are two different things.

Chewing tobacco eliminates the smoke and inhalation part of tobacco smoking. It also means that tobacco gets metabolized in your liver before reaching any other part of your body through blood. This method reduces the available amount of tobacco to blood but does have an impact on fertility.

The vehicle might be different, but the passengers are the same. The semen analyses of tobacco chewers show compromised sperm health because toxic chemicals still make their way to your blood.

Vaping eliminates tobacco from smoking and only keeps the nicotine part of it. The research studies about vaping and its influence on male fertility are largely inconsistent. More evidence is needed to establish a definitive conclusion, but experts advise against vaping to protect fertility.

You may speculate that eliminating tobacco chemicals should solve the problem. However, nicotine itself is also harmful. It metabolizes as cotinine in the body--a chemical substance known to cause abnormal sperm structure and motility.

What Is The Verdict About Passive Smoking?

Passive smoking is equally bad for male fertility. A survey shows that semen analysis testing of passive smokers shows poor sperm health in at least 50% of the population. While passive smoking, you inhale toxic smoke without nicotine. Since cigarette smoke is a critical player in the low-quality sperm parameters, the consequences are understandable.

How Many Cigarettes Are Enough To Cause Male Fertility Problems?

Some studies show that those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day are highly likely to experience detrimental outcomes. However, experts agree that even mild smoking (less than ten cigarettes) proves damaging for semen analysis parameters.

How Long Does It Take To Recover The Damage After Quitting?

It takes at least three months, after quitting, for sperm to regain their strength along with steps to improve sperm health.

Three months is the time new sperm production and maturation take. If you take a semen analysis test, you should see adequate healthy sperm after this duration.

Tips For Quitting Smoking While Trying To Conceive

The estimates show that 15% of men in America indulge in tobacco smoking. It refers to at least 34 million adults with the highest prevalence in child-bearing age. These facts prove that smoking contributes to a large proportion of the male infertility burden.

  • Being aware of smoking and its influence on sperm health is the first step towards quitting. You realize the problem and can design a solution for yourself.
  • Take a decision and be consistent with it because overcoming nicotine addiction takes willpower. You can go cold turkey or cut back gradually. Whichever way you choose to go, stay committed.
  • Keep your eye on the prize and think about better sexual health. It helps you in staying focused. One way is to take a sperm analysis test, from time to time, to see your sperm parameters improving. It can act as a powerful motivator.
  • Smokers often resume the habit before finally quitting. Some studies show that men give up at least three times before getting rid of smoking for good. So, don’t give up or get discouraged if you face a bump. Try and do better next time.
  • Eat or drink something when you crave a cigarette because occupying your mouth lets the craving pass.
  • Talk to your doctor if you need any medication to assist in quitting.
  • If you fear that you may start smoking again, freeze your sperm when they are healthy. It takes the pressure off and may even make it easier to sustain a smoke-free life.
  1. Harlev A, Agarwal A, Gunes SO, Shetty A, du Plessis SS. Smoking and Male Infertility: An Evidence-Based Review. World J Mens Health. 2015 Dec;33(3):143-160.
  2. Klaiber, E L et al. “Interrelationships of cigarette smoking, testicular varicoceles, and seminal fluid indexes.” Fertility and sterility vol. 47,3 (1987): 481-6.
  3. Kovac, J. R., Khanna, A., & Lipshultz, L. I. (2015). The effects of cigarette smoking on male fertility. Postgraduate medicine, 127(3), 338–341.

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