Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/29/2022
Over the last decade, e-cigarettes, vape pens and other devices for inhaling nicotine without the use of cigarettes have grown hugely in popularity.
Described by the CDC as “electronic nicotine delivery systems,” or ENDS, vape devices tend to be promoted as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. However, vaping still comes with some real health risks attached, including some that may affect your erections and sexual health.
Like other products that contain nicotine, vape liquids can affect your cardiovascular system and reduce blood flow in your body. Because of this, an increasing amount of research suggests that vaping and erectile dysfunction (ED) can potentially go hand in hand.
Below, we’ve explained how vaping can affect your health, including its potential effects on your risk for erectile dysfunction.
We’ve also explained how you can treat erectile dysfunction if you use an e-cigarette, vape pen or similar device, from making changes to your habits to using medication to improve blood flow and promote stronger, healthier erections.
So, how are vaping and erectile dysfunction linked? Like traditional tobacco products, the liquids used with most vape pens and other devices contain nicotine — an addictive chemical that gives vaping its ability to induce dependence.
According to an article published in the book, Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes, the amount of nicotine in vape liquid can vary dramatically, from 0.3 percent to as much as five percent by volume. Just like tobacco smoke, the vapor produced from this liquid is absorbed by your lungs, allowing the nicotine to rapidly make its way into your bloodstream.
Nicotine has several effects on your body, including some that are positive. For example, it can boost your mood, causing you to feel happy, and stimulate your memory and alertness, helping you to focus on specific tasks.
These effects may contribute to the boost in mood and mental function that you might feel after you inhale the vapor that contains nicotine.
However, nicotine also has numerous negative effects on your health. These include increasing your heart rate, boosting your blood pressure by a significant amount and contributing to issues such as anxiety, restlessness and cravings.
According to a study published in the journal, Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, nicotine also works as a vasoconstrictor, meaning it reduces the diameter of blood vessels that supply blood to your heart muscle and affects blood flow throughout your body.
The process of getting and maintaining an erection depends on several factors, one of which is healthy, consistent blood flow.
When you feel sexually aroused, nerve cells release natural chemicals called neurotransmitters into the erectile tissue of your penis, called the corpora cavernosa. These chemicals cause the blood vessels that supply your penis with blood to expand, increasing blood flow, according to an article published in the book, StatPearls.
As more blood flows to the erectile tissue inside your penis, your penis starts to become larger, firmer and more ready for penetrative sex.
Because healthy erections are so dependent on consistent blood flow, anything that affects the function of your heart, blood vessels and the rest of your cardiovascular system can potentially increase your odds of erectile dysfunction.
Because nicotine constricts your blood vessels and reduces blood flow, any habit that provides your body with a regular supply of nicotine, such as e-cigarette use, can contribute to a greater risk of erectile dysfunction.
For example, cigarette smoking — which consistently supplies the body with nicotine and harms the cardiovascular system — has long been recognized as a contributor to erectile dysfunction in men, according to a study published in the journal, Andrologia.
Although the effects of vaping may be less harmful than the effects of cigarette use, vaping can still affect blood flow throughout your body and potentially interfere with your ability to get — and just as importantly, maintain — a healthy, consistent erection during sex.
Vaping devices have been around for less than two decades — a significantly shorter period than the several millennia for which people have been smoking tobacco. Because of this, there’s less research on the association between vaping and ED than there is for tobacco.
However, over the last few years, several new studies have been published which suggest that there’s a strong relationship between vaping and certain forms of sexual dysfunction, including ED.
One study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which used data from the 2016 to 2018 wave of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health, found that men aged 20 and up who vaped had a significantly higher rate of erectile dysfunction than their peers.
According to the study, men who reported using electronic nicotine delivery systems were more than twice as likely as non-vapers to also report experiencing erectile dysfunction.
The researchers also found that physical activity was associated with a lower risk of developing ED, both in e-cigarette users and non-users.
Omar El Shahawy, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., one of the authors of the study, stated that researchers need to “fully investigate the relationship between vaping products and erectile dysfunction and thus better understand the potential implications for men’s sexual health.”
Other research published in the International Journal of Evironmental Research and Public Health has also found that the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices can contribute to sexual health issues, including ED and reductions in sperm count that may affect fertility.
In a literature review published in the journal Sexual Medicine Reviews in January 2022, a team of researchers noted that existing studies suggest that e-cig use is linked to endothelial damage — a form of non-obstructive coronary artery disease that can cause erectile dysfunction.
However, the researchers also noted that further studies are needed to establish a stronger link between e-cig consumption and ED.
Another commentary and literature review published in the Central European Journal of Urology noted that while mature data on the effects of vaping and urologic health isn’t available, existing research suggests that vaping may still play a role in endothelial damage.
Interestingly, the researchers note that vaping is also associated with a reduction in sperm count — an issue that could have an additional negative effect on male reproductive health.
Overall, although research is limited in quantity right now, the studies that are available do show a link between vaping and negative sexual health outcomes, including ED.
Erectile dysfunction is a treatable condition. You can treat ED by improving your habits and daily lifestyle, as well as by using ED medications such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®) to improve blood flow to your penis.
If you vape and have recently noticed that it’s more difficult for you to get or maintain an erection than before, try using the techniques below to overcome erectile dysfunction.
Because vaping has a negative impact on your cardiovascular health, one of the best things that you can do to increase blood flow and improve your erections is to kick the vaping habit.
Like other habits that deliver nicotine into your body, quitting vaping can be difficult. However, it isn’t impossible, and preparing a detailed quit plan can make the process of giving up vaping far easier.
Smokefree.gov has a quit plan creator that you can use to develop your own personalized plan, from choosing your quit date to calculating how much money you’ll save by giving up vaping for healthier habits.
Quitting vaping and tobacco can be difficult, especially if you’re also a cigarette smoker. As well as making a quit plan, you can make the process of giving up nicotine easier by:
Understanding and writing down why you’re quitting
Quitting vaping and other tobacco products all at once
Committing by setting a clear “quit date” less than two weeks away
Identifying your vaping triggers and taking steps to avoid them
Making the mental shift to seeing yourself as someone who no longer vapes
If you’re struggling to quit, you may also benefit from talking to your primary care provider. They might be able to help you by providing support, prescribing medication to assist with cravings or referring you to a tobacco cessation counselor.
If you can’t quit vaping, switching to a low-nicotine or zero-nicotine vape liquid might help to limit harm to your cardiovascular system and reduce your risk of dealing with erectile dysfunction.
Vape liquids come in a variety of concentrations, and many brands sell low or zero-nicotine vape products that may have less of an impact on blood flow. You can typically identify these products by checking the nicotine quantity or percentage on the label.
Switching to a low-nicotine vape liquid may help if you currently vape on a daily basis and prefer to gradually reduce your nicotine intake instead of quitting cold turkey.
It’s important to remember that by vaping, you’re still inhaling liquid nicotine, meaning that even low-nicotine vape products may have a negative impact on your heart health. It’s also important to keep in mind that many vape liquids contain harmful chemicals other than nicotine.
Still, switching from a high or moderate nicotine content vape liquid to something milder may be a good way for you to gradually reduce your nicotine intake and make progress towards quitting vaping for good.
Although the association between erectile dysfunction and vaping isn’t quite as clear as it is for traditional cigarettes, an increasing number of studies show that men who vape are more likely to develop ED than men who don’t consume any products that contain nicotine.
If you vape as part of your typical daily activity, quitting may not just improve your overall health — it may also improve your erections and performance in bed.
In addition to quitting vaping, you can treat ED by living a healthy, balanced lifestyle with plenty of physical activity. Our range of medications for ED can also help you to more easily maintain your erection during sex.
Interested in learning more about successfully dealing with ED? Our guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments and drugs goes into detail about your treatment options, as well as the steps that you can take now for better erections and sexual health.