When Mark Jordan was a 22-year-old substitute teacher in Phoenix, he had
been smoking for about a year and noticed the fire in his love life was no
"Sex was suddenly getting boring," he says. "I didn't want to
have it. I would get out of breath so easily, and I simply felt gross."
While he averaged only half a pack a day, he often smoked much more on the
weekends. The effects were not good.
By Lindsey Palmer
Can taking a break from making love actually improve your sex life? Sex
therapist and REDBOOK Love Network expert Ian Kerner, Ph.D., proposes just that
in his new book, Sex Detox. Here, Kerner explains how it works:
"I remember having sex in the shower and feeling like I was going to
pass out," he says. That was a turning point. He stopped smoking, started
exercising, and began to eat right. After the changes, he had a much greater
interest in sex and enjoys it more than ever.
Being able to dump the cigarettes is a real accomplishment -- especially
when you consider how smoking can become intertwined with the intimacy of a
relationship. Last year, for example, researchers at the University of Arizona
began to study couples where at least one member of the relationship
The investigators began to realize that smoking actually became a method of
subtle communication for members of the couples being studied. Lighting up gave
clues to each partner that it was time to talk, time to give space, or even
time to defend yourself because a world-class argument was about to begin.
The federally funded study is scheduled to go on for another year, and
hopefully, will provide methods to help counsel couples how to recognize
cigarettes as an abusive third member of their relationship. If couples are
going to weed the habit from their lives, the researchers say they will have to
find other ways to relate to each other, and more often than just during the
familiar after-sex smoke.
And of course, as Jordan found, smoking can directly torpedo the sex,
"Smoking has a direct, negative effect on the sexuality of a man on
every level," says Panayiotis M. Zavos, PhD, director of the Andrology
Institute of America and professor of reproductive physiology and andrology at
the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
From their work with couples being treated for infertility, Zavos and his
fellow researchers have found that men's smoking had a significant and negative
effect on the ability to conceive. But they also turned up a surprise: Smoking
significantly diminished a man's sexual desire and satisfaction -- even for
young men in their 20s and 30s.
The smokers reported having sex less than six times a month, whereas the
nonsmoking men were having sex nearly twice as often. This difference is
especially significant considering that these couples were actively trying to
conceive. "In current research, we are trying to identify how and why
tobacco use negatively impacts men's sexual performance. In my clinical
experience, it does decrease performance. Sexual performance is more than just
erectile function; it involves many of the systems of the body," says
Zavos. "But when a man's ability to have sex decreases, his appetite for
sex will generally follow."