120,000 UK men impotent due to smoking

Wednesday 02 June 1999

Embargo 00:01 Wed 2nd June 1999

New data released today show that, despite a well-documented link between smoking and penile erectile dysfunction (impotence), a substantial majority of smokers are unaware of the risk. ASH and the British Medical Association are calling on the Government and EU to add the warning “smoking causes male sexual impotence”  to tobacco product packaging to address the problem. New calculations show that 120,000 UK men in their 30s and 40s are impotent due to smoking.

Released 2nd June:

  • A report by ASH and the BMA [1] surveying the scientific literature and explaining how smoking causes impotence – Download a pdf of the report.
  • Polling conducted by MORI [2] for ASH showing that 88% of smokers fail to identify smoking as a cause of impotence when asked without prompting. Even when prompted with a list of possible answers, 67% of smokers fail to identify the risk.
  • A new estimate of 120,000 UK men in the age range 30-49 are impotent due to smoking
  • Statements by urologists and other experts highlighting the problem
  • An ASH postcard campaign launched in cinemas
  • A virtual postcard server available from the ASH website [no longer online]

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“We reckon there are lots of men that would prefer to give up smoking rather than risk losing something as precious as their erection. But it appears that most smokers are unaware of the risk, and that’s why we think new warnings are needed.”

“Impotence may not be as serious as cancer or heart disease, but it might be a more important and immediate reason for men in their twenties to quit smoking. It’s also a reality check on all the style, sex and glamour that is supposed to be associated with smoking. Despite the hype about cigarettes, the truth is sad, embarrassing and banal,” said Bates.

Jade Saunders of ASH, who worked on the report, said:

“The science is prettyclear – smoking gradually damages those delicate blood vessels in the penis onwhich a respectable erection depends. You might smoke as a teenager, but if youare still smoking at 30, you are definitely taking chances with your sex life.”


[1] ASH and BMA, Warning: smoking causes male sexual impotence,  2ndJune 1999

[2] MORI Social Research, Smoking and Impotence – Public Awareness: a quantitative survey among the general public.  Research undertaken in March 1999.  A summary of the polling and results is available, see: Mori polling report



CliveBates, Jade Saunders ASH: 0171 224 0743 (w); 0181 800 1336 (h); 0468 791237 (m)

FionaSimpson, BMA: 0171 383 6123

MichelleCorrado, Kay Wright, MORI: 0171 928 5955 for enquiries regarding the polling