Smoking 'makes 120,000 men impotent'
BY SAM LISTERFebruary 11, 2004 Times (UK)
Canadian Government Impotency Cigarette Pack WarningMore than 120,000 British men have been made impotent by smoking, while female smokers are both less likely to conceive and more at risk of miscarriages, according to a new report.
The first national overview of the impact of smoking on sexual, reproductive and child health has revealed the unprecedented scale of health problems affecting both those who smoke and passive smokers.
The study, compiled by the British Medical Association's Board of Science and Tobacco Control Resource Centre, links the habit to up to 5,000 miscarriages a year and numerous complications during pregnancy.
All women exposed to smoke in the workplace - such as waitresses and bar staff - should be granted leave of absence on full pay for the duration of pregnancy, the report concluded.
Smoking was also found to be implicated in around 1,200 cases of malignant cervical cancer every year, while female smokers reduced their chances of conceptions by 40 per cent.
Both men and women who smoke were likely to have a significantly poorer response to fertility treatment.
The study estimates that around 120,000 men currently aged between 30 and 50 are impotent as a direct result of smoking, while evidence suggested that passive smoking also increased the chances of impotence.
Doctors and health experts yesterday called on the Government to take immediate action in the wake of the report - Smoking and Reproductive Life - which had shown the full extent of smoking's "lethal legacy" for human fertility.
Among their recommendations was a ban on smoking in public places in Britain, more ambitious targets to reduce smoking rates and the use of EU law to allow all pregnant workers paid leave if their employers could not ensure protection from passive smoking.
Women who smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to have an underweight baby and also run an increased chance of stillbirth and cot death, the report found.
Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said the sheer scale of damage to reproductive and child health caused by smoking was "shocking".
"Women are generally aware that they should not smoke while pregnant but the message needs to be far stronger. Men and women who think they might want children one day should bin cigarettes," Dr Nathanson said.
"And we're not just talking about having children. Women who want to protect themselves from cervical cancer should give up smoking.
"Men who want to continue to enjoy sex should forget about lighting up, given the strong evidence that smoking is a major cause of male sexual impotence."
The effects of smoking on children were also highlighted in the 70-page report. Each year more than 17,000 children under five are admitted to UK hospitals because of breathing problems caused by exposure to other people's smoke.
The report also points to new evidence showing that smoking may increase the risk of foetal malformations such as cleft lip and palate. Smoking affects breastfeeding, making women produce less milk and of poorer quality, while female smokers using the combined oral contraceptive pill are 20 times more likely to have a heart attack.
James Johnson, chairman of the BMA, said: "We need more action to tackle the devastation that smoking wreaks on families - especially in our most disadvantaged communities.
"Health inequalities are a key government concern, yet they continue to pursue a softly, softly approach to smoking in public places.
"They must act on the evidence and introduce legislation to make all enclosed public places smoke-free."
Mr Johnson said that more detailed research was needed into the financial burden of smoking on society, with smoking -related illness estimated to cost the NHS at least £1.5billion a year.
Sinead Jones, director of the BMA's Tobacco Control Resource Centre, added: "Smoking has a profound impact on every aspect of reproductive life, from puberty through middle-age and beyond.
"It affects not just our health, but the health of those dearest to us. And, sadly, its lethal legacy reaches beyond this generation, into the next."
The board said the lessons about the health impact of smoking should be spread across the developing world, where 700 million children a day are exposed to passive smoking in the home.
Deborah Arnott, director of anti-smoking charity ASH, said: "This report clearly shows the devastating impact of smoking on generations to come.
"Stopping smoking should be the number one priority for anyone who wants to have children. This is important not just to increase the chances of conception but also to give your child the best start in life."
Copyright 2004 Times Newspapers Ltd.