What are the health effects of smoking on fertility ?
What poisons are in cigarettes?

Learn about the health effects of smoking on the reproductive system (male/female). Find out what poisons are in cigarettes!

health effects of smoking tobacco plant History - The early origins of smoking tobacco date back as early as 5,000 - 3,000 B.C. Historians believe it may have started with the burning of inscence which was used for religious purposes. This then progressed onto inhaling the smoke from burning dried tobacco leaves, amongst other plant materials. Once thought to be magical!

Tobacco leaves contain a substance called nicotine, which is one of the most addictive drugs known! Dopamine and endorphins (the body's natural happy drugs) are released when you smoke tobacco, giving a sense of pleasure and reward (although this sensation doesn't last long).

Throughout the years, harsh and toxic substances have been added to the tobacco through the process of commercial manufacturing. People didn't know of the ill health effects of smoking until sometime during the 1950's. By this time scientists had put together data collected from the previous 30 years to confirm the potential consequences. Unfortunately, people were still not getting the message!

cool man smoking

Most people once considered it cool to smoke back in their day. This is thanks to how our idols were, and still are portrayed through the movies and media. Most of these characters are fictional and smoked to portray themselves as being rebellious and sexy. The facts are that stinking breath and clothing is not sexy!

A majority of people start smoking during their teenage years or early adulthood. They like the risk taking which is not unusual behavior for this age group. They don't think about what poisons are in cigarettes, or the long term health effects of smoking.

These days people have become more aware of the unpleasant health effects of smoking cigarettes, but unfortunately this is one addiction that isn't easy to give up. It's not cool when you see first hand the damage that smoking can do to a human.

Most of us are aware of the health effects of smoking cigarettes with regards to diseases such as lung cancer, oral cancer, heart disease, and blood vessels damage. However, there are other complicating factors you must consider.


Risk of infertility

Smoking cigarettes can be a major contributor towards male and female infertility! Research indicates that smokers have a substantially higher infertility rate than non smokers. Active smoking by either partner may cause problems.

Toxins from smoking interfere with the regulation of blood and hormone circulation. This in turn can affect how our reproductive systems work! Cigarettes also produce free radicals, which are molecules that can damage, mutate or destroy cells.

The health effects of smoking cigarettes include a significant risk of damage to genetic material (both sperm cells and eggs). Current research is suggesting that the offspring from smokers could inherit this genetic damage (DNA mutations). This includes an increased risk of developing genetic related illnesses or cancer later on in the child's life.

With the support of your family and friends you can give up smoking if you are determined enough! With the detrimental health effects of smoking cigarettes becoming known, there are now some great quit smoking programs available. Once you know what poisons are in cigarettes, this will certainly make you think twice about lighting up!

Introduce a preconception care plan into your life. Every couple planning to conceive needs to read this important information. It takes around three - four months for sperm cells to develop and mature, and the ova (female eggs) is especially susceptible to damage 100 days before maturation. It's therefore critical to have a detoxifying time for your body throughout this period. This will help to ensure optimal fertility and the best possible start for a healthy child.

Most women don't realize that they are pregnant during the first couple of weeks. This is when the embryo cell division is at its highest, so toxins are a particular risk during this time (reason why giving up smoking before trying to conceive is so important)!

*Please note - While nicotine gum and patches are generally a great aid while giving up cigarettes, we recommend that you stop using them at least four months prior to conception (just to play safe). This is because nicotine is still a toxin. You'll need to think ahead for this one!

health effects of smoking smokefree zone

Evidence has shown that second hand smoke or passive smoking can do just about as much damage! Make your home a smoke-free zone. You will find that most people are quite understanding.

Research - McMaster University (Ontario/Canada) conducted a study regarding the effects of second hand smoke on fertility. The research was lead by Micheal Neal PhD and Warren Foster who is the Director of the Reproductive Biology Division at the University's department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Findings were published online in the Journal Human Reproduction - May 26, 2005.

The study included 225 women undergoing infertility treatments (IVF or ICSI.) They were asked if they were non-smokers, smokers, or lived with a partner who regularly smoked.

Despite similar embryo quality, the results of implantation and pregnancy rates were as follows -

  • 48% of non smokers became pregnant
  • 19% of smokers became pregnant
  • 20% of non smoking women who lived with a smoker became pregnant


Health effects of smoking cigarettes on fertility - Men

Smoking can significantly effect sperm quality. Men who smoke can have a lower sperm count, less sperm motility (swimming capability) abnormal sperm morphology (shape) and reduction of the sperm lifespan! Smoking can stop the adhesion of the sperm to the egg which is essential for fertilization to take place. The amount of semen volume (fluid containing the sperm) can also show a decrease.

Research - Dr. Marilyn F. Vine from the University of North Carolina demonstrated that male smokers had an average 13 - 17% less sperm count compared to non smokers. Fertility Sterility Journal - 6(1):35-43, 1994.

Cigarettes deplete vitamin c from the body. This can cause a condition known as agglutination (sperm cells clumping together) which lessens the chance of fertilizing the egg.

The cadmium level in smokers is high (a toxic heavy metal) and this can stop the body from absorbing zinc, which is an essential nutrient needed for male fertility.

Smokers are also more prone to erection problems! One of the health effects of smoking cigarettes is constriction of blood vessels. Blood flow to the extremities is reduced (and yes, the penis is an extremity)! It's therefore not surprising that male smokers can have lower sex drives than non smokers.


Health effects of smoking cigarettes on fertility - Women

Higher incidences of cervical changes and fallopian tube disorders have been found in women who smoke.

Smoking can damage or destroy eggs before they reach maturation. There can be disruptions with the release of the egg from the ovaries. Women smokers are at increased risk of bringing menopause forward in time by accelerating the loss of eggs.

Research - Dr. Thea F. Mikkelson of the University of Oslo (Norway) and colleagues discovered that smokers are 59 percent more likely to undergo early menopause (before the age of 45) compared to non smoking females. The heaviest smokers nearly doubled their risk. They also found that the earlier a woman quits smoking, the more protection she has against early onset menopause. The women who quit at least 10 years prior to reaching menopause, were 87% less likely to have stopped menstruating before 45 years old. The study involved 2,123 women aged 59 - 60. These findings were published online in the Journal BMC Public Health - July 7, 2007.

The health effects of smoking cigarettes has also been proven to include a lower probability of an embryo implanting in the uterus, and a higher risk for an ectopic pregnancy.

Smoking whilst pregnant

There are many ill health effects of smoking cigarettes whilst pregnant, or even from inhaling second hand smoke. A woman is at greater risk of spontaneous abortion (up to 20 weeks) or miscarriage (after 20 weeks).

New studies suggest that smoking whilst pregnant may cause biological changes to the unborn babies brain cells, and this may affect the brain's control signals to the respiratory system in newborns. This means a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The baby is also at risk of a premature birth or a low birth weight.

Smoking whilst expecting also increases the risk of the baby developing serious infections or illnesses after birth. Cigarette smoke around a newborn also increases the risk of SIDS.


What poisons are in cigarettes?

This is certainly frightening! There are literally thousands of chemical compounds in a cigarette. Combustion (burning) causes chemical reactions/changes to take place, resulting in the creation of even more toxins. Therefore there are an estimated 4000 poisons in a cigarette! As there are far too many too name, we have a list of some of the more well known compounds.

  • Acetone - solvent, used in nail polish remover and paint stripper
  • Ammonia - caustic, used in household cleansers
  • Arsenic - mostly used as a wood preservative but also has been used to kill pests
  • Benzene - linked to leukemia, used as a precursor in the production of nylon, plastics and resin
  • Butane - propellant in aerosol cans
  • Cadmium - heavy metal, used in batteries
  • Carbon monoxide - found in exhaust fumes
  • Chromium - used to harden steel
  • Cyanhydric acid - cyanide based poison, used in the gas chambers
  • Dibenzacridine - chemical compound known to promote tumors
  • Ethanol - used as rocket fuel
  • Formaldehyde - used in manufacturing of building materials, also used as embalming fluid
  • Flavor enhancers - chemical substances that accentuate taste without contributing a flavor of their own
  • Fungicide - kills or inhibits growth of fungus
  • Herbicide - kills specific targeted plants
  • Hydrogen cyanide - used in chemical warfare
  • Insecticide used to kill insects plus their eggs and larvae
  • Lead - heavy metal, used in rechargeable batteries
  • Methane - flammable gas
  • Methanol - poisonous liquid alcohol, used in solvents and antifreeze
  • Naphtylamine - used in the preparation of azo dyes
  • Naphthalene - toxin used in mothballs
  • Nickel - used as an alloy, the gas is highly toxic
  • Nicotine - alkaloid poison used in insecticides, extremely addictive drug
  • Pesticides - numerous ingredients used to kill pests such as rodents or insects
  • Phenols - used in manufacture of plastics and resins, also used in detergents
  • Polonium 210 - radioactive compound
  • Stearic acid - used as an emulsifying agent
  • Tar - sticky brown substance that clogs lungs
  • Toluene - industrial solvent
  • Vinyl chloride - used in plastic industry

Yuck! So you now know about what poisons are in cigarettes, this should make you want to stub out that cigarette! No wonder the health effects of smoking are so severe! Start you quit smoking resolution now!

what poisons are in cigarettes stub out cigarette

Return to top

Fertility health Home page