abitual vaping can give way to all sorts of health issues like lung scarring, organ damage, and addiction. Now, a new study has linked vaping to another devastating side effect: male infertility.
A 2023 Turkish study compared the testicle size and stress biomarkers in male rats before and after continuous exposure to smoke from cigarettes and vapes (1).
The sperm count of rats exposed to vape smoke dropped from 98.5 million per milliliter to 95.1 million per milliliter when compared to the group who had not been exposed to any nicotine products. Rats that were exposed to smoke from traditional cigarettes had an even lower sperm count of just 89 million sperm per milliliter.
While e-cigarettes and vapes are often touted as a safer way to smoke—and are often recommended to people who want to quit cigarettes—the results from this study suggest that vapes might be more dangerous than previously thought.
Can Vaping Cause Infertility?
Results from animal studies can’t be applied directly to humans, but previous research suggests that male infertility in humans takes a hit from prolonged vaping.
Men who used e-cigarettes were found to have a significantly lower sperm count than non-vapers in a 2020 Danish study (2). The same study examined testosterone levels between non-smokers, cigarette smokers, and vapers. While cigarette smokers had the highest levels of testosterone between the groups, non-smokers and vapers had no change.
So does that mean that smoking is good for testosterone levels? Not a chance.
“[This] difference in T levels makes very little to no clinical changes or symptom changes,” Jamin V. Brahmbhatt, MD, a board-certified urologist, previously told The Edge. “That being said, it’s important to stress that the difference in T that comes with smoking is NOT worth the risks to your overall body.”
Smoking has been linked to lower sperm count and quality, and a reduction in semen volume. Plus, smoking may also cause erectile dysfunction by reducing blood flow (3). Another small study found that exposure to vape refill liquid impacted the sperm quality of rats, even when they weren’t exposed to smoke (4).
Nicotine and fertility
Nicotine—which is found in both traditional cigarettes and vapes—is also associated with lower testicular weight, sperm quantity, and quality (5).
Even when smoke inhalation was taken out of the picture, rats who were exposed to nicotine alone experienced reduced libido, sperm motility and quality, and increased abnormal sperm morphology (the size and shape of the sperm cell) in a 2011 study (6).
That means your nicotine gum and patches could have an impact, too.
Marijuana and fertility
If your vape pen contains weed instead of nicotine, you’re not off the hook.
A 2021 study found that men who smoke THC have reduced sperm quantity and quality (7), which can cause infertility. Animal studies also suggest cannabis could play a role in testicular atrophy, libido, and erectile dysfunction (8).
How to Quit Vaping
If you’re trying to conceive and want to nix your vaping habit, the American Lung Association suggests these addition-fighting tips:
- Talk to your doctor: Your GP can help you develop a treatment plan to beat your vape habit for good.
- Manage your stress: Stress is a common trigger for people who are trying to end an addiction, since their vice is frequently a coping mechanism.
- Tell your friends and family: Your loved ones can keep you accountable.