For much of the last century, smoking was highly glamorised in glossy magazines, billboards and movies. Rugged, chain-smoking sex symbols like the 'Marlboro Man' suggested that sucking away on a cigarette could make men attractive to the opposite sex — and for many years they were right.
These days things are different. There's nothing sexy about bad breath, stained fingernails and a total disregard for your partner's lungs. Read on to find out just how smoking can send your love life up in smoke.
Your partner's health
Remember, your smoking doesn't only affect your health but the health of those you love too. "Non-smokers who suffer long-term exposure to second-hand smoke have a 20 to 30 percent higher risk of developing lung cancer," says Quit Victoria's executive director, Fiona Sharkie. "And there is consistent evidence that non-smokers married to smokers have higher risks of coronary heart disease than those whose spouses do not smoke."
Smoking around your pregnant partner may also have serious implications for your unborn child. "Smoking by the father may result in lower birthweight of the baby and a higher risk of dying soon after birth," says Chair of Cancer Council Australia's Tobacco Issues Committee, Kylie Lindorff. Do you want to put your partner or your children's health at risk for your habit?
Let's talk about the bedroom
Research has shown that men who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day are 40 percent more likely to report erectile problems than non-smokers. "This may be due to the effects of smoking on blood flow and damage to the blood vessels of the penis," says Sharkie. Smoking results in more abnormal sperm and reduced volume of semen, so chances of conception are also reduced.
Women who smoke are 1.5 times more likely to have trouble conceiving and are likely to take more than a year to get pregnant. But the good news is that most of the negative effects of smoking on fertility are reversed after quitting.
And if you're having trouble even making it into the bedroom, perhaps the little pack in your back pocket is to blame. "A smoker exposes their mouth to all 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke," says Sharkie. "This results in a number of different health effects on the mouth. These range from those affecting appearance and social acceptability, such as stained teeth and bad breath, to painful diseases that disable, disfigure or even kill, such as cancer." We can hardly blame your partner for not wanting to pucker up to that.
To top it all off, it's not making you look any sexier either. A British study published in the Lancet suggested that smoking can accelerate your age by five years &151; and someone who has smoked a pack a day for 40 years ages almost eight years faster.
The bottom line
Quitting smoking will not only make you more appealing to the opposite sex and better in the sack, it will also protect your loved ones from potentially life-threatening diseases. "Aside from affecting their partner's health, smokers are more likely to make their partners widows, with 15,500 people losing their lives to smoking-related illnesses every year," says Lindorff. Still not ready to quit? Just remember, three of the models who appeared in the Marlboro ads died of lung cancer.
For more information about the health improvements of quitting go to www.quitnow.gov.au or www.quit.org.au