While the research is limited, it indicates that nicotine may negatively affect your sex drive, but it may be possible to reverse it.

Millions of people consume nicotine and tobacco products every day — more than 61 million people in the United States, in fact. From e-cigarettes to nicotine patches and more, there’s no shortage of nicotine-containing products on the market.

Research has shown that tobacco and nicotine products can have serious effects on your health, including possible changes in your sex hormones and sexual function. Some studies have even shown that smoking can cause changes in your libido, sexual drive, or desire levels.

This article discusses what the research says about the impact of nicotine on the sex drive, including whether or not quitting smoking can help improve your libido.

Several studies on nicotine and libido suggest that nicotine use, especially smoking cigarettes, can negatively affect sex drive in males.

A small 2020 study explored sexual function, depression, and other health conditions in young adults with nicotine dependence. In this study, researchers found that nicotine dependence led to sexual dysfunction in areas related to sex drive, arousal, erection, and even orgasm.

Sexual dysfunction

It’s important to know that sexual dysfunction is when you face significant challenges related to your ability to experience pleasure or respond sexually.

If you have difficulty with sexual activity, getting aroused, or experiencing pleasure during sexual activity, you might have sexual dysfunction or a medical condition that affects sexual health.

While we usually define “sexual dysfunction” in our content and use alternative terms for it thereafter, this article uses the term”sexual dysfunction” to maintain accuracy when sharing research findings.

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A 2021 study investigated several risk factors for decreased libido in older men. The study found that cigarette smoking was significantly associated with severely decreased libido in men of middle and older ages.

While the research points to a relationship between nicotine use and reduced sex drive, how nicotine influences libido is still unclear. But it may be due to nicotine’s effect on the nervous system and hormones, which are largely responsible for our sexual desire, arousal, and more.

Language matters

You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, fluctuating between the use of “male” and “female” or “men” and “women.”

Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

Unfortunately, most of the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

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Experts have performed few studies about sexual dysfunction in females, but nicotine appears to have a negative impact on libido in females.

In one study from 2013, researchers found that more than 34% of women with substance use disorder experienced sexual dysfunction. And in those with nicotine dependence specifically, sexual dysfunction risk was almost 3 times higher.

A study from 2015 found that premenopausal women who smoked had a higher frequency of sexual dysfunction and lower sexual function in areas like desire, arousal, and satisfaction. Smoking more frequently and being more dependent on nicotine was also linked to lower sexual function.

Research on the impact of nicotine on sexual function in intersex and transgender individuals is limited ― with virtually no studies exploring this relationship. But as a negative impact on libido is visible in males and females, it’s likely to affect the sexual health of historically marginalized populations.

While nicotine likely has similar effects in the transgender population as their cisgender counterparts, trans people may be more likely to experience these effects.

Some research shows that as much as 40% of the trans population in the United States regularly uses nicotine products compared with approximately 22% of the general U.S. population. Additionally, trans people without social support may be more likely to consume nicotine regularly.

This highlights the need for more studies on nicotine use in these populations.

Learn more about navigating medical studies as a transgender person.

Although research suggests that nicotine can lower sex drive, little research is available on how quitting nicotine can improve sex drive. However, one study exploring this topic found that quitting smoking may actually be beneficial for libido.

In a study from 2017, researchers explored the effectiveness of quitting smoking on sexual function in men who had prostate surgery. The study found that quitting smoking was one of the factors contributing to increased sexual function in the 1–2 years following surgery.

Of course, this study only found sexual improvements in a group of individuals ― and more research is necessary to conclude whether quitting nicotine can help improve sex drive in a larger population of people. In the future, we may find that a return of libido is another benefit to quitting smoking.

Many studies have explored the link between nicotine and sexual function, and the research suggests that nicotine use ― especially cigarette smoking ― can increase the risk of a low sex drive.

If you experience changes to your sex drive, such as decreased libido, arousal, or other symptoms, contact a doctor to discuss your concerns. While nicotine may be one cause of these changes, your doctor can explore other underlying causes that may affect your sex drive.