|When Mark Jordan was a 22-year-old substitute
teacher in Phoenix, he had been smoking for about a year and noticed the fire in his love
life was no longer raging.
"Sex was suddenly
getting boring," he says. "I didn't want to have it. I would get out of breath
so easily, and I simply felt gross." While he averaged only half a pack a day, he
often smoked much more on the weekends. The effects were not good.
"I remember having sex in the shower and feeling like
I was going to pass out," he says. That was a turning point. He stopped smoking,
started exercising, and began to eat right. After the changes, he had a much greater
interest in sex and enjoys it more than ever.
Being able to dump the cigarettes is a real accomplishment
-- especially when you consider how smoking can become intertwined with the intimacy of a
relationship. Last year, for example, researchers at the University of Arizona began to
study couples where at least one member of the relationship smoked.
The investigators began to realize that smoking actually
became a method of subtle communication for members of the couples being studied. Lighting
up gave clues to each partner that it was time to talk, time to give space, or even time
to defend yourself because a world-class argument was about to begin.
The federally funded study is scheduled to go on for
another year, and hopefully, will provide methods to help counsel couples how to recognize
cigarettes as an abusive third member of their relationship. If couples are going to weed
the habit from their lives, the researchers say they will have to find other ways to
relate to each other, and more often than just during the familiar after-sex smoke.
And of course, as Jordan found, smoking can directly
torpedo the sex, too.
"Smoking has a direct, negative effect on the
sexuality of a man on every level," says Panayiotis M. Zavos, PhD, director of the
Andrology Institute of America and professor of reproductive physiology and andrology at
the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
From their work with couples being treated for infertility,
Zavos and his fellow researchers have found that men's smoking had a significant and
negative effect on the ability to conceive. But they also turned up a surprise: Smoking
significantly diminished a man's sexual desire and satisfaction -- even for young men in
their 20s and 30s.