When vaping hit the scene in the mid-2000s, it was billed as a ‘safe’ version of smoking. However, two decades later, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there’s more to it than meets the eye. More and more research, like the recent study out of Turkey, indicates that vaping may not only be harmful to our overall health, but our fertility too. Here we’ll break down what we know so far about the impact of vaping on sperm health.
Firstly – what is vaping exactly?
It’s easy to assume that vaping is just about clouds of sweet-smelling smoking emanating from teenagers – but how do they work and what is inside of them?
A vape or e-cigarette enables you to inhale nicotine in a vapor, rather than smoke. This means that instead of burning tobacco – as cigarettes do – a vape device heats a water-based liquid that can contain any number of things – from nicotine to flavors to weed. This creates a water vapor you inhale and exhale.
When vaping first hit the mainstream, the fact that they don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide – some of the most damaging byproducts of tobacco smoke – seemed like a huge win! It quickly became a popular alternative to smoking – and even something many smokers took up whilst trying to quit cigarettes.
What’s in a Vape and is vaping safe?
Whilst in some ways, vaping may be better for your health than smoking, the truth is that they still contain a whole host of harmful chemicals that can cause you physical damage, such as:
- Nicotine – like cigarettes. Nicotine puts you at risk of heart attack, raised blood pressure and issues with your heart rate
- Formaldehyde – a highly toxic chemical used in building materials!
- Ultrafine particles that can cause lung damage
- Diacetyl, a chemical connected to numerous lung diseases
- Heavy metals such as lead
- Acrolein, a herbicide which can cause lung damage
- Diethylene glycol and propylene glycol, which are associated with lung disease
- Cadmium, a toxic metal also found in standard cigarettes
- Benzene, a carcinogen also found in car exhaust fumes!
The Research into Vaping and Male Fertility
As always, there is still so much we need to learn about male fertility and the things that affect it. However recent studies seem to imply that vaping is not great for our sperm health!
A recent animal study conducted by Turkish researchers at Sivas Cumhuriyet University suggests that vaping may be associated with lower sperm counts, lower libido, and smaller testicles.
The study involved three sets of rats. One group was regularly exposed to cigarette smoke, one group was exposed to vape vapour and a third control group wasn’t exposed to either.
The results were pretty interesting. The rats exposed to vaping had an average sperm count of 95.1 million sperm per milliliter compared to 98.5 million per milliliter for the rats in the control group. However, the traditional cigarette smoke group came off the worst – with an average sperm count of approximately 89 million sperm/ml.
Whilst the study has limitations – it is on rats after all – it certainly implies that vaping isn’t as safe as we may have thought. Whilst this might be the most recent research, it’s certainly not the only study that highlights the link between vaping and impaired male fertility.
In another animal study from 2016, the testosterone levels of rats were negatively impacted by exposure to vape liquid – even if it contained no nicotine. In 2017 a study carried out by University College London flavored e-cigarettes were linked with sperm damage.
There have also been studies which have focused on humans. In 2020, a Danish study found men who regularly vaped had lower sperm counts than their totally smoke-free counterparts.
Should I quit vaping if I am trying to conceive?
The short answer is – probably. Whilst vaping may not be as harmful to your sperm health as smoking cigarettes – it certainly seems to have its own set of problems. When it comes to protecting your fertility, you want to do everything you can to limit toxic chemicals getting into your body. That includes thinking about eating organic foods, being conscious of the amount of plastic you use – and vaping. If you’re a smoker, it might seem like vaping is a good stepping stone to quitting, but stubbing out altogether is the only way to guarantee you aren’t harming your swimmers.