A report published by the Board of Science and Education of the British Medical Association (BMA) presents powerful evidence that smoking harms sexual and reproductive health in both men and women.
The report, called 'Smoking and Reproductive Life', looked at both active and passive smoking by both sexes, and the impact of this on peoples' reproductive and sexual health and the health of children. The study finds that the damaging effects of smoking can be seen throughout the whole of a person's reproductive life - from puberty onwards. It concludes that 'smoking can compromise the capacity to have a family, and parental smoking can have long-term and serious consequences for child health. Exposure to second-hand smoke is a risk during pregnancy, and harms infants and children'.
The effects of smoking on fertility and reproduction are startling. The report states that about 120,000 British men aged between 30 and 50 are impotent because of smoking. The chance of conception in a woman who smokes is thought to be reduced by about 40 per cent. The study has also found that smoking may be the cause of up to 5,000 miscarriages per year and about 1,200 cases of cervical cancer. It also confirms that smoking lowers a man's sperm count and makes the chance of having successful IVF treatment less likely.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of the BMA's science and ethics section, said that 'the sheer scale of damage that smoking causes to reproductive... health is shocking', adding that 'men and women who think they might want children one day should bin cigarettes'. The BMA report calls for better public education on the effects of smoking, more warnings about the risks of smoking, and more to be done to protect people like workers, pregnant women and children from the risks of being exposed to cigarette smoke.