Wednesday, June 2, 1999 Published at 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Impotence warning call for smokers
It is hoped the fear of impotence will make men stop smoking
Cigarette packets should tell smokers to expect impotence rather than heart disease or cancer, says the British Medical Association.
It is thought that smoking is responsible for impotence in 120,000 men in the UK aged between 30 and 49.
Health Minister Tessa Jowell said that she would be pressing for clear labelling at a European health ministers' meeting which will discuss the issue next week.
She said: "It is important to communicate to the public the range of conditions that smoking causes, and most people don't know that smoking can cause impotence."
Ann Craig the managing director of the Impotence Association, told the BBC: "What we want is for girls to look at young men and think: 'He smokes - he's going to be impotent - I'm not interested.'
"This would be especially effective for the under 40s. Certainly if I tell younger men that they could become impotent, and it could happen next year, then they listen, and they stop."
The connection between smoking and impotence is well-established, but a MORI poll conducted for ASH revealed that 88% of smokers have no idea of the link.
He said: "Young men are notoriously resistant to health warnings and think they will have given up smoking long before cancer or heart disease catches up with them.
"But the prospect that they might wreck their sex lives just might make them stop and think."
No NHS treatment
The same process by which smoking causes heart diseases is responsible for impotence.
In addition, nicotine makes blood vessels into and out of the penis narrow still further. While this effect stops immediately the man quits smoking, the arterial hardening takes some time to reverse.
A spokesman for smokers' rights group FOREST said: "The one sure way to ruin your sex life is by becoming an anti-smoking bore."
Cigarettes sold in Thailand already carry impotence warnings.