New study: Awkward reason that male smokers may want to switch to vaping

Vaping has been under almost continuous attack by officials of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in recent months.  Commissioner Scott Gottlieb focusses a significant majority of his anti-vaping rhetoric on allegations that teen vaping is becoming a national epidemic.  While underage use is never recommended, Gottlieb’s barrage of negative comments tends to overshadow the many health benefits of vaping for adult smokers trying to quit.

A new study published last week by researchers from Lund University in Malmo, Sweden, highlights one particular advantage that can be somewhat embarrassing when discussed openly, especially among male smokers.   The study focusses on male smokers whose mothers and fathers also have a history of combustible tobacco use.  What the Lund team determined is that male smokers whose fathers also smoked have a higher risk of exhibiting a lower sperm count by as much as 51 percent.

Overview of the Lund University smoking study

Entitled Association between paternal smoking at the time of pregnancy and the semen quality in sons, the Lund research is published in the journal PLOS.  Led by Dr. Jonatan Axelsson, the initial objective of the researchers was to better understand the possible consequences of a father’s smoking habits on the mother’s pregnancy.  Reams of scientific data have already been compiled over the decades which relate to the mother’s smoking habits, but very little has been published on the father’s.

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Dr. Axelsson and his team began by selecting 104 Swedish men between the ages of 17-20 years to take part in the project.  The participants were then categorized into different groups related to their fathers’ individual smoking histories.  The Mothers’ cotinine and other chemical levels were also taken into consideration.  The scientists then proceeded to collect and then evaluate periodic sperm samples for relevant biomarkers including the following.

  • Semen volume
  • Sperm count
  • Sperm concentration
  • Morphology
  • Sperm mortality rates

The research team determined that adult male smokers whose fathers also smoked experienced an average 51 percent diminished total sperm count and a 41 percent decrease in sperm concentration levels.  The results even took the researchers themselves by surprise. 

“Men of smoking fathers had about 50% lower total sperm count and sperm concentration than men of non-smoking fathers, also after adjustments for the levels of maternal exposure to nicotine during the pregnancy and the socioeconomic status.”

The Lund study does not specifically address vaping as an alternative to smoking for improved sperm counts.  However, several prior peer-reviewed research studies already provide scientific documentation that might be pertinent.  Firstly, the British public health organization Public Health England has already concluded as far back as August 2015 that vaping is approximately 95 percent less harmful than smoking. 

Vaping as a viable alternative to smoking

A second study entitled Exposure to Nicotine and Selected Toxicants in Cigarette Smokers Who Switched to Electronic Cigarettes: A Longitudinal Within-Subjects Observational Study further indicates that e-cig vapor contains 57,000 times fewer carcinogens compared to smoking.  The latter vaping study was led by Dr. Maciej Goniewicz of the world-famous Roswell Park Cancer Institute and is published in the journal Oxford Academic Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

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Furthermore, a third vaping study published in 2017 by British American Tobacco (BAT) suggests that vaping produces approximately 96 percent less damage to human DNA compared to smoking.  Instead of performing their testing procedures on human subjects, the experiments took place using a three-dimensional computerized model of the human respiratory system. 

The model was then exposed to the second-hand smoke of combustible tobacco cigarettes as well as the vapor from the electronic variety.  After evaluating the potential positive and adverse consequences on some 876 different genes, the BAT scientists saw no measurable DNA damage caused by the e-cig vapor. 

The Lund investigation is clear.  Smoking males with smoking fathers are at a much higher risk of reduced sperm counts.  While no current research proves that vaping can definitively resolve the situation medically, several papers are leaning in that direction.  Look for Sweden’s Lund University to conduct a similar study involving adult male vapers with smoking fathers somewhere in the near future. 

Related Article:   E-cig study: Vaping causes 96 percent less DNA damage than smoking

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