BEIJING, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Men who think puffing away on cigarettes makes them look more attractive to women might actually have a harder time in bed, health experts warned at a tobacco control workshop on Monday.
"Smoking is a risk factor to erectile dysfunction (ED). But this link is not so much talked about in China compared to in the United States or Europe," said Wang Chen, vice-president of Beijing University and director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tobacco or Health Cooperation Center in Beijing.
"We should talk about it out loud and back the claim with solid scientific statistics," Wang said during the event, attended by top officials from key hospitals across the country.
The anti-smoking chief said a survey of 12,743 Chinese men aged between 15 to 60 last year showed about 17.1 percent were impotent. Smoking is cited as a risk factor alongside cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes.
Another study, conducted in 2007, found that smokers are 1.41 times more likely to have ED than non-smokers. It is estimated that 22 percent of China's ED cases are related to smoking.
Both sets of results were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, and they were cited in China's first official comprehensive report on smoking's harm to health. Published in May, Wang was its lead author.
More than half of Chinese men above the age of 15 smoke, according to WHO and the Health Ministry statistics, placing the country eighth on a list of 120 countries and regions surveyed by the WHO in 2010.
Films and TV series often portray macho characters smoking. "Let the Bullets Fly," a 2011 blockbuster featuring banditry in Sichuan province in the 1920s, was slammed for excessive smoking scenes -- a character takes a puff every 1.65 minutes in the film.
Health experts say getting the message across to the public will help reduce the high smoking rate among Chinese men.
"When they hear about it, a lot of men are more motivated to stop smoking," according to Susan Henderson, a tobacco control officer with the WHO's China Representative has been confirmed as a risk factor to ED and this connection, though a relatively new discovery about smoking's impact on health, has been well known in the United States for some time.
Besides ED, studies in China also found smoking can reduce the activity of sperm, though this link needs more support from lab evidence to be confirmed globally.
"But by now, studies conducted in different Chinese cities and provinces have all confirmed it," Wang said, adding that there is also evidence that the more a man smokes, the poorer his sperm quality.
China has more than 300 million smokers and more than 1 million people die of smoking-related illnesses in the country every year, a figure experts predict will rise to 3 million a year by 2050.