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What Happens When You Quit Smoking

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What Happens When You Quit Smoking

If you are a smoker and have decided on quitting smoking, congratulations! Quitting smoking is one of the best possible things you can do for your health and for the health of those around you. The following is a ten-year timeline of what happens when you quit smoking.

20 Minutes

Health benefits start nearly immediately after your last cigarette. Within just twenty minutes of that last puff, your heart rate begins to slow and return to a normal pace.

2 Hours

After about two hours after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate continue to drop to near normal levels. Circulation improves and you may feel some warmth coming back into your hands and feet. Withdrawal symptoms also start in this two-hour time frame. Signs of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Tension, anxiety or frustration
  • Intense cravings
  • Increased appetite
  • Trouble sleeping or excessive drowsiness

12 Hours

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of cigarette smoke and is part of what you inhale when you’re smoking. That carbon monoxide stays in your body, which is the cause of serious cardiovascular problems in people who smoke. After you have been smoke-free for 12 hours, the levels of carbon monoxide built up in your bloodstream start to decrease, which in turn increases your blood oxygen levels to near normal proportions. With improved blood oxygen levels you will feel more energetic and alert.

24 Hours

The risk of heart attack for smokers is 70% higher than for people who don’t smoke. In just 24 hours after you quit, your risk of having a heart attack will already have dropped. In just 48 hours, your sense of taste and smell will start to return as your nerve endings will have started to grow back.

Day 3

Once you reach the three-day mark, you’ve reached a milestone because at this point, all of the nicotine will have left your body. You may not feel like celebrating though because this is also when the nicotine withdrawal symptoms typically peak. Some symptoms you may experience are:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Emotional symptoms

To combat the mental challenges of quitting, find ways to reward yourself for your accomplishments so far. Perhaps you can take the money normally spent on cigarettes and buy something nice for yourself.

Days 14-21

After just two weeks, you will be able to do some light exercising and other physical activities without feeling nauseated or out of breath. Also at the two-week mark your withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside. After three weeks, your body starts to regenerate itself; your circulation will get better and your lungs will start to feel clearer. Three weeks is when your lung tissue begins to receive regular blood flow again, and you will finally start to breathe easier.

Day 30

About one month after you stop smoking, the tiny hair-like cilia inside your lungs start to come back to life. While you were smoking, the tar from the cigarettes coated the cilia and prevented them from working properly. Day 30 is when those cilia begin to repair and you should notice a dramatic decrease in shortness of breath and coughing.

Days 100-365

You should continue to improve over the next 10-12 months. Your breathing will be easier and smoother, your coughing will subside and you will be able to do more aerobic-type exercising with less and less shortness of breath. Even for heavy smokers, after the first few months all symptoms of withdrawal have ended.

One Year

Congratulations! You are one year smoke-free. One year after you stop smoking, your risk for developing fatal heart disease is reduced by 50% compared to other people who still smoke. There are many positive effects of quitting smoking, and the one year mark is an important milestone. Your health will only improve from this point forward.

5 Years

Smokers have a much higher risk for having a stroke because of narrowed blood vessels caused by breathing in carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke. After five years without a cigarette, your risk of having a stroke is reduced to the same level as a non-smoker. Now that is progress!

10 Years

Smokers are at a much higher risk of developing a long list of cancers, with lung cancer being by far the most dangerous and the most common. 90% of deaths by lung cancer are attributed to smoking and secondhand smoke. One of the most dramatic benefits of quitting smoking is that after being smoke-free for ten years, your risk of throat, mouth, bladder, pancreatic and kidney cancers decrease significantly.

Long Term Benefits

Quitting smoking today extends your expected life span by fourteen years longer than someone who smokes. The long-term benefits of not smoking are inspirational. As a non-smoker you will be able to enjoy a longer life while remaining active and feeling great.



Wolfson, Elijah. (2013). “What Happens When You Quit Smoking?” on Healthline. Internet. Retrieved 26 November 2014.

Shaw, Gina. (2014). “Surviving Without Smoke” on WebMD. Internet. Retrieved 26 November 2014.

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