Effects of Quitting Smoking on the Body (2023)

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Ready to quit smoking?

Smoking can create several negative effects on your health, such as an increased risk of developing serious diseases like cancer and heart disease. It can also lead to an earlier death.

While these risks are a good incentive to quit, quitting can be hard for some people because of withdrawal symptoms. These can include irritability, headaches, and intense nicotine cravings.

Even though quitting can be a challenge, the benefits on your physical and mental health are worth it.

What are the benefits?

(Video) What Happens When You Stop Smoking?

Broken addiction cycle

Within one month of quitting, the many nicotine receptors in your brain will return to normal, breaking the cycle of addiction.

Better circulation

Your blood circulation improves within 2 to 12 weeks of stopping smoking. This makes physical activity a lot easier and lowers your risk of a heart attack.

Improved taste and smell

Smoking damages nerve endings in your nose and mouth, dulling your senses of taste and smell. Within just 48 hours of quitting, the nerve endings begin to grow, and your sense of taste and smell begin to improve.

More energy

Along with improved breathing and physical activity, the increased oxygen in your body will also give you more energy.

A boost to your immune system

Quitting smoking improves circulation, increases oxygen levels, and lowers inflammation — all of which give your immune system a boost, so it’s easier to fight off colds and other illnesses.

Cleaner teeth and mouth

Smoking yellows your teeth, causes bad breath, and increases your risk of oral infections. Within a week of quitting, you’ll begin to see and feel a difference in your mouth.

Improved sex life

Smoking can harm your sex life. It increases the risk of erectile dysfunction in men and contributes to female sexual dysfunction by reducing genital lubrication and orgasm frequency.

Lower risk of cancer

It may take a few years after quitting, but you’ll lower your risk of cancers, such as:

  • lung cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • bladder cancer
  • pancreatic cancer

The side effects of quitting smoking can be extreme for some. Many people feel like they have the flu when they’re going through withdrawal. This is because smoking affects every system in your body. When you quit, your body needs to adjust to not having nicotine.

It’s important to remember that these side effects are only temporary.

Headaches and nausea

Smoking affects every system in your body. Headaches, nausea, and other physical symptoms are common as the nicotine leaves your body.

Tingling in hands and feet

As your circulation begins to improve, you may feel tingling in your hands and feet.

Coughing and sore throat

You may have a cough and a sore throat as your lungs begin to clear out the mucus and other debris smoking creates.

Increased appetite and associated weight gain

The boost in energy you experience when you quit smoking increases your appetite. Some people also eat more because they substitute cigarettes with food to cope with the “hand to mouth” habit of smoking. Both lead to weight gain.

Intense cravings for nicotine

Your body is dependent on nicotine while you’re a smoker. It will crave it when it goes without. Cravings peak between the two- and four-week mark.

(Video) What happens to your body when you stop smoking?

Irritability, frustration, and anger

You’re making a big change — your mind and body need to adjust giving up something you’ve grown dependent on. This often causes irritability and anger.

Constipation

Nicotine affects the small bowel and colon. When you take the nicotine away, you may experience constipation as your body adjusts to going without it.

Anxiety, depression, and insomnia

Smokers have an increased risk of depression and anxiety, though the reason for this is unclear. You may smoke to feel better. When you quit smoking, you may feel more anxious and depressed. Insomnia is also also common.

Depression is a serious condition. It’s best to treat it with a medical professional, who may recommend talk therapy, medications, or light therapy. Some alternative remedies to use alongside doctor-prescribed treatment include:

  • St. John’s wort
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • acupuncture
  • massage therapy
  • meditation

Purchase St. John’s wort and omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

Difficulty concentrating

All of the side effects of quitting smoking can make it difficult to concentrate at first.

Dry mouth

Smoking is a common cause of dry mouth. The stress and anxiety associated with withdrawal can make it worse as you adjust.

(Video) What happens to your Body if you Quit Smoking!

  • 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate drops. Cigarettes raise your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. You heart rate will begin to drop to normal levels within 20 minutes of your last cigarette.
  • 8 to 12 hours after quitting, you blood carbon monoxide level drops. Carbon monoxide is the same dangerous fume that comes from car exhaust. It causes your heart rate to increase and causes shortness of breath. Within 8 to 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops, and your blood oxygen increases.
  • 48 hours after quitting, your ability to smell and taste improves. The nerve endings damaged by smoking begin to regrow, improving your sense of smell and taste.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your risk of heart attack drops. Improved circulation, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and better oxygen levels and lung function all reduce your risk of a heart attack.
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting, you’ll feel less short of breath and cough less. Coughing, shortness of breath, and sinus congestion will decrease. You’ll feel more energetic overall.
  • 1 year after quitting, your risk of heart disease will be cut in half. Smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease.
  • 5 years after quitting, your risk of stroke decreases. Depending on how much and how long you smoked and your overall health, your risk of stroke will be the same as someone who’s never smoked within 5 to 15 years of quitting.
  • 10 years after quitting, your risk of lung cancer drops to that of someone who’s never smoked. Your risk of dying from lung cancer will be that of a person who’s never smoked. Your risk of developing other cancers decreases significantly.
  • 15 years after quitting, you risk of heart disease is the same as someone who’s never smoked. After you quit, you’ll have lower cholesterol, thinner blood (which reduces your risk of blood clots), and lower blood pressure.

Vaping may seem like the lesser of two evils when it comes to smoking. Vaping may be less harmful than tobacco, but it still contains nicotine and other toxic chemicals, many of which are also found in regular cigarettes.

Even some vapes that claim to be nicotine-free have been found to contain nicotine. This can make quitting vaping just as difficult as quitting smoking for some people.

While some evidence suggests that vaping may help some people quit smoking, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved e-cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking.

Find a doctor to help you quit

(Video) How I Quit Smoking: A Personal Journey

A doctor can help you quit smoking. Speak to your doctor if you’re ready to quit, or find a doctor to help you quit. A doctor can talk to you about medications that can help you quit or put you in touch with local resources.

You can also get help through the American Lung Association’s program, Freedom From Smoking, or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669), which gives you access to their specially trained counselors in all states.

FAQs

What happens to your body when you start to quit smoking? ›

Common symptoms include: cravings, restlessness, trouble concentrating or sleeping, irritability, anxiety, increases in appetite and weight gain. Many people find withdrawal symptoms disappear completely after two to four weeks.

How long after quitting smoking does your body improve? ›

The average timescale for people overcoming nicotine addiction is around 3 months.

What happens after 7 days of not smoking? ›

After seven days without smoking, you will have higher levels of protective antioxidants such as vitamin C in your blood. After a week without smoking, nerve endings damaged by smoking will start to regrow so you may start to notice you have more ability to taste and smell.

What happens after 21 days of not smoking? ›

21 days – Brain biochemistry is returning to normal. 15 days – 90 days – The risk of suffering from a heart attack is starting to decline. Lungs are beginning to recover and your breathing more easily.

What are smokers legs? ›

Smoker's leg is the term for PAD that affects the lower limbs, causing leg pain and cramping. The condition results from the buildup of plaque in the arteries and, in rare cases, the development of blood clots.

Can lungs heal after 40 years of smoking? ›

After 30 years of smoking, the lungs will likely have irreversible damage and the risk of all types of disease is drastically increased, including lung cancer, COPD, and heart disease. While the lungs may never return to normal, it is still worth quitting smoking even after 30 or more years.

How can I clean my lungs after smoking? ›

How Can I Accelerate Lung Healing After Smoking?
  1. Drink Lots Of Water. Water helps flush toxins from your body, including those found in cigarettes and tobacco products. ...
  2. Eat Healthy Foods. ...
  3. Exercise Regularly. ...
  4. Cough. ...
  5. Clean Your Living Space. ...
  6. Practice Deep Breathing. ...
  7. Try Steam Therapy.
29 Sept 2021

How long do you have to quit smoking to be considered a non smoker? ›

Generally if you haven't smoked for 12 months or more, you're considered a non-smoker. The non-smoking time length rules vary among insurance companies.

Can lungs heal after 20 years of smoking? ›

Your lungs have an almost "magical" ability to repair some of the damage caused by smoking - but only if you stop, say scientists. The mutations that lead to lung cancer had been considered to be permanent, and to persist even after quitting.

Is it better to quit smoking gradually or cold turkey? ›

Going “cold turkey” might be better

You can choose to cut down on your cigarettes gradually before your quit date, or smoke as you normally do up until your quit date. Either is fine, but it seems that quitting abruptly, going “cold turkey,” might be better.

What happens after 3 weeks of no nicotine? ›

At three weeks, you've likely gotten through the shock of physical withdrawal. Now you're beginning to tackle the mental side of nicotine addiction, or psychological withdrawal. This turn of events often triggers cravings to smoke that can feel like you're back at square one.

Do you gain weight when you quit smoking? ›

Many people gain weight when they quit smoking cigarettes. On average, people gain 5 to 10 pounds (2.25 to 4.5 kilograms) in the months after they give up smoking. You may put off quitting if you are worried about adding extra weight. But not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Does your skin change when you stop smoking? ›

Reduced Discolouration and Staining. Increased blood flow will also make your complexion look less grey and pale, one of the most noticeable differences in your skin before and after quitting smoking. As your skin gets more nutrients and oxygen, your face may even appear brighter with a healthy glow, after you quit.

Why am I so tired after quitting smoking? ›

Many people experience extreme fatigue after quitting smoking because of nicotine withdrawal. As your body reacts to the lower levels of nicotine and other chemicals throughout the day, you can end up feeling tired out and lethargic.

Why do smokers lose their legs? ›

If the patient continues poor lifestyle habits, like smoking, PAD slowly starves the toes, feet and legs (peripheral parts of the body) of oxygen, which can lead to gangrene and amputation if not treated.

Are smokers legs curable? ›

There is no cure for Buerger's disease. The only way to keep Buerger's disease from getting worse is to stop using all tobacco products. Medicines don't usually work well to treat the disease, but can help control the symptoms.

Why do some smokers live long? ›

Study finds some individuals have genetic variants that allow them to have long-term exposure to a carcinogen without developing lung cancer.

Is it too late to quit smoking at 60? ›

It's never too late to get benefits from quitting smoking. Quitting, even in later life, can significantly lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer over time and reduce your risk of death.

Can COPD go away if you quit smoking? ›

Smoking is the main risk factor in the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and smoking cessation is the only effective treatment for avoiding or reducing the progression of this disease.

Which fruit is good for smokers? ›

Vitamin C (amla, citrus fruits, lemon, pineapple, guava) is important for smokers too, as it can effectively help neutralise the free radicals that smoking creates in the body — and help maintain immunity.

Which drink is good for lungs? ›

Green Tea: Green tea has numerous health benefits and it is even beneficial to cleanse your lungs. It is packed with antioxidants that may help to reduce inflammation in the lungs. Have a cup of green tea every-day with a dash ginger, lemon or honey.

› health › what-happens-when... ›

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While you can't totally clean your lungs, there are many things you can do to improve your lung health after quitting smoking. Try these science-backed tips...
Remaining smoke-free will gradually improve your lung health. Tirrell Johnson, MD, shares.

How long after quitting smoking are you considered a non smoker? ›

Generally if you haven't smoked for 12 months or more, you're considered a non-smoker. The non-smoking time length rules vary among insurance companies.

What Happens After 2 weeks of not smoking? ›

Within two weeks of quitting smoking, you may start to notice you're not only breathing easier. You're also walking easier. This is thanks to improved circulation and oxygenation. Your lung function also increases as much as 30 percent about two weeks after stopping smoking, notes the University of Michigan.

How can I clean my lungs after smoking? ›

How Can I Accelerate Lung Healing After Smoking?
  1. Drink Lots Of Water. Water helps flush toxins from your body, including those found in cigarettes and tobacco products. ...
  2. Eat Healthy Foods. ...
  3. Exercise Regularly. ...
  4. Cough. ...
  5. Clean Your Living Space. ...
  6. Practice Deep Breathing. ...
  7. Try Steam Therapy.
29 Sept 2021

Can lungs heal after 40 years of smoking? ›

After 30 years of smoking, the lungs will likely have irreversible damage and the risk of all types of disease is drastically increased, including lung cancer, COPD, and heart disease. While the lungs may never return to normal, it is still worth quitting smoking even after 30 or more years.

Can I smoke one cigarette after quitting? ›

One cigarette may seem harmless, but it can quickly lead to resuming your regular smoking habit, even if you've gone a long time without smoking. Nine out of 10 people return to smoking after having just one cigarette. And as Jorenby points out, this usually happens fairly quickly.

Why do I feel worse after I quit smoking? ›

Yes, it is common to feel worse temporarily after quitting smoking. This phenomenon, known as the smoker's flu, is primarily caused by nicotine withdrawal. Some symptoms of the smoker's flu, such as sore throat and cough, are signs that your body is healing after quitting smoking.

Can the lungs recover if a smoker quits? ›

Quitting is so beneficial because cigarettes contain more than 4,800 toxic chemicals, most of which produce harmful effects in the lungs and airways. When you stop smoking, the lungs begin to heal immediately.

What happens after 3 days of no nicotine? ›

Three days after you stop smoking, your body naturally reduces nicotine levels. Knowing this is essential because this is the point when many people experience their first symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. The most common ones include headaches, irritability, and mood swings as your body learns to live without nicotine.

Videos

1. What Are the Side Effects of Quitting? | Quit Smoking
(Howcast)
2. The benefits of quitting smoking
(ParkviewHealth)
3. Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
(American Lung Association)
4. Doctors On Call: Beneficial Impact of Quitting Smoking
(NDTV)
5. Stopping smoking linked to improved mental health
(The BMJ)
6. Smoking Cessation: The Effect of Immediately vs Gradually Reducing Nicotine in Cigarettes
(JAMA Network)
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