What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Smoking Cigarettes?


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If you smoke, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of quitting. Some people continue to smoke because they feel they have already damaged their body. This is simply not true. Your body benefits in as little as one hour after putting out your last cigarette. The sooner you quit smoking, the greater long-term health benefits you will enjoy. Some of these include a reduced risk of asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

What to Expect within 12 Hours of Your Last Cigarette

Everyone must start somewhere in their journey from smoking to non-smoking. If you feel discouraged, we urge you to consider this: Your heart rate returns to normal, your circulation improves, and your blood pressure drops between 20 and 60 minutes after smoking your last cigarette. When you reach half a day without smoking, your body automatically cleanses itself of the carbon monoxide present in cigarettes. This increases the oxygen levels in your body, which reduces your risk of suffocation due to oxygen deficiency.

How Your Body Changes One to Three Days After Quitting Smoking

The bad news is that smoking decreases the amount of good cholesterol your body produces. This increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease. It’s more difficult for you to exercise comfortably without adequate levels of good cholesterol in your body. Smoking also increases blood clots and blood pressure, both of which heighten the risk of stroke. However, your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke drops after just one day of not picking up a cigarette.

When you go 24 hours without smoking, your oxygen levels increase while your blood pressure decreases. This makes is easier to engage in physical activity that promotes good heart health.

Within two days of putting out your last cigarette, you may notice an improved sense of taste and smell. That is because smoking damages the nerve endings responsible for these sensations. 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.

One Month to One Year After Becoming a Non-Smoker

Your lung functioning begins to improve after just 30 days without smoking. As your lungs heal from the damage, you will likely notice that you experience shortness of breath and cough less often than you did when you smoked. Your physical stamina improves as well, making activities such as jumping and running much easier. Additionally, your circulation gradually gets better over the next several months that you remain a non-smoker.

By the nine-month mark, your lungs show considerable signs of healing. Cilia, which are the tiny hair-like structures present inside of your lungs, show the most improvement. It’s important to have healthy cilia in your lungs because they help to fight infections by keeping mucus out. You should notice fewer lung infections around nine months after you give up cigarettes.

One Year to Five Years Later

After you have been a non-smoker for one year, you reduce your risk of developing coronary artery disease by 50 percent. This percentage continues to increase the longer you go without smoking. Within five years, your body’s blood vessels and arteries begin to widen because they’re no longer exposed to the numerous toxins present in nicotine. This makes it much easier for blood to travel through the vessel and arteries, thereby greatly diminishing your chances of having a stroke.

The Benefits of Not Smoking for a Decade or More

Once you have gone 10 years without picking up a cigarette, your likelihood of developing lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, or cancer of the mouth or throat is at least half of that as a person who doesn’t give up smoking. Things get really exciting by the time you reach the 15-year mark. It’s at this point that the risk of pancreatic cancer or coronary artery disease is equal to that of a non-smoker. Two decades after picking up your last cigarette, the risk of pancreatic cancer, lung disease, and all other types of cancer is the same as it is for someone who never smoked at all.

Ideas to Help You Quit Smoking

We hope the above information has inspired you to give up smoking for good. If you have tried going cold turkey before only to return to smoking, you might wonder what it’s going to take this time. Here are three ideas to help you on your journey to a life free of nicotine addiction:

  • Nicotine replacement therapy: Available as a patch, spray, inhaler, lozenge, or piece of gum, nicotine replacement therapy sends low levels of nicotine to your body as you wean yourself from cigarettes. The difference is that it doesn’t contain any of the poisonous chemicals present in tobacco smoke.
  • Increase amounts of Vitamin B and Vitamin C: Smokers typically have less of these vitamins present in their body than non-smokers. Vitamin B helps to guard against stress, which smokers cite as a major reason for turning to cigarettes in the first place. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects lungs from the stress of inhaling cigarette smoke. Increasing your Vitamin C intake while quitting smoking can be helpful.
  • Track your smoking habits with an app: As your gear up to quit smoking, knowing what causes the urge to smoke is essential. You can find a range of free apps online or on your phone that allows you to track cues to pick up a cigarette and replace them with healthier habits.

Why Quit Tobacco Use?

  • You will have more energy & less stress
  • You will have less eye and throat irritation
  • Your smoker’s cough will go away
  • Your sense of taste and smell will return
  • You will feel better within 2 weeks
  • Your complexion will improve
  • Good for everyone around you!
  • You won’t smell and your teeth won’t be yellow
  • Respect for your body
  • It is a waste of your money
  • Adds a average of 13 years to your life

More Tips on Quitting Tobacco

  • Switch to a brand you do not like
  • Smoke only part of the cigarette
  • Ask: Do I really need the cigarette/rub?
  • Throw out cigarettes, lighter and ashtrays
  • Make a list of why you want to QUIT
  • Keep it handy
  • QUIT with a friend
  • Keep busy
  • Consider tobacco cessation aids

Alternatives to Tobacco Usage

  • Take a walk
  • Exercise
  • Chew gum/eat cinnamon
  • See a movie
  • Crochet
  • Do a puzzle
  • Weed your garden
  • Call a friend
  • Read a book
  • Hold a straw or cinnamon stick
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat a healthy snack
  • Reward yourself: start a money jar with the money you save not buying cigarettes

Some smokers may also benefit from prescription medication that helps to control the urge to smoke. If you’re ready to start your journey, ask your doctor in the Western Maryland Health System for additional resources.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.