What Happens When You Quit Smoking?
Learn what happens to your body an hour, a day, a month, a year, and even 10 years after you kick the habit. The facts may surprise you.
A "Quit Smoking" Timeline
Right now is a great time to quit smoking. Why? In as little as 20 minutes you'll start to feel the benefits of not smoking.
Curious how long nicotine stays in your body? What types of nicotine withdrawal symptoms you'll have? Want to find out how many tobacco-free days it will take for your body to recuperate and no longer be at risk of the dangers of smoking?
Click through the slideshow to see a "quit smoking" timeline of health benefits.
20 Minutes After You Quit
The effects of quitting start to set in immediately. Less than 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate will already start to drop back towards normal levels (CDC, 2004).
Two Hours After You Quit
After two hours without a cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure will have decreased to near normal levels. Your peripheral circulation may also improve. The tips of your fingers and toes may start to feel warm. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually start about two hours after your last cigarette. Early withdrawal symptoms include:
- intense cravings
- anxiety, tension, or frustration
- drowsiness or trouble sleeping
- increased appetite
12 Hours After You Quit
Carbon monoxide, which can be toxic to the body at high levels, is released from burning tobacco and inhaled as part of cigarette smoke. Because carbon monoxide bonds so well to blood cells, high levels of the substance can prevent these cells from bonding with oxygen, which in turn causes serious cardiovascular problems. In just 12 hours after quitting smoking, the carbon monoxide in your body decreases to lower levels, and your blood oxygen levels increase to normal (CDC, 2004).
24 Hours After You Quit
The heart attack rate for smokers is 70 percent higher than for nonsmokers. But, believe or not, just one full day after quitting smoking, your risk for heart attack will already have begun to drop. While you're not quite out of the woods yet, you're on your way!
48 Hours After You Quit
It may not be life-threatening, but deadened senses—specifically, smell and taste—are one of the more obvious consequences of smoking. Luckily, after 48 hours without a cigarette, your nerve endings will start to re-grow, and your ability to smell and taste is enhanced (Cleveland Clinic, 2007). In just a little while longer, you'll be better appreciating the finer things in life.
Three Days After You Quit
At this point, the nicotine will be completely out of your body. Unfortunately, that means that the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal will generally peak around this time. You may experience some physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, or cramps in addition to the emotional symptoms mentioned in slide #3.
To fight the mental symptoms, reward yourself for not smoking; use the money you would have spent on cigarettes to treat yourself to something nice.
Two to Three Weeks After You Quit
After a couple of weeks, you'll be able to exercise and perform physical activities without feeling winded and sick. This is due to a number of regenerative processes that will begin to occur in your body; your circulation will improve, and your lung function will also improve significantly. After two or three weeks without smoking, your lungs may start to feel clear, and you'll start breathing easier (AHA, 2012).
For most smokers, withdrawal symptoms dissipate about two weeks after quitting.
One to Nine Months After You Quit
Starting about a month after you quit, your lungs begin to repair. Inside them, the cilia—the tiny, hair-like organelles that push mucus out—will start to repair themselves and function properly again. With the cilia now able to do their job, they will help to reduce your risk of infection. With properly functioning lungs, your coughing and shortness of breath may continue to decrease dramatically.
Even for the heaviest smokers, withdrawal symptoms will go away no more than several months after quitting.
One Year After You Quit
The one-year mark is a big one. After a year without smoking, your risk for heart disease is lowered by 50 percent compared to when you were still smoking (CDC, 2004). Another way to look at it is that a smoker is more than twice as likely as you are to have any type of heart disease.
Five Years After You Quit
A number of the substances released in the burning of tobacco—carbon monoxide chief among them—cause your blood vessels to narrow, which increases your risk of having a stroke. After five to 15 years of being smoke-free, your risk of having a stroke is the same as someone who doesn't smoke (CDC, 2004).
10 Years After You Quit
Smokers are at higher risk than nonsmokers for a daunting list of cancers, with lung cancer being the most common and one of the most dangerous. Smoking accounts for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths worldwide. It may take 10 years, but if you quit, eventually your risk of dying from lung cancer will drop to half that of a smoker's (CDC, 2004). Ten years after quitting, your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas also decreases.
15 Years After You Quit
Fifteen years of non-smoking will bring your risk of heart disease back to the same level as someone who doesn't smoke (CDC, 2004). You'll no longer be at a higher-than-normal risk for a wide range of conditions like heart attack, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, angina, infections of the heart, or conditions that affect your heart's beating rhythms.
Long Term Benefits
The long-term benefits of quitting smoking are fantastic. According to the American Heart Association, non-smokers, on average, live 14 years longer than smokers (AHA, 2011). Quit today, and you'll extend your life span and live those extra years with a functional cardiovascular system, while being active and feeling great.
Ready to Quit?
Quitting isn't easy, but it's definitely worth the struggle, and there are resources available to help you quit today. Are you ready for the benefits of a smoke-free life? Visit Healthline's Smoking Cessation Center for lots of great articles and tools to help you stop smoking.