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13 Things That Happen When You Quit Smoking

A quitting smoking timeline

Right now is a great time to quit smoking. Why? In as few as 20 minutes, you’ll start to feel the benefits.

Here we break down the changes that occur in your body within minutes, hours, days, and even years of you kicking the habit. The health benefits of quitting today may surprise you.

Check out a visual guide of how smoking affects the body »

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20 minutes

1. Drop in heart rate (20 minutes after you quit)

The effects of quitting start to set in immediately. Within 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate will begin to drop back toward a normal level.

Two hours

2. Normal blood pressure levels (two hours after you quit)

After two hours without a cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure will be close to normal levels again. Your blood circulation will also start to 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
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12 hours

3. Decreased levels of CO in your body (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. Carbon monoxide bonds very well to blood cells, so high levels of the gas can prevent the cells from bonding with oxygen. The lack of oxygen in the blood often causes serious heart conditions and other health problems.

In as few as 12 hours after quitting smoking, the carbon monoxide in your body decreases to lower levels. In turn, the amount of oxygen in your blood increases to normal levels.

24 hours

4. Lowered risk of CAD (24 hours after you quit)

The risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) for smokers is 70 percent higher than for nonsmokers. It is the most common form of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. However, just one full day after quitting smoking, your risk for CAD will already begin to reduce. Your risk of having a heart attack also starts to decline. While you’re not quite out of the woods yet, you’re on your way!

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48 hours

5. Improvement in your smell and taste (48 hours after you quit)

It may not be life-threatening, but an inability to smell or taste well is one of the more obvious consequences of smoking. Once you quit smoking for 48 hours, your nerve endings will start to regrow, and your ability to smell and taste will improve. You’ll soon start to better appreciate the finer things in life.

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Three days

6. Nicotine withdrawal (three days after you quit)

At this point, the nicotine will be completely out of your body. This means that the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal may peak around this time. You might experience some physical and emotional symptoms during withdrawal. These include:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • cramps
  • sweating
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • depression

This is when quitting smoking can become especially difficult. If you’re able to make it to this point, reward yourself so you feel motivated to continue. Use the money you would have spent on cigarettes to buy something nice for yourself.

Coping with nicotine withdrawal »

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Two weeks

7. Exercise with ease (two to three weeks after you quit)

Within three weeks, you’ll be able to exercise and perform physical activities without feeling winded. Stopping smoking for a couple of weeks gives your body time to regenerate and heal. Your blood circulation and heart function will improve significantly during this time. Your lungs may also begin to clear, allowing you to breathe more easily.

For most smokers, withdrawal symptoms start to subside about two weeks after quitting.

One month

8. Decreased coughing and shortness of breath (one to nine months after you quit)

After one month without cigarettes, the cilia inside your lungs will begin to repair. The cilia are the tiny, hair-like structures that push mucus out of the lungs. Once the cilia are able to do their job efficiently, they can fight off infection and clear the lungs more easily. With properly functioning lungs, your coughing and shortness of breath will continue to decrease dramatically.

Your withdrawal symptoms will also go away completely within nine months after quitting. The length of time it takes varies depending on how long and how often you smoked before quitting.

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One year

9. Reduced risk of heart disease (one year after you quit)

The one-year mark is a big one. After a year without smoking, your risk for heart disease drops to half that of a smoker’s. This means that someone who smokes is more than twice as likely as you are to develop any type of heart disease.

Five years

10. Reduced risk of stroke (five years after you quit)

A wide array of toxic substances is released in the burning of tobacco. Over time, these substances cause your blood vessels to narrow, which increases your risk of having a stroke. After five to 15 years of not smoking, your risk of having a stroke is the same as that of a nonsmoker.

10 years

11. Reduced risk of lung cancer (10 years after you quit)

Smokers are at higher risk than nonsmokers for a daunting list of cancers. These include:

Of these cancers, lung cancer is the most common form of cancer that affects smokers. Smoking is a main cause of lung cancer and 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. Ten years after quitting, your risk of getting other types of cancer also decreases.

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15 years

12. Same risk of heart disease as nonsmoker (15 years after you quit)

Fifteen years after your last cigarette, your risk for heart disease will be at the same level as that of a nonsmoker. Your risk of developing other conditions, such as arrhythmia, will also be reduced to normal levels.

Long-term benefits

13. Long-term benefits of quitting

The long-term benefits of quitting smoking are significant and can increase life expectancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nonsmokers live about 10 years longer than smokers. Quit today, and you may live those extra years with a functional heart and healthy lungs, allowing you to stay active and feel great.

Ready to quit?

Ready to quit?

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth the struggle, and there are resources available to help you quit today. If you’re ready for the benefits of a smoke-free life, visit our Smoking Cessation Center for information on how to start on the path to quitting. Take advantage of the numerous articles and tools so you can stop smoking once and for all.

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