Quitting Smoking: Effects on the Human Body

Quitting Smoking Timeline

Quitting Smoking Timeline

Quitting smoking now greatly reduces your risk for numerous diseases, cancers, COPD, and reproductive complications.

Learn detailed information regarding the stages of regeneration and benefits which can begin as soon as 20 minutes after quitting.

When quitting smoking, there are numerous physical and emotional effects the body experiences. These effects are both short-term and long-term.

 

Short Term Effects

  • The short-term effects of quitting smoking begin within 20 minutes. Cigarettes contain ingredients and produce chemicals that speed up your heart rate, and also raises your blood pressure. According to the CDC, within 20 minutes of not smoking an analogue cigarette, your heart rate will already begin to drop down to normal levels.
  • Within two hours of not smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure will have returned to almost completely normal levels. Your peripheral circulation may also begin to improve during this time. This means you may begin to feel warmth in your fingertips and other extremities. This is due to your circulation improving. However, during this time you may also begin to experience some of the adverse effects of quitting smoking: withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include anxiety, increased appetite, irritability, sleeplessness, and intense cravings.
  • After only 12 hours of not smoking analogue cigarettes, your blood oxygen levels raise to near normal levels. As stated by the CDC, carbon monoxide is released from a lit cigarette and inhaled with the smoke. At high levels, carbon monoxide is considered to be toxic to the human body. Carbon monoxide also bonds effectively to blood cells, prohibiting them from bonding successfully with oxygen. This can lead to serious cardiovascular complications. After 12 hours of not smoking, these carbon monoxide levels decrease, allowing your blood cells to once again bond effectively with oxygen.
  • Since the risk of heart attack is 70% higher than those who do not smoke, after 24 hours the risk of heart attack begins to decrease.
  • The sense of smell and taste rely on nerve endings. Smoking deadens these nerve endings. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, these nerve endings begin to regrow within 48 hours of not smoking. This means that your sense of smell and taste will begin to increase, allowing you to experience more flavour and aromas.
  • Approximately three days after quitting, the nicotine levels in your system will have been depleted. However, with this absence comes greater symptoms of withdrawal. Increased tension, cravings, irritability, and other symptoms may be strongly present. [There are several methods used to combat these symptoms which will be addressed at the end of this article.]
  • After two to three weeks after quitting smoking, numerous regenerative processes begin to take place in the body. Some of which are very noticeable. According to the American Heart Association, your lung capacity and performance will begin to regenerate and improve, as will your circulation. This will allow you to perform intense activities such as exercising, running, and various other physical activities that rely on endurance and stamina.
  • Between one and nine months after quitting smoking your lungs dramatically begin to repair themselves. One of the adverse effects of smoking analogue cigarettes is the damage to the cilia. Cilia are the small hair-like organelles which assist in reducing your risk of infections by pushing mucus out of your lungs. The regenerative process your lungs undergo include the repair of the cilia. This increases the lung function and performance, as well as reducing the risk of infection.

During this restorative period, nicotine has been absent from your system since the first several weeks of quitting smoking. However, withdrawal symptoms can remain for upwards of six months.

Long Term Effects

  • The risk for any type of coronary heart disease is much greater for a smoker. According to the CDC, approximately one year after smoking your overall risk for coronary heart disease decreases by half.
  • Another primary adverse effect smoking has on your health is the constricting of blood vessels. The constricting of the blood vessels greatly increase the chance of stroke. A primary factor which causes this is carbon monoxide. Between five and 15 years after quitting smoking, the chance of stroke decreases to that of an average non-smoker, according to the CDC. This restorative process takes time, but results in an overall decrease in an ex-smoker’s mortality rate.
  • The CDC further states that after 10 years of not smoking, the risk of lung cancer, cancer of the throat, mouth, esophagus, and major organs also decreases by approximately half that of a traditional cigarette smoker. Medical practitioners report that nearly 90% of all lung cancer-related deaths are a result of smoking traditional cigarettes.

Within 15 years of quitting smoking, nearly all of the restorative processes are complete. Your risk of heart disease is no greater than someone who has never smoked an analogue cigarette. According to the American Heart Association, on average, non-smokers live 14-15 years longer than those who smoke cigarettes. With restored lung function, circulation, and cardiovascular health, those years are spent being active and healthy.

Check out more of our great articles:

The Effects of Smoking

Top 10 Tips and Tricks for Quitting

• Secondhand Smoke: Think Twice

• Support Your Quitter

There are many ways to immediately reduce the harm of cigarette smoke. Read more about smoking cessation methods here and here.

  • Jenny Garcia

    My quitday was 1/18/17!

    • Simon Lesser

      Good luck Jenny, I quit Jan last year, best thing I ever did, it gets easier after the first couple of weeks. A book to read which really helped me is the Illustrated easy way to stop smoking by Allen Carr

    • Marian Fieraru

      1/10/17 here !

    • Aftab

      1/19/17 mine

  • DAVE R

    Been stopped 2 1/2 years, best thing i ever did, i can breath much better, feel much better, and smell much better, now hoping partner will quit, like kissing a old ash tray.

  • moebius_rising

    Coming up to 4 years without a cigarette, on Feb. 28.

  • Shannon Dalesio

    It’s been 4 years today since I quit! Best thing I ever did!

    • Daniel Cooper

      great job! Today is my four year mark!

  • King Pin

    It will be 12 years for me on Feb 25 2017.

  • joseph

    My quit day – 11.15.16 🙂

  • Aftab

    My quit day 19/01/2017

  • Chevy

    2-01-17 Thank you Jesus!

  • Michelle Mayotte Sather

    I quit Friday night 2/4. I want to cry. I feel like I am drowning. I want to strangle something or someone. I hate everything. I’m so angry. It’s like I’m a psychopath. I really really really don’t know how I will make it

    • Ladylimes

      I quit Jan 14 and I must say it hasn’t been easy but it gets better. Don’t give up. I took up a hobby and it keeps my mind off cigs. I have read on the effects on making and that has giving me reasons to stop even more. 1809quit has help me with the tips that are given. Stay strong, if you continue to stay angry talk to your health professional he can help you. You can do this.

      • Ladylimes

        Read up on the effects on smoking and the harms that has helped me stay away from smoking. I was advised by my doctor to stay away from any type of nicotine help as I need surgery and my incision will not heal well.

    • Dale R. Loos

      The only thing that worked for me was this. (nearly 30-year smoker)
      Watch it once and see how you feel.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmNf37oJEvc

    • Amy Fleming

      Read “Allen Carr: The Easyway to Stop Smoking”

    • Gerry westerby

      Eat chocolate liqueurs. But in truth after three weeks you are well out of the woods,

    • Long_live_Rome

      Exercise, a lot.

      I quit on 2/3, I’ve been hitting the gym 2 to 3 hours a day with weight training and camping out in the sauna for a half hour afterward.

      It will sound insane, but sit in a sauna bucknaked sipping on water and force yourself to sweat out the toxins. I have not had a craving since 2/4. This will also help stave off the excess weight gain. Take a cool-ish shower after and munch on some dried fruits and unsalted nuts after.

      I guess my ending piece of advice is: I know you’re mad, I know you want to strangle someone, but channel the rage into something constructive for you and your future. =)

    • melfarmer

      Michelle, I have smoked for over 40 years. I now have COPD, I am lucky if I can walk from my bed to my living room couch without feeling like I am dying because I cannot catch my breath. I finally put my cigarettes down three days ago. Trust me, put them down now while you can still breathe, because once you can’t, it isn’t worth it. Pray like you have never prayed before. I will pray for you too.

      • Hope Haugstad

        I needed to hear this.

        • melfarmer

          Aww, that’s good, glad to hear that. Today marks my one month without a cigarette. I am so much better. It is amazing how quickly the body heals itself. Prayers!

      • Victoria Helvey

        My sister has COPD and almost died 7 years ago when she got sick. She was in a coma for 3 weeks! The doctor kept telling us she wouldn’t make it through the day. Very scary! She did come around and hasn’t smoked since! She still has a lot of breathing problems. You would think that this would be enough to make me quit. It wasn’t. About 3 weeks ago she was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia and the doctor thought she had a heart issue. It took 2 weeks to clear the lungs enough to check the heart and she was in ICU the whole time. Thank goodness she didn’t have a heart problem, it was caused from her lungs working hard which made her heart work hard! This time, even though it wasn’t nearly as bad, it hit home because I am now at the age she was the first time she was in the hospital! I made a plan and on the day she went home I started my quit plan. It is hard but I have to do this for her! This was the only request she had while she laid in the hospital! Wish me luck!

    • Kate Edwards Kearney

      Meditation using the ‘calm app’ has really been helpful. It’s about £2.70 a month and so worth it. I’m on it at least half an hour a day and it is helping in so many ways. Good luck!! X

    • Lori Martin Dollar

      Hang in there Michelle! Keep busy. Clean something, go for a walk, have a snack, take a nap. Just try to pass the time without smoking. Good luck. I look at pictures of smoker’s lungs compared with a person’s lungs that have quit smoking for just 3 months! What a difference! The body can heal itself!

  • b1bomber

    I quit 12/28/16. Today is 2/6/17. After 25 yrs of smoking this is the LONGEST I’ve ever been without a cigarette! Yes I still find myself at times wanting 1, but I also know that I will never “need” 1 ever again! I’m so proud of myself & EVERYONE on here!

    • Victoria Helvey

      I am very proud of you too! It is not easy! Keep up the good fight!

  • TheWhiteraven07

    I quit 5 days ago while being sick. I am still sick but starting to feel the cravings now that I am starting to feel better. Quit for 19 days this time last year. If your struggling, take it day by day. Find help, it is very difficult to do without support. Michelle, get your mind off quitting! If you focus on the negatives, you will smoke! One day at a time! Keep yourself occupied. Blessings:)

  • Bleed Ink

    Quit 2/5/17. The struggle is real lol. Been down this road before and have never succeeded. Been smoking a pack a day for about 12 years and I’m 30 now. Time to grow up and be a big boy lol. 31 will see me smokeless. Congrats to everyone that has quit.

  • Brian Dobbins

    My quit day 2/11/16 – I like to call it two eleven. Coming up on 1 year sans cigarettes and I feel amazing spiritually, mentally, and physically. It sounds redundant but it is so liberating to not be a slave anymore, to realize that I am strong enough to do this positive thing for me and me alone, and now to have the stamina to be physically active for seemingly endless periods of time. I am 52 and basically smoked since I was 15 and loved every minute of it. It has been a long, emotional year fighting this addiction but I want anyone reading this to know that this week after one year without a cigarette or nicotine of any sort I feel totally amazing. This is so worth it!

  • Jason

    I quit, again, 3 days ago. Seems harder this time. I have no urge to smoke really. But the damn cloud head, dizzyness, and last night insomnia are kicking my ass. Oh well. Onward to the rest of withdrawl. Good luck everyone.

    • Victoria Helvey

      I am having insomnia and yesterday I was at the store and I became very dizzy! I have not completely stopped but 1 week ago I went from 20 daily to 16. This week I went to 14. Yesterday I only had 9 all day and when I had the dizzy spell I had been up for about 12 hours and I had only had 5. My sister quit about 7 years ago and I asked her if she had dizzy spells and she told me that wasn’t a side effect of quitting. I am glad to hear it is, not that I am happy you have dizzy spells, just glad to know others have them when quitting! I have not tried patches but might try now. Best of luck staying off the cigarettes!

  • Chad Smith

    I quit smoking 2 days and 9 hours ago. I still crave it but I feel like I’m strong enough to mentally overcome it. I have smoked for 27 years and in that time I only quit for 12 weeks during basic training for the Army. The craving is getting less and less but my family is supporting me and making it easier and easier with every hour.

  • Johnny

    I was a very heavy cannabis user and smoked cigarettes when at work etc about 20 a day. I quit the green full stop at the start of January then quit the tobacco full stop 4 weeks ago. I’ve not used any nicotine replacement what I have used is herbal pills called kalms I think they’re basically the same as herbal sleeping pills. I’ve no cravings at all any more and really never did have many bad cravings and when I did they didn’t last long. So mentally I’ve basically been totally fine and have found it easy. I have however had lots of physical ailments affecting me since quitting but I’m sure that must just be my body readjusting and they’ll pass too. I’m in the UK and the pills are called kalms and I get them in any supermarkets that’s my advice they made it easy for me without patches or anything I think patches just prolong the misery and if u forget to put one on that’s your excuse to smoke again. Oh yeah my sleep is actually quite messed up too but getting better and I’m enjoying all the dreams that I never used to get. And I actually don’t seem to need as much sleep I’m still fresher through the day

    • Nora Verruca

      hi johnny, thank yu for ur remarks. i am similar in that i found the nicotine replacements just prolonging it. i strung together five days while having a cold and during a five day snow storm. Enslavement was the metaphor that helped.It’s been two weeks. I had a day of slippage…smoked a pack, but am back on track and i feel out of danger now.

    • Khalid Yassein

      Khalid

  • richard slattery

    Heavy cannibas smoker for 13 years stopped the weed on the 22 .12 .16 and stopped smoking tobacco today anxious about the coming few days but first kid is due in a week so I can’t think of a better reason.

  • Dave Carrigan

    Today is the end of Day 2.. I am 55 and a 40 year smoker. I am on stage 2 patch, and have cravings. But I am determined to do this. I have to. I want to work at a certain hospital and they test for nicotine. So I have motivation. I know it will be hard, I am lowering my nicotine, and breaking my triggers. And will go to the 7 mg patch in 3 weeks, just for a week. And step away forever. I had a chest xray done a month ago for another reason and was told I am showing signs of the early stages of emphysema. I know I am not 30 anymore, but I do get winded more easy. I am done with smokes.

    • Denise Gasparini

      Emphysema is no joke man we ain’t 20 no more. Good luck.

  • Cheri Lynn Peterson

    Day 3 for me! I’m going through a lot in my life at this time and was very surprised to find out that I didn’t want to smoke anymore. I’ve smoked for 30 years and just stopped. Why I don’t know but I really don’t want to question it.

    • Denise Gasparini

      Good job never question a good thing

  • Denise Gasparini

    Im coming up on 2 months I actually quit on New Years day. So far so good .I am taking wellbutrin for the withdrawals and weight gain and its working great I have no desire and no side effects whats so ever .I just hope when I stop the medication I don’t want to smoke again. Im 52 and have smoked since i was 13. I never even tried to quit > I am just gonna loo
    k at it like there is no going back I cannot smoke again ever and I don’t care.

    • Victoria Helvey

      Denise, we are the same age and started at about the same age. I quit once for 5 years in my mid 20’s. Dumbest thing was to start again but I did. I want to quit. This week I went from 20 a day to 16 a day and I’ve done good. Each Monday I will cut 4 more. That is what worked last time. I’m going to my doctor in 2 weeks and I’ll ask about the med you’re on. Wish me luck! I will need it! Good job on your end!

      • Denise Gasparini

        I wish you all the luck in the world you got this. those cigarettes are disgusting keep telling yourself that cause they are.

        • Victoria Helvey

          Thank you so much! I really hope I can stay strong! Keep up the great work on your quitting! Have a wonderful weekend!

          • Robert Petranek

            It’s all in your mind. You don’t NEED to smoke… it’s not like giving up FOOD or WATER. A couple irritable days are just that, then they are gone, and you are better- healthier, richer… just stay away from other smokers during the first few weeks.

          • Victoria Helvey

            Thanks! I hope I can do this! Some days it’s ok and other days it’s non stop craving! Today is one of the bad days! I’ve had hard candy, popcorn, water, lots of water and they won’t stop! I wish I could nap but I am wide awake! I don’t think I have been this awake in years! Last night I only slept for 2 hours and I can’t believe I am so wide awake! Did you get like this? I have not used any replacement so it makes no sense!

          • Robert Petranek

            THIS TOO SHALL PASS. You don’t want to be living walking around with an oxygen tank. This will be over in a little while. In a few more days you will look back and say- “Wow I didn’t NEED any of those smokes!!!” It is all in the mind.

  • jamie

    I quit 3 years ago Jan. 27 exactly 2 months before my bday. Was so excited and proud of myself but I’m still craving and really snappy and irritable..

  • chrisb1

    Am now on day 15 of quitting after smoking a pack of 20 for 35 years.
    Best thing I ever did.

  • 1812

    Age 39, 1st heart attack, continued to smoke until age 43, second heart attack. Coded twice on the table. Have not thought about cigarettes since then. Smartest decision I’ve ever made.

  • Jacki

    It will be 15 years for me in July. It took several tries at quitting before I succeeded.

  • stonrdude

    20 years smoke free of all smoking products! Cold turkey and never went back. Worst and best things I ever did!

  • Lori Martin Dollar

    12 weeks smoke free today!!!

  • xdreamartist

    I’m so stoked! thanks for this article1

  • AngryNewYorker

    Ahhhh, Finally a Disqus thread that’s positive in nature and contains no politics!

  • Donna Gettings Apperson

    8 days for me. Every day, including today, I read about quitting smoking. That’s how I found this site. I’ve had about 5 nicotine lozenges so far during the quit, have been drinking a lot of water and getting a lot of sleep. NOPE (not one puff ever) is my way of thinking. I’m having ups and downs, but I’m not smoking.

  • Debra Walker

    After more than 50 years as a smoker, I quit on New Years Eve 2016. I used a nicotine patch but quit that too after a few weeks. I tried quitting before (many times) and decided I would give it one last attempt. I was afraid of failing and for the first few days I was a basket case. I knew I had to change my lifestyle if I had any hope of success, so on January 12 I started a walking program. I walk at least 3 miles a day and it has done wonders for my self-esteem, not to mention my physical health. I still have cravings but they are becoming easier to dismiss. I am cautiously optimistic.

  • Zameel

    I have been smoke free for 2 weeks!! I have been sick for almost a week now and no this is short term pain for long term gain. It makes me motivated by reading all of these comments that it isn’t easy going thru this challenge but coming out strong at the end. I am not the only one who has tried to quit as it is very doable.

  • Victoria Helvey

    Has every one quit cold turkey? Did you use the patch or another replacement? Do you think that they helped? I am doing it by cutting my cigarettes down weekly and thinking about each one and if I really need it. I also joined a stop smoking help line we have in AZ. They are sending me patches but are not going to be here until Monday, the start of week 3 for me. I smoked 20-22 cigarettes a day. First week on Monday I went to 16. There were a few hard times but stuck to it. I am on week 2 and went to 14 a day. I am doing good and it is Thursday and no slips, in fact I only had 10 yesterday! Has anyone else done it this way? Were you successful at quitting completely? Thanks!