When a person stops smoking, their body begins to heal almost instantly. Quitting smoking can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of lung and heart cancer.

The timeline for seeing the benefits of quitting smoking is faster than most people realize. Health benefits begin in as little as an hour after the last cigarette and continue to improve.

This article gives some fast facts on quitting smoking and goes over the timeline of the benefits of stopping smoking. Finally, it discusses the benefits of quitting and talks about withdrawal symptoms.

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Here are some key points about smoking cessation. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Quitting smoking means breaking the cycle of addiction and essentially rewiring the brain to stop craving nicotine.
  • To be successful, people who smoke and want to quit need to have a plan in place to overcome cravings and triggers.
  • The benefits of quitting smoking begin within 20 minutes after the last cigarette.
  • The sooner a person quits, the faster they reduce their risk of cancer, heart and lung disease, and other smoking-related conditions.

The benefits are almost instant. As soon as a person stops smoking, their body begins to recover.

After 1 hour

In as little as 20 minutes after a person smokes the last cigarette, the heart rate drops and begins to return to normal. Blood pressure begins to drop, and circulation may start to improve.

After 12 hours

Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals, 250 of which are known to be harmful. These include carbon monoxide, a gas present in cigarette smoke.

This gas can be harmful or fatal in high doses and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs and blood. When inhaled in large doses in a short time, suffocation can occur from lack of oxygen.

After just 12 hours without a cigarette, the body cleanses itself of the excess carbon monoxide from the cigarettes. The carbon monoxide level returns to normal, increasing the body’s oxygen levels.

After 1 day

Just 1 day after quitting smoking, the risk of heart attack begins to decrease.

Smoking raises the risk of developing coronary heart disease by lowering good cholesterol, which makes heart-healthy exercise harder to do. Smoking also raises blood pressure and increases blood clots, increasing the risk of stroke.

In as little as 1 day after quitting smoking, a person’s blood pressure begins to drop, decreasing the risk of heart disease from smoking-induced high blood pressure. In this short time, a person’s oxygen levels will have risen, making physical activity and exercise easier to do, promoting heart-healthy habits.

After 2 days

Smoking damages the nerve endings responsible for the senses of smell and taste. In as little as 2 days after quitting, a person may notice a heightened sense of smell and more vivid tastes as these nerves heal.

After 3 days

3 days after stopping smoking the bronchial tubes begin to relax. A person may notice it feels easier to breathe. They may also feel that their energy levels increase.

After 2 weeks

After around 2 weeks, circulation begins to improve. Blood can pump through the heart and muscles more easily. A person’s lung function also begins to improve.

After 1 month

In as little as 1 month, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Hair-like structures called cilia which move mucus out of the lungs regain typical function. This increases their ability to handle mucus, clear the lungs, and reduce a person’s risk of infection.

After 3-9 months

Between 3-9 months after quitting smoking, a person’s lung function increases by 10%. This improves any coughing, wheezing, or breathing problems.

After 1 year

After 1 year of not smoking, a person’s risk of a heart attack and coronary heart disease becomes half of that of a person who smokes.

After 5 years

After 5 years, a person’s risk of certain cancers is reduced by half. These include:

A person’s risk for cervical cancer and stroke returns to that of someone who does not smoke.

After 10 years

After 10 years, a person’s risk of developing and dying from lung cancer is reduced to around half of a person who smokes.

An individual’s risk of developing larynx and pancreatic cancer also decreases.

After 15 years

After 15 years of quitting smoking, a person’s risk of coronary heart disease becomes close to that of someone who does not smoke.

Resources for quitting smoking

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Smoking can lead to severe health complications and death. When a person quits smoking, the body starts to naturally heal and regain the vitality of a nonsmoker over time.

Some effects, such as lowered blood pressure, are seen almost immediately. Other effects, such as the risks of developing lung cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, take years to drop down to the levels of a person who does not smoke.

However, each year of not smoking decreases risks and improves overall health.

Most people who quit smoking will experience some symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. While these symptoms are generally uncomfortable, they are not usually harmful.

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • having urges or cravings to smoke
  • feeling irritated, upset, or grouchy
  • feeling restless or jumpy
  • having difficulty concentrating
  • having difficulty sleeping
  • feeling hungrier than usual and weight gain
  • feeling sad, depressed, or anxious

These symptoms will fade over time as a person remains smoke-free.

Below are frequently asked questions relating to smoking cessation.

What are the 4 stages to quit smoking?

No two people will quit smoking in the same way. However, smoking cessation typically follows four stages:

  • Contemplation: This is when a person begins to think about quitting smoking.
  • Preparation: Once a person decides they want to quit, they can research and prepare methods for doing so.
  • Action: During the first six months of quitting, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms and must focus on avoiding a relapse.
  • Maintenance: After being smoke-free for 6 months or more, a person can focus on maintaining their new lifestyle.

How do I quit smoking immediately?

In theory, anyone can choose to stop smoking at any time. However, taking time to prepare for smoking cessation, planning a method of quitting, and seeking outside support can help a person manage the process of quitting.

How do I quit smoking most successfully?

Different people may find different methods of smoking cessation more effective than others. Nicotine replacement therapy, e-cigarette use, and counseling can all effectively help a person quit smoking.

What happens to your body when you quit smoking?

Once a person smokes their last cigarette, their heart rate drops to a normal level within 20 minutes. By the end of their first day without cigarettes, a person’s body will eliminate excess carbon monoxide, and blood pressure will lower to a regular level.

In as little as 1 month, coughing and shortness of breath decrease, and within 9 months, a person’s lung function increases by 10%. After around 1 year of not smoking, a person’s risk of a heart attack and coronary heart disease becomes is half of that of a person who smokes.

What is the hardest period of quitting smoking?

While the health benefits of quitting smoking are immediate, nicotine withdrawals can be challenging. Once a person decides to quit, the first few months will likely be the hardest.

What happens 1 week after quitting smoking?

After one week, the bronchial tubes begin to relax, and it may feel easier to breathe. A person can also have increased energy levels.

When a person stops smoking, their body begins to feel the benefits quickly. Within less than an hour, their heart rate and blood pressure decrease.

As time passes, they will notice increased lung function and a decrease in coughing and wheezing. The longer a person remains smoke-free, the more their body benefits. Their risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer decreases with each year that passes.

A person who wishes to stop smoking can contact a helpline or speak with a healthcare professional for resources.