Smoking affects the lungs and other organ systems, including the heart. The carbon monoxide from tobacco reduces oxygen to the heart, causing it to beat faster to deliver oxygen to the body.

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Smoking is harmful to many aspects of bodily functioning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that around 16 million people in the United States have a smoking-related disease. It harms most bodily organs and increases the risk of:

Smoking is particularly damaging to the cardiovascular system of the heart and blood vessels. For example, it can affect the heart by increasing blood pressure, narrowing the arteries, and increasing the heart rate. Its effect on the cardiovascular system puts someone who smokes at risk of heart disease.

This article discusses why smoking increases the heart rate, how to prevent it, and the long-term implications. We also answer some frequently asked questions.

Cigarettes contain more than 5,000 chemicals — many of which are harmful to health, such as arsenic and benzene.

Smoking involves inhaling carbon monoxide. Smoking involves inhaling carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas that can be fatal. Burning fuel in vehicles also releases carbon monoxide.

Decreased oxygen and increased heart rate

People who smoke and inhale carbon monoxide have less oxygen for red blood cells to carry around the body. This means that the heart receives less oxygen to pump around the body. The body needs additional oxygen, and nicotine speeds up the heart rate.

The heart compensates by beating faster to deliver more oxygen. Over time, this strains the heart and creates an endless loop. Smoking also affects other aspects of the cardiovascular system.

The medical name for an increased heart rate is tachycardia, which typically refers to a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute. A fast heart rate, such as exercise-induced changes, is not always a concern. However, a faster heart rate from smoking occurs due to toxic gases preventing the heart from getting enough oxygen.

Increased cholesterol and increased blood pressure

For example, carbon monoxide increases the amount of cholesterol in the lining of the arteries, causing them to harden over time. In addition, nicotine raises blood pressure and narrows the arteries. The chemicals stay in the system for 6–8 hours, but these effects can have lasting implications.

Other forms of smoking can also increase the heart rate. For example, cannabinoids are one of the active components of cannabis and increase the heart rate. They also widen the blood vessels and make the heart pump harder. These effects increase the risk of a heart attack within hours of smoking.

Vaping and electronic cigarettes still contain nicotine and can increase someone’s heart rate. For example, a 2022 study of 164 young adults who use electronic cigarettes found that their heart rate increased by around 4 beats per minute after smoking. Their systolic and diastolic blood pressure also increased.

Some electronic cigarettes and other new tobacco products contain higher nicotine content than cigarettes, which may have a greater effect on increasing heart rate.

Preventing the heart rate from increasing may not be possible without stopping smoking. Some groups of people are at a higher risk of cardiovascular issues from smoking, such as those with diabetes or people using birth control pills. It is also possible to lower someone’s resting heart rate by increasing aerobic fitness.

However, quitting smoking is necessary to prevent increases in heart rate and other cardiovascular issues from smoking.

The American Lung Association lists eight tips for quitting smoking that include:

  1. Focussing on increasing motivation when feeling low or uninspired.
  2. Building confidence to make and achieve goals of not smoking.
  3. Managing stress effectively.
  4. Accepting that it is never too late to quit.
  5. Learning from past experiences of quitting rather than being discouraged by them.
  6. Finding social support networks, including family and friends.
  7. Trying medications to reduce withdrawals, such as nicotine patches.
  8. Realizing that anyone can quit.

Does quitting smoke cause any effects?

Quitting smoking can be difficult due to nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which can include:

  • urges and cravings to smoke
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sleeping difficulties
  • appetite increases and weight gain
  • anxiety and depression

A person can consider talking with a doctor to help manage some of these symptoms.

Learn more tips for quitting smoking.

Smoking has a serious effect on the heart and cardiovascular system. An increased heart rate may immediately harm some people after smoking, but over time this and other effects strain the heart and increase the risk of disease. For example, it can damage blood vessels and increase blood clotting and harmful blood fats.

However, people who quit smoking will experience immediate and long-term benefits.

Someone’s heart rate and blood pressure drop within 20 minutes of stopping, and carbon dioxide levels fall to typical levels after a few days. Blood circulation and lung function increase 2–8 weeks after quitting, and there is a significant fall in heart attack risk after 1–2 years.

Below are some common questions on smoking and its effect on health.

How long does the heart rate decrease after smoking?

The heart rate should fall 20 minutes after finishing the cigarette.

How much does heart rate increase when smoking?

The increase will depend on several factors, such as someone’s overall health, fitness, and smoking habits. For example, one meta-analysis found that people who smoked 20 cigarettes daily had a heart rate of 7 beats per minute higher than nonsmokers.

What are the other effects of smoking on the body?

Smoking affects nearly every organ. For example, it can cause diabetes, cancer, and stroke. It also increases the risk for various illnesses, including:

What other causes are there of a fast heartbeat?

Many factors affect someone’s heart rate. A fast heartbeat can be the result of exercise that is not harmful. It can also be a sign of tachycardia resulting from:

A person’s heart rate increases after smoking due to the nicotine and carbon monoxide in tobacco.

People with an increased heart rate after smoking typically also experience other effects, such as higher blood pressure. Over time, these and other effects can increase the risk of heart and other diseases.

It is best for people to quit smoking to avoid these increases in heart rate. While quitting smoking can be difficult due to nicotine withdrawal symptoms, many resources are available to help. A person can discuss some options with a doctor.