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18th March, 20214 min read

What happens when you stop smoking?

Medical reviewer: Dr Adiele Hoffman
Author: Libby Williams
Last reviewed: 17/03/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. There are many benefits of stopping smoking, some of which you’ll notice almost immediately.

At a glance, a few of the benefits of stopping smoking include living longer, breathing more easily, having more energy and feeling less stressed.

Here’s a timeline of what happens to your body over the days, weeks, months and years after you’ve stopped smoking.

The stop-smoking timeline

After 20 minutes

Your pulse and heart rate both drop. Your blood pressure also starts to return to normal.

After 8 to 12 hours

Your body starts to remove the harmful carbon monoxide found in cigarettes from your blood, reducing levels by half. These begin to return to normal and your oxygen levels go up.

After 24 hours

The decrease in your blood pressure means your circulation also improves. Having stopped smoking for 1 day, you’ve already reduced your risk of heart disease due to high blood pressure.

After 2 days

All of the carbon monoxide from the cigarettes has been removed from your body. Your lungs are clearing out mucus and the receptors in your nerves begin to heal, bringing back your normal sense of taste and smell.

After 3 days

All the nicotine in your body is now gone and any withdrawal symptoms you have will soon pass. You might notice it’s now easier to breathe. This is because your bronchial tubes have begun to relax. You’re likely to feel your energy levels rise too.

After 2 to 12 weeks

Having stopped smoking for a few weeks, your circulation is much improved and blood is pumping more easily through your heart and muscles. As your lungs start to heal, you’ll be coughing a lot less and any wheezing or shortness of breath will improve. You’ll start to find it much easier to exercise at this point too.

After 3 to 9 months

After a few months, your lungs have healed significantly and the hair-like cells (cilia) inside your lungs have recovered. Your lung function may have increased by up to 10% and coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath should have eased.

After 1 year

After a year of not smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease has gone down by 50%. This will continue to decrease as long as you aren’t smoking.

After 5 years

At this point, your arteries and blood vessels have healed and will begin to widen again. This lowers your risk of blood clots and having a stroke.

After 10 years

Having not smoked for 10 years, you’ve cut your chances of dying from lung cancer in half. You’ve also significantly reduced your likelihood of getting mouth, throat or pancreatic cancer, compared to people who still smoke.

After 15 years

Your chances of developing heart disease or pancreatic cancer are the same as someone who has never smoked.

After 20 years

Your risk of dying from a smoking-related illness such as lung disease or cancer is now the same as someone who has never smoked a cigarette.

Ways to stop smoking

There are a number of steps you can take to help you stop smoking. Your doctor will be able to provide you with advice on how to stop smoking and guide you towards online resources and support groups.

If you want to stop smoking now, here are a few do’s and don'ts to help get you started:

Do:

  • talk to your doctor
  • consider nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
  • find support online
  • get rid of any cigarettes, tobacco, ashtrays, lighters
  • tell people you’re quitting
  • list your reasons for quitting

Don’t:

  • stop trying to quit after slipping up

Key points

  • the sooner you stop smoking, the better
  • you’ll start feeling some benefits of stopping smoking after just 20 minutes
  • after 3 days your withdrawal symptoms should begin to stop
  • between 3 and 9 months after stopping smoking, your lung function may have increased by up to 10%
  • your risk of coronary heart disease halves after 1 year of not smoking
  • 15 years after stopping smoking, your chances of developing heart disease or getting pancreatic cancer are the same as someone who has never smoked
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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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