What happens when you stop smoking?

Effective December 20, 2019, the new legal age limit for the purchase of cigarettes, cigars or any other tobacco products in the United States is 21 years old.

Although smoking brings serious health risks such as coronary heart disease, lung cancer and stroke, quitting smoking can help eliminate some of the damage and improve your health. Some improvements will take time, but you don’t need to wait a long time to start experiencing the benefits of quitting smoking. In fact, these changes will begin to occur within minutes, hours, and days after quitting smoking. Read on to find out what happens to your body after you quit smoking.

What happens after you quit smoking

If you are a smoker, it seems that the harm has been done and it is not worth quitting-but it is not. Soon after you quit smoking, your body will begin to heal on its own. The sooner you quit smoking, the greater the benefits to your health.

Quitting smoking can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, and reduce the chance of lung cancer. Some of these changes may occur within a few years, while others will occur within 24 hours of your last cigarette.

Quitting smoking can also bring lifestyle benefits such as:

  • Improve taste and smell
  • No longer smell of cigarette smoke on hair, breath and clothes
  • More money in the budget
  • Reduce yellowing of teeth and nails
  • Less breathing difficulties during light activity


24 hours after quitting smoking

If you are a heavy smoker, your body will immediately realize that the chain smoking cycle is broken. This is because tobacco smoke causes reactive constriction of blood vessels in the body.

When the smoke is removed, the contraction will begin to stop, resulting in a decrease in blood pressure, a decrease in pulse rate, and a return to normal body temperature.

After eight hours of living a smoke-free life, your blood carbon monoxide level will also drop, and your blood oxygen level will begin to normalize (meaning more oxygen reaches your cells and tissues).

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Only one day after quitting smoking, your risk of heart attack begins to decrease.

72 hours after quitting smoking

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are usually most severe within the first 72 hours of quitting smoking, and then gradually subside.

Within 48 hours, your taste and smell receptors will begin to heal, transforming from an abnormally flat state to a more normal circular structure. Damaged nerve cells also repair themselves, because the insulating membrane called myelin will gradually repair itself around the exposed nerve endings.

Two weeks after quitting smoking

After the first 72 hours, your peak withdrawal symptoms will begin to decrease, although the craving for cigarettes will still exist. In the next few days and weeks, you should start to breathe more easily, your blood circulation will improve, and your cravings should be lessened. In fact, two weeks after you quit smoking, you can get many health benefits.

Three months after quitting smoking

During the first few months, you will experience many more significant improvements in lung function. By the sixth week, some people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have almost doubled their lung function measurements (ie, forced expiratory volume per second (FEV1)).

Although these improvements may not advance so significantly, they tend to continue gradually in patients with mild to moderate COPD and remain relatively stable in patients with severe COPD.

By the end of the sixth week, withdrawal symptoms (including anger, anxiety, depression, inattention, insomnia, and irritability) will basically disappear.

Nine months after quitting smoking

Many ex-smokers are suddenly disappointed after more than three months because their physical improvement gradually diminishes and the craving for cigarettes persists (albeit at a slower rate).

This does not mean that your health will not continue to improve. In fact, tiny, finger-like protrusions in the respiratory tract, called cilia, will re-grow within the first six to nine months, making it easier to remove debris and mucus from the lungs.

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Although this may actually exacerbate coughing, it is more an indication that your lungs are getting stronger and trying to heal on their own. Therefore, you should start to feel more energetic and able to perform daily activities while reducing shortness of breath and fatigue.

One year after quitting smoking

By the end of the first year, your risk of heart disease and stroke has dropped by about half, and the lung function of COPD patients may continue to improve.

As mentioned above, you may see improvement in COPD depending on the severity of your condition. Patients with mild to moderate COPD may see more positive changes, while patients with severe COPD may experience early gains that stabilize or even slightly reverse. If this happens, it does not mean that you are going backwards, but that you need continuous COPD treatment to further slow the progression of the disease.

Weight gain

Weight gain is another common problem among those who quit smoking. A meta-analysis in 2012 showed that after 12 months of non-smokers, an average of about 8.8 to 11 pounds was gained, and most of the weight gain occurred in the first three months of non-smokers. There are some differences between individuals, but if you are concerned about weight gain, try to take measures to control your diet and increase exercise.

Lungs after smoking

Although you may not be able to eliminate the structural damage that smoking causes to your lungs, once you remove cigarettes from the equation, your lung function will improve significantly.

This is usually the case for COPD patients who have quit smoking. After several years of not smoking, their lungs may decline at a rate similar to that of non-smokers-which means that when their age is taken into account, their lungs decline at a rate no different from those who have never smoked before.

Can I clean my lungs after I quit smoking?

Although there are no products or quick solutions that can clean or “detox” your lungs after smoking, quitting smoking can still improve your overall lung health. Your lungs will clean themselves and will begin to heal on their own after you quit smoking (although their degree of healing depends on your overall health, how long you smoked, and your existing lung damage).

If you are worried about your lungs, you can take some steps to protect them. These include:

  • Quit smoking: Quitting smoking is the best way to avoid lung damage associated with smoking.
  • Make sure you get enough exercise: Exercise helps strengthen your lungs and heart, allowing your body to move oxygen more efficiently.
  • Avoid pollution: Minimize exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollutants that may harm the lungs, such as second-hand smoke, radon gas, and wildfire smoke.
  • Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated will help your entire body, including your lungs.

Health outlook

Over time, the health benefits of quitting smoking seem to continue:

  • After 5 to 10 years, your stroke risk will be reduced, and your chance of developing certain cancers will be halved.
  • After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer is about half that of current smokers.
  • After 15 years, your chance of developing coronary heart disease is similar to that of a non-smoker.

Your long-term health outlook depends on many factors, such as your overall health, how long you smoked, age at quitting smoking, and other health-related behaviors. Quitting smoking at a younger age can further reduce the risk of health problems.

Very good sentence

Quitting smoking can be difficult, but despite any potential challenges and setbacks you may encounter, the benefits of quitting are obvious. In the long run, your risk of stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease will drop to levels comparable to those of someone who has never smoked before, and the sooner you quit smoking, the greater the benefits seem to be.