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What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Smoking

Updated on April 22, 2010

See how your body starts to repair the damage done by smoking when you quit.

What happens when you stop smoking?

Stop smoking and your body will begin to repair the damage almost immediately.

Stopping smoking is probably the single most important change you can make to increase your chances of a longer and better quality of life:
  • After 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse rate will return to normal
  • After 8 hours, the nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your blood reduce by half, and oxygen levels return to normal
  • After 72 hours, breathing becomes easier, bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase
  • After 3-9 months, coughs, wheezing and breathing problems improve as lung function is increased by up to 10 percent 
  • After 5 years, the risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker
  • After 10 years, the risk of lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker and the risk of a heart attack falls to the same as the risk for someone who has never smoked3

Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, is highly addictive, which is why smokers find it so hard to quit. Around 70 percent of smokers report that they would like to stop smoking; yet only about 2 percent succeed in any one year.

Smoking-related diseases

If no one smoked, lung cancer would be extremely rare. However, smoking accounts for about 90 percent of lung cancer cases2. Smoking is responsible for about one-third of all cancers and a quarter of all cases of heart disease. In addition to these potentially fatal diseases, smokers are at increased risk of 50 different disorders, including a reduction in fertility in both men and women.

What about withdrawal symptoms?

These occur when a person stops taking drugs. In the case of cigarettes, withdrawal symptoms include irritability/aggression, depression, restlessness, poor concentration, increased appetite, light-headedness, night-time awakenings, and cravings.

Will I put on weight?

The possibility of weight gain is often of particular concern to those who want to give up smoking. More than 80 percent of smokers will gain weight when they quit smoking - the long-term weight gain is 6 to 8 lb on average. However, this is without dieting or exercise, and this weight increase is only a minor health risk compared to the risk of continued smoking.


  1. Peto R et al. Mortality from Smoking in Developed Countries, 1950-2000. Oxford Medical Publications. 1994
  2. Mortality Statistics by Cause 1998 (England and Wales). DH2 no.25, ONS. 1999
  3. Nicotine and Addiction. Fact Sheet No. 9. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). 2000;


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    • theherbivorehippi profile image


      8 years ago from Holly, MI

      Fabulous Hub! I don't think people realize just how amazing you feel after you quit smoking! Well written!


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