SMOKING CESSATION ∙ 3 minutes read

What happens to your body when you quit smoking?

By Emily Cameron

Although quitting smoking may seem daunting, the benefits of breaking the habit are life-changing. You won’t have to wait long to see changes, either: some positive effects come within just an hour after your last cigarette. 

Even more benefits come in the following weeks, months, and years, with studies showing that people who quit smoking have a higher quality of life in the long-term than those who continue to smoke. So what exactly happens to your body when you break the habit? 

A timeline after your last cigarette

  • Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • Within 12 hours of quitting smoking, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • Within 2-12 weeks of quitting smoking, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • Within 1-9 months of quitting smoking, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • Within 1 year of quitting smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease is about halved.
  • Within 5-15 years of quitting smoking, your stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
  • Within 10 years of quitting smoking, your risk of lung cancer is about halved.
  • Within 15 years of quitting smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker.

Your mental health will improve

One of the most reported reasons for smoking cigarettes is stress, and a common misconception is that smoking helps alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. However, studies show that quitting smoking can significantly improve your mental health and stress levels, with the benefits of smoking cessation including reduced levels of depression and stress, and an increased positive outlook on life. 

Your skin appearance will improve

The NHS say that those who don’t smoke are three times more appealing than smokers, and a large part of this could be because of the aging effects that smoking has on the skin. A study conducted on a group of women who quit smoking over a 9-month period showed that quitting vastly improved their skin quality, with an average reduction of about 13 years in the biological age of the patients’ skin. Other research on a group of men in South Korea also demonstrated the desirable effects on skin colour as a result of smoking cessation. 

You’ll add years to your life

If there’s one reason to quit smoking, it’s to ensure you live a long, healthy life. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable illness and avoidable death in the UK, with those who smoke an average number of cigarettes losing 6.8 years of life expectancy. Quitting smoking will add years to your life no matter what age you are, but if you quit while you are still young, the results can be drastic. The World Health Organisation states that if you quit at 30, you will add ten years to your life, while if you quit at 60, you will still add an impressive 3 years to your life. 

The bottom line

If you’re a smoker, the best thing you could do for your health is to quit. Smoking cessation is not easy, but the innumerable health benefits you will feel both short-term and long-term are the reward.