QUITTING SMOKING ∙ 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 almost halved.
  • Within 5-15 years of quitting smoking, your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker’s.
  • Within 10 years of quitting smoking, your risk of lung cancer is almost halved.
  • Within 15 years of quitting smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.

Your mental health will improve

One of the most common reasons for smoking cigarettes is stress, and a frequent 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 says that those who don’t smoke are three times more appealing to potential partners than smokers, and a large part of this could be because of the ageing 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 reduced the biological age of their skin by an average of 13 years.

You’ll add years to your life

If there’s one reason to quit smoking, it’s to help 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 help add years to your life, but if you quit while you are still young, the results can be impressive. 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, quitting the habit can greatly improve your health. Smoking cessation is not easy, but the health benefits of quitting both short-term and long-term are the reward.