Quitting Smoking: A Timeline of Effects

It is no secret that smoking is bad for you, but often this information alone is not enough to persuade smokers to quit.

It is little more than an abstract idea that people often don’t apply to their own lives. Quitting smoking is a challenge; make no mistake, but the benefits are worth it. If you are thinking of quitting, then you need to know the facts, so read on to learn more about the effects that quitting smoking can have on your body.

A Timeline of Benefits

There are a number of benefits to quitting. Cigarettes increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. Within twenty minutes of having your last cigarette, your heart rate begins to drop back to normal.

Cigarettes produce carbon monoxide, the same fume that car exhausts produce; it is incredibly dangerous. Although, it is one of the contributors to your rising heart rate, it also causes shortness of breath which is why most smokers struggle to breathe, especially when exerting themselves. Luckily, within twelve hours of having your last cigarette, the levels of carbon monoxide in your blood decreases.

Smoking can affect your sense of taste and smell because it damages your nose and mouth nerve endings. However, after just a couple of days, the nerve endings start to repair themselves, which allows your sense of taste and smell to return.

More than simply affecting the sense of taste and smell, smoking has a number of other effects on your oral health. For example, it makes your teeth more yellow, causes bad breath and opens you up to developing oral infections. However, within a week of quitting, the levels of bacteria in your mouth begin to reduce, making your teeth and mouth feel cleaner.

After a couple of weeks, your blood circulation begins to improve. Along with your circulation, the increased oxygen in your body gives you more energy. This makes physical activity easier and helps to reduce your risk of a heart attack. The increase in oxygen in your blood also helps to reduce inflammation and give your immune system a boost, making you more resilient to illness. Cigarettes also affect your skin; they disrupt collagen and melanin production as well as increasing your risk of skin conditions. After quitting, your skin begins to return to normal, making you look more vibrant and healthier.

Smoking is addictive, which is why it is so hard to quit; however, after a month, the receptors in your brain that crave nicotine return to normal, which helps to break the cycle. Over the next few months, your energy levels will continue to increase, and bouts of coughing and wheezing will become more infrequent.

The hard part is over; a year is the next landmark to reach. After being cigarette-free for an entire year, your risk of contracting heart disease is reduced by a half. After five years, your risk of having a stroke decreases. Of course, it will depend on your previous habit, how much you smoked and how long it can take from five to fifteen years, but eventually, your risk of having a stroke will be the same as someone who has never smoked in their life.

When you have been smoke-free for ten years, your risk of dying from lung cancer falls to the same level as those who have never smoked and your risk of developing other cancers is also significantly reduced. Finally, fifteen years after your last cigarette, your blood will be thinner, reducing your risk of blood clots, your cholesterol will be lower, as will your blood pressure. In addition, your risk of heart disease is now the same as those who have never smoked.


Quitting smoking is not a walk in the park; with the withdrawal comes side effects. These side effects can range in severity, and unfortunately, they can be extreme for some people. Smoking has an effect on almost every bodily system, which is what makes quitting so difficult. As the nicotine begins to leave your body, you may experience some nausea and headaches. The craving for nicotine tends to subside after a month, as mentioned above, but they can be intense in the interim.

As your body begins to recover, the return of normalcy to your bodily functions can also produce side effects. For example, as your circulation improves, you might feel some tingling in your hands and feet. In addition, for your lung function to improve, it first needs to clear out all of the mucus and other debris that smoking creates. This can lead to coughing fits or a sore throat initially while you are getting rid of it all.

Cigarettes are an appetite suppressant. When you quit, you might find that your appetite naturally increases, which can lead to weight gain. Some people also find that they eat more because it helps them cope with the hand-to-mouth habit that smoking creates.

Quitting smoking can have an effect on your mental health too. Remember, you are making a big change, and it will be an adjustment. You will not necessarily be in control of your emotions as your body is weaned off of nicotine. You will likely experience mood swings, and you will probably be more irritable and quicker to anger.

Smokers are often more likely to experience depression and anxiety, although, the causality remains unclear. No one is sure which came first; however, this means that these feelings are something to look out for when quitting smoking. They both constitute a serious condition, and you may need to seek help and support to help you through it.

The Bottom Line

No one said that quitting smoking would be easy; overcoming an addiction is often one of the hardest things that you will have to do. You should expect to experience obstacles or maybe even a relapse or two when attempting to quit. In the end, it comes down to you, how much do you want to stop? Look at the costs versus the rewards; quitting smoking can change your life for the better.

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Staff Reporter

Staff Reporter

EU Today's Staff Reporters cover a wide variety of topics, involving the EU, its institutions, and its 27 member states.

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