Quitting smoking is one of the most important actions people can take to improve their health. This is true regardless of their age or how long they have been smoking.
- Improves health status and enhances quality of life.
- Reduces the risk of premature death and can add as much as 10 years to life expectancy.
- Reduces the risk for many adverse health effects, including poor reproductive health outcomes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer.
- Benefits people already diagnosed with coronary heart disease or COPD.
- Benefits the health of pregnant women and their fetuses and babies.
- Reduces the financial burden that smoking places on people who smoke, healthcare systems, and society.
While quitting earlier in life yields greater health benefits, quitting smoking is beneficial to health at any age. Even people who have smoked for many years or have smoked heavily will benefit from quitting.
Quitting smoking is the single best way to protect family members, coworkers, friends, and others from the health risks associated with breathing secondhand smoke.
Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking is one of the most important actions people who smoke can take to increase their risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Reduces the risk of disease and death from cardiovascular disease.
- Reduces markers of inflammation and hypercoagulability.
- Leads to rapid improvement in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels.
- Reduces the development of subclinical atherosclerosis and slows its progression over time.
- Reduces the risk of coronary heart disease with risk falling sharply 1-2 years after cessation and then declining more slowly over the longer term.
- Reduces the risk of disease and death from stroke with risk approaching that of never smokers after cessation.
- Reduces the risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm, with risk reduction increasing with time since cessation.
- May reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation, sudden cardiac death, heart failure, venous thromboembolism, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
People already diagnosed with coronary heart disease also benefit from quitting smoking.
Quitting smoking after a diagnosis of coronary heart disease:
- Reduces the risk of premature death.
- Reduces the risk of death from heart disease,
- Reduces the risk of having a first heart attack or another heart attack.
Respiratory Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking is one of the most important actions people who smoke can take to reduce their risk for respiratory diseases.
- Reduces the risk of developing COPD.
- Among those with COPD, slows the progression of COPD and reduces the loss of lung function over time.
- Reduces respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, sputum production, wheezing).
- Reduces respiratory infections (e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia).
- May improve lung function, reduce symptoms, and improve treatment outcomes among persons with asthma.
Cancer-Related Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking is one of the most important actions people who smoke can take to reduce their risk for cancer.
Quitting smoking reduces the risk of 12 different cancers, including:
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Cancer of the lung
- Colon and rectum
- Mouth and throat (oral cavity and pharynx)
- Voice box (larynx)
For cancer survivors, quitting smoking may improve prognosis and reduce risk of premature death.
Reproductive Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking is one of the most important actions women who smoke can take for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. The best time for women to quit smoking is before they try to get pregnant. But quitting at any time during pregnancy can benefit mother and baby’s health.
- Before pregnancy or early in pregnancy reduces the risk for a small-for-gestational-age baby.
- During pregnancy reduces the risk of delivering a low birth weight baby.
- Early in pregnancy eliminates the adverse effects of smoking on fetal growth.
- Before pregnancy or early in pregnancy may reduce the risk of preterm delivery.
Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time
Over time, people who quit smoking see many benefits to their health. After you smoke your last cigarette, your body begins a series of positive changes that continue for years.
|Time after quitting||Health benefits|
|Minutes||Heart rate drops|
|24 hours||Nicotine level in the blood drops to zero|
|Several days||Carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to level of someone who does not smoke|
|1 to 12 months||Coughing and shortness of breath decrease|
|1 to 2 years||Risk of heart attack drops sharply|
|3 to 6 years||Added risk of coronary heart disease drops by half|
|5 to 10 years||Added risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, and voice box drops by half Risk of stroke decreases|
|10 years||Added risk of lung cancer drops by half after 10-15 years Risk of cancers of the bladder, esophagus, and kidney decreases|
|15 years||Risk of coronary heart disease drops to close to that of someone who does not smoke|
|20 years||Risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, and voice box drops to close to that of someone who does not smoke Risk of pancreatic cancer drops to close to that of someone who does not smoke Added risk of cervical cancer drops by about half|
Side effects of quitting smoking
Headaches and nausea: Smoking affects every system in your body. Headaches, nausea, and other physical symptoms are common as the nicotine leaves your body.
Tingling in hands and feet: As your circulation begins to improve, you may feel tingling in your hands and feet.
Coughing and sore throat: You may have a cough and a sore throat as your lungs begin to clear out the mucus and other debris smoking creates.
Increased appetite and associated weight gain: The boost in energy you experience when you quit smoking increases your appetite. Some people also eat more because they substitute cigarettes with food to cope with the “hand to mouth” habit of smoking. Both lead to weight gain.
Intense cravings for nicotine: Your body is dependent on nicotine while you’re a smoker. It will crave it when it goes without. Cravings peak between the two- and four-week mark.
Irritability, frustration, and anger: You’re making a big change — your mind and body need to adjust giving up something you’ve grown dependent on. This often causes irritability and anger.
Constipation: Nicotine affects the small bowel and colon. When you take the nicotine away, you may experience constipation as your body adjusts to going without it.
Anxiety, depression, and insomnia: Smokers have an increased risk of depression and anxiety, though the reason for this is unclear. You may smoke to feel better. When you quit smoking, you may feel more anxious and depressed. Insomnia is also also common.
Difficulty concentrating: All of the side effects of quitting smoking can make it difficult to concentrate at first.
Dry mouth: Smoking is a common cause of dry mouth. The stress and anxiety associated with withdrawal can make it worse as you adjust.