Can Your Lungs Recover From Smoking? 

  • 1st Revision: Maura Mary Joseph

Lungs and smoking

The lungs and the respiratory system of the body are responsible for breathing, a process that provides the oxygen required by bodily functions. Smoking cigarettes or smoking any substance of any kind damages the airways and the small air sacs within it called alveoli1 Over a long period of time spent smoking, chronic and possible irreparable damage is caused to the lungs.
According to the UPMC,2 smoking increases the amount of mucus and infections in the lungs, as well as lessened airflow from inflammations, and fewer cilia organelles found on the surface of cells lining the bronchus, which move the mucus and debris through the airways.3 If you’ve smoked anything chronically (especially cigarettes), here’s what you might want to know.

Bad effects of smoking to our lungs

The lung damage that smoking causes to the alveoli is said to repair itself.4 but there are a number of papers that claim either the inability or that the extent of self-repair depends on the person.4,5 The damage caused by smoking cigarettes comes from both tar and thousands of cancer-causing chemicals that one inhales with every puff. These thousands of chemicals move throughout the bloodstream and cause other diseases.6,7


Globally, the leading cause of a cancer-related death in both men and women is lung cancer, though breast cancer peaks slightly higher in women from first-world countries.12 Smoking puts a person at risk of multiple types of cancer; heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In addition to the increased risk of immune problems, eye diseases, and tuberculosis.13

Risk factors include secondhand smoke, lifestyle, and environmental contaminants. Secondhand smoke from the environment around you can cause the same effects as first hand smoking, inhaling the chemicals around you that cause subsequent mutations in your cells (cancer cells) still lead to the same diseases. Your lifestyle can also be a risk factor for these diseases, for instance, people that work around the Radon element or in facilities that require X-Rays are prone to cellular mutations that lead to cancer.

Can your lungs recover from smoking

What happens to your lungs after quitting smoke? 

It might seem grim so far but there are several papers that promote the idea that smoking cessation starts the healing process almost immediately. Here’s a compilation of immediate health benefits one might experience from smoking cessation/quitting smoking:

  • In the first 20 minutes from stopping your pulse would have lowered and normalized8,9
  • Within 8-12 hours, Carbon Monoxide in the body’s circulation is lessened up to half,9,10 and in a few days, the levels would normalize and you are quite literally a less toxic person8,11
  • In 2 to 12 weeks (3 months) your blood circulation and lung function would have significantly increased8,10,11
  • Within a period of 1-12 months the symptoms of chronic bronchitis diminish, the cilia start repairing themselves and revert back to normal functions, your lungs have a lesser chance of infection and a function rate that’s 10% higher8,9,10,11
  • After a year, you would have lowered your chance of getting a cardiovascular disease by half, and if you have COPD, your lungs function at a mildly higher rate8,9,10,11
  • In the next 5-15 years your risk of different cancers would either be halved or equal to that of a healthy non-smoker8,9,10,11

Treatment tips for fast recovery


Current medications for quitting smoking are called nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) –  which involve things like patches, sublinguals, nasal or mouth sprays, inhalators, and sublinguals that aid in the person’s cessation,14 and Bupropion, originally an antidepressant that was found to dually inhibit norepinephrine and the reuptake of dopamine.14,15,16

As to the actual healing process of the lungs, there are no medications. In fact, your lungs are self-healing and you would need nothing but time, the ‘stop smoking medications’, and self-control.

Home remedies

Some of the things you can do at home to help in the process of healing include the following: coughing, exercising, avoiding the inhalation of smoke/pollutants, drinking warm fluids, and consuming anti-inflammatory foods17,18

Coughing helps the mucus in your respiratory system move all the dirt it collects out of the body. Exercise engages the airways, keeping them working improves your lung function.17 When it comes to pollutants, it should be rather straightforward, avoiding what caused the problems should help you recover.17 Drinking warm fluids can aid in thinning mucus which makes it easier to get rid of it.17 Finally, eating anti-inflammatory foods does exactly what you expect! It reduces inflammation in the body, which helps it centralize the healing process.17,18,19

Lifestyle Changes

The biggest change a smoker can make comes from within. Self-education is encouraged, and adopting a healthier lifestyle overall can help smoking cessation. Research shows that yoga and meditation-based strategies assist in quitting smoking.20 Another study in Sweden showed that people who successfully quit smoking adopted more physical activity or exercise in their lives, while the state institutions assisted in their need to maintain the lifestyle.21


Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things smokers can do, but it’s an achievement like no other, you are saving your own life. The chemicals found in the smoke that one inhales has the potential to mutate cells, and destroy the lungs and its airways. The only way to avoid these chemicals is by quitting smoking. Overtime, smoking cessation will give you back valuable years of your life. So if you want to quit, seek advice from a professional, seek medicine, and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Who knows, you might save a lot of money as well!


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, October 29). Health effects of cigarette smoking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from,alveoli)%20found%20in%20your%20lungs.&text=Lung%20diseases%20caused%20by%20smoking,includes%20emphysema%20and%20chronic%20bronchitis.&text=Cigarette%20smoking%20causes%20most%20cases%20of%20lung%20cancer.
  2. How smoking affects your lungs. UPMC HealthBeat. (2016, April 21). Retrieved November 22, 2022, from
    Medically Reviewed by UPMC.
  3. Vorvick, L. J. (Ed.). (2020, August 13). Respiratory cilia: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia image. MedlinePlus. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from,the%20bronchus%20and%20trap%20microorganisms.
    Reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
  4. Rees, M. (2022, March 30). Damaged alveoli: Causes and symptoms. Medical News Today. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from
    Medically Reviewed by Fred Aleskerov, MD.
  5. Murti, A. (2020, September 23). How much do lungs really heal after someone quits smoking? The Swaddle. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from,after%20they've%20been%20destroyed.
  6. What's in a cigarette? Cancer Research UK. (2021, June 30). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from
  7. NCI Dictionary of Cancer terms. National Cancer Institute. (2022). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from
  8. Health benefits of quitting smoking over time. American Cancer Society. (2022). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from
  9. When you quit smoking: The benefits after 20 minutes from the last cigarette. Humanitasalute. (2019, May 28). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from
  10. NHS. (2022). Quit Smoking. NHS choices. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from
  11. Benefits of stopping smoking. smoking | NHS inform. (2022). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from'll%20experience,of%20taste%20and%20smell%20improving
  12. Barta, J. A., Powell, C. A., & Wisnivesky, J. P. (2019). Global Epidemiology of Lung Cancer. Annals of global health, 85(1), 8.
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 28). Health effects. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from,immune%20system%2C%20including%20rheumatoid%20arthritis.
  14. NHS. (2022). Stop smoking treatments. NHS choices. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from
  15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, January 7). Quit smoking medicines are much safer than smoking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from
  16. Stahl, S. M., Pradko, J. F., Haight, B. R., Modell, J. G., Rockett, C. B., & Learned-Coughlin, S. (2004). A Review of the Neuropharmacology of Bupropion, a Dual Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 6(4), 159–166.
  17. Sweeney, M. (2022, July 11). Tips for how to clean your lungs after quitting smoking. Healthline. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from
    Medically reviewed by Adithya Cattamanchi, M.D.
  18. Pan, M. H., Lai, C. S., & Ho, C. T. (2010). Anti-inflammatory activity of natural dietary flavonoids. Food & function, 1(1), 15–31.
  19. Reducing inflammation to help relieve pain and injury. ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute. (2018, March 13). Retrieved November 26, 2022, from,to%20their%20pre%2Dinjury%20status.
  20. Carim-Todd, L., Mitchell, S. H., & Oken, B. S. (2013). Mind-body practices: an alternative, drug-free treatment for smoking cessation? A systematic review of the literature. Drug and alcohol dependence, 132(3), 399–410.
  21. Sohlberg, T., & Bergmark, K. H. (2020). Lifestyle and Long-Term Smoking Cessation. Tobacco use insights, 13, 1179173X20963062.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ivan Bernardo

Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences (Hons.) - BSc, University of Chester, England

I am a Published Contributing Writer for HealthCare.PH with a strong domain knowledge in the Life Sciences. I received an award from the University of Chester's Medical School for my dissertation related to Estrogen, with a foundation in endocrinology.

I'm experienced in corporate diversity work, international translation and transcription, the service industry, and medical or health communications/writing.

I am currently taking an online Astronomy course under distinguished Professor Chris Impey at the University of Stanford in a venture to be an all-around scientific mind.

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