How Long For Lungs to Clear After Quitting Smoking

The health advantages of quitting smoking are immediately noticeable as symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and other indications of compromised lung capacity start to subside after the first week as the levels of circulating carbon monoxide decrease. The circulation and lung function dramatically improve within one to three months of quitting smoking, and the lung regeneration process can take up to a year to provide noticeable improvements. After 12 months of quitting, you are regarded as a non-smoker.

Timeline and effects

How Does Smoking Affect the Lungs?

According to estimates from the Annual Population Survey in the UK in 2019, 14.1% of adults aged 18 and over smoked cigarettes, which translates to about 6.9 million individuals in the region.1 The NHS estimates that 78,000 people die each year as a result of smoking cigarettes, and thousands more battle crippling diseases linked to smoking. Smoking can harm your airways and the microscopic air vesicles in your lungs, which can lead to lung damage. It has been determined to be the primary cause of preventable deaths and premature mortality in the world, which is a reflection of the hazardous smoke from cigarettes.2 One out of every five deaths in the United States has been attributed to smoking.

Active Smokers

The cardiovascular and respiratory systems, notably the lungs, are the sites where smoking has the most significant impact. Smoking is a major contributor to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes bronchitis, emphysema, and acute respiratory infections like pneumonia. Smoking also aggravates pre-existing respiratory disorders like asthma and lung infections. About seven out of every ten occurrences of lung cancer are caused by it.

Passive Smokers

Even non-smokers are susceptible to lung harm from second-hand smoke or passive smoking from nearby smokers. Non-smokers who breathe in second-hand smoke suffer from the same lung ailments and lung damage as smokers, because they breathe in both the smoke that the smoker exhales and the smoke from the burning cigarette tip. It has been linked to an increased incidence of chronic bronchitis and asthma in adults, along with heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.3, 4

Children of all ages particularly infants and babies have reported it to be associated with coughing, phlegm, wheezing, and shortness of breath, and if they ever acquire asthma, the symptoms will get worse over time. Due to the inhalation of hazardous substances, it also lowers immunological function, which has been linked to a higher risk of chest infections, ear infections, meningitis, and chronic coughing.5

What Happens To the Lungs When You Quit Smoking?

Quitting smoking is not an easy task, yet an immensely rewarding one due to the various health benefits associated with it. 


One of the most difficult yet rewarding things a chronic smoker can do to extend their life and enhance their quality of life is to stop smoking. It helps to substantially improve their health and reduce the risks associated with smoking.

As per Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), smoking cessation is associated with lowering the risk of more than 12 different types of cancer. Particularly, within 10 to 15 years after quitting smoking, the incidence of lung cancer is reduced by half. Quitting smoking considerably lowers the risk of cardiovascular and lung disorders, especially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as smoking is linked to several chronic diseases, including those of the heart and lungs.

Additionally, it speeds up the recovery from wounds, enhances senses including taste and smell, and strengthens physical fitness. In addition to the health advantages, those who stop smoking save a significant amount of money that would have been used to buy cigarettes.

The dangers of smoking extend not just to the person who smokes, but also to others around him or her. In the same way, everyone in your immediate vicinity benefits when you give up smoking.


According to a chronological sequence, the effects of quitting smoking start to show up right away.6,7

Your heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse rate all start to slow down twenty minutes after your last cigarette. Within six hours, there is a noticeable improvement in blood circulation

The blood's carbon dioxide levels start to fall and its oxygen levels start to climb in just eight hours. Within 24 to 48 hours, carbon monoxide is completely eliminated from the blood at levels comparable to non-smokers. When there is no other source of nicotine, the levels start to decline, which may cause withdrawal symptoms, but by this time, the senses of taste and smell have substantially improved. At this stage, nicotine replacement therapy can prove to be instrumental in coping with the withdrawal effects and remaining persistent on your decision to quit.

Your dependence and addiction will cease within one to twelve weeks, and your episodes of coughing, dyspnoea, and allergies will tend to drastically decrease. Additionally, it would be easier to engage in physical activity. The lung regeneration process improves lung function noticeably within six to nine months after the lungs are cleared out, which also significantly lowers the risk of infections. The risk for heart disease, stroke, and many types of cancer, including oral, lung, and other malignancies, is reduced by half as you approach the year mark and formally qualify as a non-smoker.

How Can I Accelerate Lung Healing After Smoking?

All of the human body's organs, including the lungs, have the ability to cleanse and heal themselves, which helps to undo the damage from both short-term trauma and years of chain smoking. However, lung recovery after smoking is a gradual process that mostly depends on the extent of the damage, much like all other natural processes. Despite the fact that there is no quick fix, the following actions can hasten recovery, halt further harm, and optimize lung health in general.

Natural way

By following these instructions you can naturally accelerate lung healing:

Avoid Passive Smoking

Avoid spending time with your smoking buddies, especially when they are actively smoking, in order to get the most benefits from quitting. It will prevent secondhand smoke from hindering your recovery and lung repair.

Keep an Eye on the Air Quality

According to the American Lung Society, it is crucial to monitor your local air quality reports and stay indoors if the indicators are poor since poor air quality damages your lungs in the same way that smoking cigarettes does. In this situation, it is also advised to use an indoor air purifier to ensure ideal air quality and to prevent lung damage.

Watch your Diet

Not only does a nutritious diet help to enhance general health and well-being, but it also plays a significant part in healing and rehabilitation. Fast food, sugary, frozen, and processed meals should be avoided because they have poor nutritional value. In the same vein, it's crucial to avoid foods that cause mucus to form, like those that include dairy products. Instead, it's crucial to eat foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory characteristics, like leafy green vegetables, fresh fruits, especially citrus fruits high in vitamin C, and honey.8

Hydrate Well

Drinking enough water helps to eliminate lung mucus, which is a great approach to clean the airways. An adequate amount of water should be consumed in addition to warm beverages. Caffeine should be kept to a minimum, while green tea which has good anti-inflammatory qualities is preferred to coffee.

Home remedies

Home remedies can also prove beneficial in accelerating lung recovery and the following ones should be adopted in practice:


After quitting smoking, intentional coughing is a suggested natural therapy for cleaning lung mucus and opening airways.

Steam Inhalation 

One of the best ways to thin out lung mucus and promote lung clearance is to breathe in steam, whether it comes from a hot shower or a bowl of boiling water. The clearing caused by steaming offers symptomatic relief even if it has little to do with lung rehabilitation.

Breathing Exercises

Years of smoking can reduce lung capacity and function, thus lung rehabilitation experts advise practising diaphragmatic breathing techniques like pursed lip breathing and belly breathing to build up the supporting muscles and speed up recovery.


Even if you decide to stop smoking after years of being a chronic smoker, it is quite advantageous because the positive effects start to appear a few hours after you give up smoking. Even while the harm cannot be undone right off the bat, the suggested actions can hasten healing and rehabilitation to increase life quality and expectancy along with reducing the incidence of debilitating chronic diseases.


  1. Office for National Statistics. Adult smoking habits in the UK - Office for National Statistics [Internet]. Available from:
  2. Samet JM. Tobacco Smoking. Thoracic Surgery Clinics. 2013 May;23(2):103–12.
  3. Flexeder C, Zock J-P, Jarvis D, Verlato G, Olivieri M, Benke G, et al. Second-hand smoke exposure in adulthood and lower respiratory health during 20 year follow up in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. Respiratory Research. 2019 Feb 14;20(1). 
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pulmonary Diseases [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); 2010. Available from:
  5. CDCTobaccoFree. 2014 SGR: The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021 [cited 2022 Jun 14]. Available from:
  6. American Cancer Society. Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time [Internet]. American Cancer Society; 2018. Available from:
  7. Health benefits timeline [Internet]. South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Available from:
  8. Wellness H &. Can you detox your lungs? [Internet]. Available from:
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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Sidra Irfan

Bachelors of Dental Surgery, Dentistry, Lahore Medical & Dental College, Pakistan

Sidra is a general dentist who enjoys writing in general but particularly enjoys compiling health tech innovation and patient awareness material. She is an equal healthcare access advocate who is currently engaged in research and public health. She also works as a medical, health, and wellness SEO content writer.

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