Smoke from tobacco contains about 7000 different chemicals, one of which is nicotine.1 Nicotine is what makes people who smoke addicted to it, but the tar and other compounds in tobacco are associated with the most harm. When you smoke, the toxins from the tobacco enter your bloodstream and spread throughout your body, causing damage not only to your lungs but also to other parts of your body as well. Smoking can impact every organ in the body, including the brain. When a person stops smoking, they break the cycle of addiction and, in essence, rewire their brain so that they no longer crave nicotine. The benefits of quitting smoking start as soon as an hour after your last cigarette. If you want to quit smoking, you need a plan to deal with cravings and other things that make you want to smoke. The sooner you quit smoking the faster they are reducing the risk of developing a condition related to smoking.
Impact of smoking on the lungs
Many people who smoke want to quit because they are aware of the negative effects smoking has on their health. However, many people continue to smoke in spite of this due to their addiction to nicotine, and this typically begins at a young age. When you smoke, you feel the need to keep smoking because nicotine enters your brain quickly. When the amount of nicotine in your brain drops, this makes you want to replace the nicotine by smoking.
Tobacco smoke that is inhaled travels from the mouth through the upper airway and eventually reaches the delicate air sacs in the lungs (alveoli). As smoke enters the respiratory system, soluble gasses are absorbed, and particles such as carbon are deposited in the airways and alveoli. The high dosages of carcinogens and toxins that are supplied to these areas put smokers at risk for both malignant (cancerous) and non-malignant conditions (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - COPD) that can affect any part of the respiratory system, including the mouth.
Smokers are more likely to get flu and pneumonia. If they have a viral infection, smokers may experience more severe symptoms. Smoking can cause lung damage, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Smokers have an average life expectancy of ten years lower than non-smokers. Smoking also accelerates skin ageing, raises the chance of impotence, and impairs fertility.2
Benefits of quitting smoking
Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve both your overall health and the quality of your life. Smoking cessation allows your lungs to mend and allow you to breathe more easily. There are many other advantages as well, and they begin nearly immediately after quitting. It increases the likelihood that you will live longer, feel better, and have more money to spend on things and activities that bring you joy.
Your family and friends will also be in better health if you stop smoking. People who are exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk of developing the same diseases as those who smoke themselves.3 This especially affects babies' and children's lungs as they are still developing, and are significantly more susceptible to the effects of breathing in harmful materials.
Quitting also reduces your risk of developing diabetes, improves the function of your blood vessels, and is beneficial to both your heart and lungs.
Your sense of smell can improve, your breath, clothes, and hair will smell better, and quitting smoking can stop the yellowing of your teeth and fingernails. You are likely to experience less difficulty when breathing particularly if to have difficulty with everyday tasks such as climbing stairs and doing housework. When you quit smoking, you also help to stop the harmful consequences of tobacco on your appearance, including premature wrinkling of your skin, loss of teeth and gum disease.
By quitting smoking, you'll save money. Even if you quit smoking after reaching the age of 60, the function of your lungs will improve. If you're 30 years old and you smoke, quitting now might add ten years to your life expectancy.3 Quitting is the most important step you can take to safeguard your children's health over the long run. Children who are exposed to passive smoking by adults have a fourfold increased risk of beginning to smoke themselves.3 Smoking is terrible for both your health and the environment.
What happens after you stop smoking?
After 1 hour
As quickly as twenty minutes after the last cigarette is smoked, the person's heart rate returns to normal and continues to decrease. Blood pressure and circulation improve.
After 12 hours
Your oxygen levels are beginning to return to normal, and the potentially hazardous concentration of carbon monoxide in your blood will have dropped by half by the time this is complete.
After 1 day
There is a flushing out of all carbon monoxide. Your senses of taste and smell are enhanced as mucus in your lungs is cleared out.
After 1 month
Your circulation will have increased, which will allow blood to flow through to your heart and muscles more effectively.
After 9 months
Your breathing, wheezing, and coughing will get better as your lung function rises by up to 10%.
Compared to a smoker, your chance of having a heart attack will have decreased by 50% and your risk of developing lung cancer will have reduced.
Smoking is a bad habit that can lead to severe health problems. With that said, if you stop smoking, your body will start to heal on its own, and, over time, regain the energy of a person who doesn't smoke. Some results are noticeable almost immediately, such as decreased blood pressure. Other effects, like the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and lung disease, take years to go back to the levels of a non-smoker. Given our growing understanding of nicotine addiction, there is now an array of products to help with withdrawal, including patches, gum, nasal sprays, inhalers, and lozenges. Each of these products contains nicotine, which will assist you in adjusting to a lifestyle in which you no longer smoke by reducing or eliminating the physical cravings for cigarettes as well as other withdrawal symptoms. There will be an improvement in your lungs after an hour of quitting smoking but it takes time to completely stop smoking, so having additional support to help you stop smoking could be beneficial to you as you work toward becoming smoke-free future.
- Soleimani F, Dobaradaran S, De-la-Torre GE, Schmidt TC, Saeedi R. Content of toxic components of cigarette, cigarette smoke vs cigarette butts: A comprehensive systematic review. Science of the Total Environment. 2022 Mar 20;813:152667.
- Rastogi T, Girerd N, Lamiral Z, Bresso E, Bozec E, Boivin JM, Rossignol P, Zannad F, Ferreira JP. Impact of smoking on cardiovascular risk and premature ageing: Findings from the STANISLAS cohort. Atherosclerosis. 2022 Apr 1;346:1-9.
- Jha P. The hazards of smoking and the benefits of cessation: a critical summation of the epidemiological evidence in high-income countries. Elife. 2020 Mar 24;9:e49979.