Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/24/2020
It’s no secret that smoking is bad for you. In fact, according to the CDC, smoking harms almost every organ of your body, lowers your overall health and vastly increases your risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Luckily, many of the negative health effects of smoking are reversible, either in part or in full, if you’re able to give up the habit.
When you quit, your body begins to repair the damage caused by smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products straight away. In fact, you’ll notice the first improvements in your health in as little as 20 minutes after your last cigarette.
Below, we’ve listed and explained the benefits of quitting smoking, with detailed information on how long it takes for your body to reverse each type of smoking-related damage and how each benefit can improve your general health.
We’ve also looked at non-health benefits, such as the effects quitting can have on your financial wellbeing, social life and more.
As you’re surely aware, smoking isn’t healthy. Smoking vastly increases your risk of developing serious diseases such as lung disease, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It also significantly increases your risk of having a stroke.
Beyond increasing your risk of developing serious diseases, smoking has countless small but noticeable negative effects on your overall health, harming everything from your bones to your eyes, teeth, gums and immune system.
It can even affect your fertility, meaning you might find it harder to become pregnant if you’re a regular smoker.
Luckily, these negative health effects don’t need to affect you for your entire life. When you quit smoking, your body begins to fight back and reverse the damage caused by tobacco almost as soon as you smoke your last cigarette. Over time, you’ll notice the following benefits:
The nicotine in cigarettes isn’t just addictive — it’s also a powerful stimulant. When you smoke a cigarette, the nicotine in the tobacco smoke causes your arteries to narrow, your blood pressure to rise and your heart rate to increase — all factors that put extra pressure on your heart.
When you quit, your heart rate and blood pressure start to drop within 20 minutes, reducing the level of strain on your cardiovascular system.
Carbon monoxide — an odorless, colorless gas that’s harmful and potentially deadly — is one of numerous chemicals found in tobacco smoke. When you smoke, you transfer carbon monoxide from your lungs into your bloodstream, reducing your blood’s oxygen content.
High carbon monoxide levels are common in smokers and have numerous negative effects on your health. Carbon monoxide can increase the amount of cholesterol that builds up in arteries, increasing your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.
When you quit, the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood drops to a normal, healthier level in just 12 hours, putting you on a path towards better cardiovascular health and wellbeing.
Smoking’s effects on your cardiovascular system make it harder for blood to flow around your body. It also affects your lungs, preventing them from functioning properly and raising your risk of diseases such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Although it can take years for the full effects of smoking on your lungs to disappear, you’ll start to notice an improvement in your circulation and lung function two weeks to three months after you quit.
With better circulation and lung function, you’ll find it easier to breathe, exercise and enjoy an active lifestyle.
If you smoke, it’s common to develop a cough and face difficulty breathing, particularly during exercise or physical exertion. You might find yourself out of breath often and notice that tasks that require heavy breathing are more difficult than they used to be.
Smoking’s negative effects on your breathing are the result of damage to the cilia — the small, brush-like hairs that line your airways. The cilia play an important role in keeping your airways clean and healthy by removing dirt, mucus and other particles that can affect breathing.
When you smoke, the harmful chemicals in the tobacco smoke paralyze or kill cilia, reducing your lung function. Not only can this make it difficult for you to breathe — it can also increase your risk of being affected by colds and other respiratory infections.
After you quit smoking, your cilia will start to recover. You’ll typically notice less coughing and shortness of breath within one to nine months, as well as improvements in lung function and a lower risk of developing certain infections.
Smoking significantly increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease. This is because the chemicals in cigarette smoke can thicken your blood, increasing your risk of developing clots and blockages that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to develop and 70 percent more likely to die from coronary heart disease than non-smokers.
Although your risk of developing coronary heart disease doesn’t go down the moment you stop smoking, staying smoke-free over the long term can improve your heart health and significantly lower your risk.
After a year, your excess risk of coronary heart disease is half as high as that of a person who still smokes. After 15 years, your risk of developing coronary heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.
Within two to five years of quitting, your risk of having a stroke will also decrease to the same as that of a non-smoker.
Smoking vastly increases your risk of developing several different types of cancer. Smoking is accountable for 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States, as well as approximately 80 percent of all lung cancer deaths.
If you smoke, you’re between 15 and 30 times more likely to get or die from lung cancer than a non-smoker. The more cigarettes you smoke each day and the longer you smoke, the higher your risk becomes.
You also have an elevated risk of developing cancer in other parts of your body. If you smoke, you’re more likely to develop:
Ureter and renal pelvis cancer
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
Quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer. Within five years of the time you quit, your risk of developing cancer in your mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder falls to half that of a regular smoker.
You’ll also have a significantly lower risk of developing cervical cancer — the same as that of a non-smoker.
After 10 years, you’ll have half the risk of dying from lung cancer as that of someone who’s still smoking, as well as a lower risk of developing laryngeal or pancreatic cancer.
Because of its numerous negative effects on your overall health, smoking significantly reduces your lifespan. According to the CDC, life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years less than that of non-smokers.
By quitting, not only will you enjoy a healthier, higher quality life — there’s also a serious chance that you’ll live longer too.
According to the World Health Organization, people who quit smoking by the age of 30 will gain almost 10 years of life expectancy on average. Those who successfully quit by the age of 40 will gain nine years, while those who quit at 50 or 60 will gain six or three years, respectively.
Beyond improving your cardiovascular health and reducing your risk of developing cancer, there are numerous other health benefits associated with quitting:
Improved fertility. Research shows that smoking can affect your ovarian function and make it harder to become pregnant. If you’re planning to become pregnant in the near future, quitting may make the process easier for you and your partner.
Better sex. Although there’s no direct link between quitting smoking and better sex, there are several indirect factors that may improve your sex life after quitting.
First, smoking is negatively associated with vaginal health. Smoking is a risk factor for vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis. Smoking can also cause your estrogen levels to drop, affecting your sex drive and causing issues like vaginal dryness.
Stronger immune system. Smoking can damage your immune system, making you more susceptible to disease. When you quit, your immune system will recover over time, reducing your risk of becoming sick with common infections and illnesses.
Better looking teeth. The tar and nicotine in cigarettes can stain your teeth, causing them to develop a yellow/brown color over time. While quitting won’t reverse staining caused by years of smoking, it will help to prevent further smoking-related damage.
You’ll also notice better looking nails. In fact, some ex-smokers develop what’s called “harlequin nail” when they quit, as the newer, nonpigmented nail grows out to replace their older yellow, nicotine-stained nail.
Slower aging process. Smoking not only affects your body internally — it also affects your appearance. Research shows that cigarettes can accelerate the aging process of your skin, causing you to look older than you are.
Although quitting may not be enough to reverse years or decades of skin damage from smoking, you’ll be able to slow down further aging, helping you avoid the wrinkled, dull look that often affects the skin of heavy smokers.
Stronger sense of taste. Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products dulls your sense of taste, meaning you may find it harder to detect and appreciate flavors when you eat or drink.
In one study, researchers found that smokers had significantly lower taste sensitivity than non-smokers, with stronger nicotine dependence correlated with a lower level of taste sensitivity. In short, the more someone smoked, the weaker their sense of taste.
The same researchers also found that taste recovers over the course of a few weeks and months after people successfully quit smoking. This means that you may enjoy certain foods or drinks more after quitting.
Improved sense of smell. Smoking can also affect your sense of smell, potentially making it harder for you to detect and identify certain scents. After you stop smoking, you’ll notice your sense of smell returning to normal.
Most information on quitting smoking focuses on the benefits you’ll notice in terms of health, such as a reduced risk of developing cancer or heart disease.
However, there are also numerous other benefits to quitting smoking beyond improving your general health. You might notice some of these almost as soon as you quit, while others may become more obvious over the course of a few weeks, months or years.
While the relatively low price of a single pack of cigarettes can make smoking seem cheap, it’s an incredibly expensive habit over the long term.
According to Smokefree.gov, the average price of a pack of cigarettes in the United States is $6.28. Assuming an average six percent annual increase in cigarette prices, you’ll save the following amounts by quitting if you currently smoke one pack per day:
$188 after one month
$2,292 after one year
$34,318 after 10 years
$91,671 after 20 years
If you’re a heavier smoker and go through two packs per day, you’ll save more than $183,000 over the next 20 years by quitting.
The above amounts are based on average cigarette prices across the entire country. In regions with more expensive tobacco products, such as New York, you’ll save an even larger amount of money by kicking the habit.
There are also numerous secondary savings you’ll be able to benefit from by quitting.
In some cases, health insurance may cost more if you’re a smoker, meaning you’ll likely spend less to cover yourself for medical care over the long term by quitting.
Smoking can also result in increased wear and tear on your home, as well as countless other small expenses that add up to significant amounts over the years.
When you smoke around other people, you risk exposing them to secondhand tobacco smoke — a form of exhaled and passive smoke from your cigarette that, like tobacco smoke, contains harmful, carcinogenic chemicals.
There are more 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which around 70 are known to increase your risk of developing cancer. Even brief exposure to these chemicals in secondhand smoke can have negative health effects.
Secondhand smoke is particularly worrying if you have children. Being exposed to secondhand smoke can increase a child’s risk of developing infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis, as well as ear infections. If your child has asthma, secondhand smoke may make it worse.
In adults, exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to an increased risk of developing diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease.
When you quit, not only do you stop being exposed to the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke — your partner, children and other family members are also less exposed. This means that not only will you become healthier, but your family will benefit from a healthier environment too.
Occasionally referred to as thirdhand smoke, the lingering smell of cigarettes that can develop in your hair, clothes, home furniture and automobile can be a serious annoyance, although there’s also a possibility that you won’t notice it while you’re an active smoker.
Without cigarette smoke circulating in your living space, you’ll notice that your hair, clothes and home will start to smell better after you quit. Your friends and family members may also notice and comment.
As well as smelling better, an environment that’s free of thirdhand smoke is better for both your health and the health of those around you, as thirdhand smoke may be hazardous to adults and children.
Quitting smoking is a serious challenge, and some research indicates that it may have an effect not just on your physical health, but also on your personality.
Researchers from the University of Missouri found that people who quit smoking tend to have the largest declines in impulsivity and neuroticism as they get older.
There’s also some scientific research indicating that quitting smoking may significantly improve your mental health. In a 2014 scientific review, researchers found that quitting was linked with a reduction in anxiety, depression and stress, as well as improved mood and quality of life.
The researchers noted that the effect sizes were equal to larger than those of antidepressants used to treat mood and anxiety disorders.
In short, not only will quitting make you feel better physically and reduce your risk of developing numerous serious health issues — it may also have a noticeable positive effect on your mental wellbeing, mood and overall enjoyment of life.
From lowering your risk of developing heart disease, lung disease and cancer to improving your mental health, wellbeing and quality of life, there are many reasons to quit smoking.
Quitting smoking is easier with help. Research shows that medications such as bupropion can increase your chances of quitting successfully by reducing nicotine cravings and helping you to stay smoke free for longer.
We offer generic bupropion, following an online consultation with a physician who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. You can also learn more about quitting without medication in our detailed guide to quitting smoking cold turkey.