It’s never too late or too early to quit smoking. The benefits of quitting begin much earlier than you might think once you put out your last cigarette. 

Why is it so hard to quit? 

Quitting smoking means breaking the cycle of addiction and essentially rewiring the brain to stop craving nicotine. To be successful, smokers who want to quit need to have a plan to beat cravings and potential triggers. The sooner a person quits, the faster they will reduce their risk of cancer, heart and lung disease, and other conditions related to smoking in fact, the benefits of quitting smoking begin in as little as 20 minutes after your last cigarette. 

Timeline at a glance 

After 20 minutes 

In as little as 20 minutes after the last cigarette, the heart rate drops and returns to normal. Blood pressure also begins to fall, improving circulation.  

After 12 hours 

Cigarettes contain a lot of known toxins, including carbon monoxide, a gas present in smoke produced by cigarettes. 

Carbon monoxide build-up prevents oxygen from entering the lungs and blood. When inhaled in large doses in a short time, the gas can be harmful and even fatal. 

After just 12 hours without a cigarette, your body starts cleansing itself of the excess carbon monoxide, and levels return to normal, increasing the body’s oxygen levels. 

After 1-3 days 

Just 1 day after quitting smoking a person’s blood pressure begins to drop, decreasing the risk of heart disease from high blood pressure induced by smoking. Oxygen levels rise, making physical activity and exercise easier to do. 

If you have been a smoker for a long time, you might not notice anymore, but smoking damages the nerve endings responsible for the senses of smell and taste. In as little as 2 days after quitting, these nerves start healing, and former smokers may notice a heightened sense of smell and can taste richer flavours. 

3 days after quitting smoking, the nicotine levels in a person’s body are significantly depleted. At this point, most people will experience withdrawal symptoms, leading to moodiness, severe headaches, and cravings as the body readjusts. Now it’s the time to stay strong, remind yourself of your motivation for quitting, and seek support from friends and family. Managing cravings can be challenging but remember, these symptoms are a sign that your body is recovering from the damage smoking has caused over the years.

After 1 month 

In as little as 1 month, your lung function will begin to improve. People may notice less coughing, and shortness of breath as the lungs heal. Athletic endurance increases, and former smokers may see a renewed ability for cardiovascular activities, such as jogging. 

After 9 months 

9 months after quitting, the lungs have significantly healed themselves, and the cilia inside the lungs have considerably recovered from the effect of smoking. These delicate hair-like structures help push mucus out of the lungs protecting from infections. 

After 1 year 

One year after quitting smoking, a person’s risk for coronary heart disease has decreased by half and will continue to drop past the 1-year mark. 

After 5 years 

Cigarettes contain many known toxins that cause the arteries and blood vessels to narrow. These same toxins also increase the likelihood of developing blood clots. 

After 5 years without smoking, the arteries and blood vessels begin to widen again, lowering the risk of stroke. 

The risk of stroke will continue to decrease over the next 10 years as the body continues to heal. 

After 10 years 

After 10 years, the chance of developing lung cancer and dying from it is roughly cut in half compared to current smokers. The likelihood of developing mouth, throat, or pancreatic cancer has significantly reduced. 

After 15-20 years 

After 15 years of quitting smoking, the chances of developing coronary heart disease and the risk of developing pancreatic cancer are equivalent to a non-smoker.  

Once reached 20 years smoke-free, the risk of death from smoking-related causes drops to the level of a person who has never smoked in their life.