What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Smoking

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

How quickly does your health improve after quitting smoking? Here's a timeline of what happens to your body. 

Close up of a man doing breath exercises outdoor

If the prospect of quitting smoking seems intimidating, try thinking of yourself as saying no to one cigarette at a time. By avoiding smoking even just for one day, you’ll see health benefits right off the bat. And before you know it, those days add up to months and eventually years free of the habit. 

Here’s a timeline of how your body responds the longer you go without taking a puff.

1 Day 

From the time you put down those first few cigarettes, your health is already starting to improve:

  • You decrease the carbon monoxide level in your body. Carbon monoxide is a potentially deadly chemical that affects your body’s ability to carry oxygen.

  • Your heart and blood pressure begin to return to normal.
  • Your breath, clothes and hair smell better.

2 Weeks

Your body continues to breathe better as it repairs the damage caused by tobacco:

  • You have less wheezing and shortness of breath.

Around 1 Month

Made it to a month without lighting up? Congratulations! Here’s how your health has changed:

  • Circulation throughout your body is better.
  • You are coughing less. 
  • Your body is producing less phlegm.
  • Your lung function increases.

A Few Months

Breathing easier? It’s because of your the healthy decision to quit. Here’s how your body is thanking you:

  • Your lung function continues to improve. As your lung function gets better, your body can fight infections more quickly.
  • Your sense of smell improves. In fact, you may even realize food tastes better.

1 Year

Your health benefits really kick in at the 1-year mark:

  • Your risk of heart disease is slashed in half compared to someone who continues to smoke.
  • If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you’re able to breathe easier. 

5 Years

This big milestone brings big health benefits—your risk of cancer and other serious health problems starts to decline:

  • Your risk of a stroke is now the same as that of a nonsmoker.

10 Years

A decade later, your body continues to reap benefits from the first day you decided to quit: 

  • Compared with someone who still smokes, your risk of death from lung cancer has gone down 50%.
  • You’ve decreased your risk of larynx and pancreas cancers.
  • You’ve added years to your life. Researchers at Duke University found that by quitting smoking at age 35, you can add up to eight years to your life, compared with those who continue to smoke. Even if you don’t quit until later, there are still years added to your life. By quitting at age 65, the same researchers found men can add up to two years to their life, and women can add nearly four years.

15 Years

Wow! You’ve made the long but rewarding journey to stop smoking. Here’s what you have to celebrate:

  • Your risk for heart disease matches that of a nonsmoker. 
  • You’ve continued to extend your lifespan.
  • You made a long-term commitment to stop an unhealthy habit—and you’ve kept that commitment. Congratulations!

Even knowing all of these short- and long-term benefits, you may not feel certain about how to quit smoking. Talk to your doctor about the best resources to help you stop, and remember to take quitting one day at a time.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 10
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