What happens when you quit smoking?

What happens when you quit smoking?

What happens when you quit smoking?

It’s no secret that smoking is not good for your wellbeing. The truth is, there are a variety of health risks connected to this habit. For example, smoking can cause a sore throat and high blood pressure, and it can even lead to serious illnesses such as cancer. According to the NHS, approximately 76,000 die from smoking in the UK each year, while many more live with debilitating illnesses caused by smoking[1].

While it can be difficult, choosing to quit this habit can have a hugely positive impact on your body and quality of life[2]. But what exactly happens when you decide to kick the habit? In this article, we take a closer look at what happens at the different milestones of your journey to quit smoking, exploring just how giving up can benefit you and your body.

Quitting smoking – what happens to your body?

From decreasing your blood pressure and improving your circulation, to boosting your immune system and reducing your risk of sinus problems, the sooner you decide to stop smoking, the sooner you’ll notice changes to your body and overall health. To show you just what happens when you choose to quit, keep reading.

Week 1

A lot happens to your body in the first week of giving up this habit – starting the very same day you smoke your last cigarette. After just 20 minutes the heart rate starts to drop and returns to normal, as does your blood pressure, subsequently improving your circulation. By the 12 hour mark, your body will be in the process of cleansing itself of the carbon monoxide produced by the cigarettes you used to smoke. As your carbon monoxide level returns to normal, your oxygen levels will increase.

Once your first day is over, your blood pressure continues to drop, significantly decreasing your chances of a heart attack and heart disease. In just 24 hours, a rise in your oxygen levels will mean that you’ll find it easier to take part in physical activities and exercises.

In the following days, you might find that your sense of smell is heightened. This is due to the fact that smoking damages the nerve endings responsible for smell, as well as taste, so you may even notice that you start to enjoy meals more too.

After about three days of quitting, your nicotine levels are reduced. Although it’s much healthier to have no nicotine in your system, you may start to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. You may become irritable, experience headaches and have cravings while your body adjusts[2].

Month 1

By the one month mark, your lung function will start to improve. At this point, you may notice that you’re coughing much less and you’re no longer struggling with shortness of breath. As a result, you may find that you feel comfortable enough to undertake more intense activities, especially cardiovascular exercises such as running[2].

Month 3

As you reach three months of giving up smoking, your circulation continues to improve. By this time, blood will be pumping to your heart and muscles much better, and you should also find that any coughing or wheezing continues to subside as your lung capacity and function improves.

Within three months, your immune system will also begin to recover and repair itself. As a result, it will be able to better protect you against illnesses[2].

Month 6

By six months, you may find that you’re able to handle stressful situations better without reaching for a cigarette. You may also notice that you’re coughing up less phlegm and mucus by this stage.

Month 12

Reaching a whole year of no smoking is an impressive milestone and one you should be proud of. At this point, your lungs will have dramatically improved in terms of function and capacity, and you’ll notice how much easier it is to breathe when you’re exerting yourself. Having not smoked for 12 months, your risk of having a heart attack is halved compared with someone who smokes, with this continuing to drop past the one year mark[2]

How long do you cough up phlegm after quitting smoking?

As we’ve mentioned above, you should find after just one month of quitting smoking, you’re not coughing as much, and by the six month mark, you will notice that you’re coughing up less phlegm and mucus. 

This is due to the fact that your airways are less inflamed as a result of no longer being exposed to cigarette smoke and chemicals. What’s more, quitting smoking increases lung capacity and function, meaning your lungs are better able to flush out any lingering phlegm and mucus, clearing your airways in the process[2]

Can your lungs recover from smoking?

In short, yes – your lungs can recover from smoking. In fact, your lungs start to heal as soon you decide to stop smoking.

Within half an hour of quitting, the fibres inside the bronchial tubes (the tubes that let air in and out of your lungs) that previously didn’t move due to being exposed to smoke will now be able to move, which spells good news for your lungs. These fibres play a part in helping clear out bacteria and irritants from your lungs, reducing the risk of infection.

As the days pass, your lungs will continue to improve in functionality, making it easier for you to breathe. Your lung capacity will also increase, meaning they are able to fill up with air better than before you decided to kick this habit.

By the time you’ve reached a year without smoking, your lungs will have significantly improved. What’s more, after ten years of not smoking, your risk of death from lung cancer will have dropped by 50% compared to when you did smoke[2].

Will my sinuses clear up if I quit smoking?

When you quit smoking, there’s a good chance you’ll see an improvement in your sinus health too. Your nose is lined with small, hair-like structures known as cilia which work to move any mucus down the back of your throat, keeping your airways clear. However, smoking can stop the cilia from working as they should, meaning you may experience more sinus infections, such as sinusitis. Giving up smoking can help your sinuses to function properly, and in turn, you may notice that you start to experience less sinus-related problems.


[1] https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-are-the-health-risks-of-smoking/

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/