Quit Smoking Timeline – What Happens When You Stop Smoking?


Though the percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes has steadily decreased over the past several decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 38 million adults smoke cigarettes either “every day” or “some days.”

One caveat to be mentioned is that while cigarette use is down, e-cigarettes and vaping are up, in part because some people use them to quit cigarettes.

Cigarettes are still one of the leading causes of preventable death in the nation.

Kicking a cigarette habit can be incredibly difficult because nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs on the market.

People often try and fail over and over before they’re successful, but there are two essential things to understand about the stop smoking timeline:

  • Anyone can quit smoking cigarettes
  • The health benefits start piling up almost immediately

Quitting Smoking Timeline – What Happens to the Body When you Quit Smoking Cigarettes?

First and foremost, smokers who want to ditch cigarettes need to have a plan ahead of time to combat the physical and psychological cravings quitting will trigger.

There are plenty of free quitting smoking resources, which is an excellent place to start.

It’s also vital to arm yourself with knowledge about how fast the quitting benefits will start to affect.

1 Hour After Quitting Smoking

Within 1 hour of a person’s last cigarette, heart rate and blood pressure begin dropping, and blood circulation in the body will improve.

12 Hours After a Person Stops Smoking

By the 12-hour mark, carbon monoxide levels, a toxin in tobacco smoke, will begin to normalize and improve the body’s oxygen levels.

24 Hours After the Last Cigarette

Astoundingly, a person’s risk of a heart attack decreases by the 24-hour mark because of lower blood pressure, increased oxygen levels, and improved circulation.

2 Days After Quitting

Food will taste and smell better just two days after a person quits smoking, as these nerve endings, damaged by cigarettes, begin to repair themselves.

3 Days After Stopping Cigarettes

The 3-day mark is often people’s most significant challenge as cravings intensify, causing withdrawal symptoms, like mood swings and headaches. What’s important to remember at this stage is that physical withdrawal from nicotine is almost over.

1 Month After a Person Stops

In just one month, the lungs are starting to heal. Without cigarette smoke, a person’s lung capacity improves. In addition, they may notice higher energy levels due to more oxygen and a more extraordinary ability for cardiovascular exercise.

1 to 3 Months After a Person Gives Up Cigarettes

The cardiovascular benefits will only continue to improve anytime between the 1 to 3 month cessation periods.

9 Months Later

By nine months, the lungs heal, allowing the cilia, tiny structures inside the lungs that help fight infection and remove mucus, to do their job. Previous smokers may notice they have fewer lung and sinus infections as a result.

1 Year After the Last Puff

One year after the last cigarette, a person’s risk of heart attack has decreased by half that of a person still smoking.

2 Years After Stopping

The risk of heart attack drops to almost normal.

5 Years After Being Cigarette-Free

The risk of lung cancer is cut in half by five years and decreases the risk of mouth, throat, and pancreatic cancer.

10 Years After Giving Up Smoking

Ten years after the last cigarette, a person’s risk for lung cancer is comparable to that of a person who never smoked.

15 Years After Quitting

Fifteen years of being smoke-free make the risk of coronary heart disease equal to that of a person who never smoked.

20 Years After Quitting

By 20 years after quitting, a person’s chances of cigarette-related death are the same as a person that has never had a cigarette in their life.

Are E-Cigarettes or Vaping Safer than Cigarettes?

The statistics related to vaping and e-cigarettes are less clear.

While the CDC says that e-cigarettes might help smokers quit using tobacco products, at least 12 people had died in 2019, and 805 lung injuries across 46 states, all of which are related to vaping e-cigarette use, according to the CDC.

There has also been an alarming increase in the number of teenagers who vape or use e-cigarettes.

In a 2018 survey conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), 37 percent of high school seniors admitted to vaping.

E-cigarettes are particularly harmful to young people and teenagers whose bodies and brains are still developing and are even more vulnerable.

The Great American Smokeout – Third Thursday in November

More than 40 years ago, in San Francisco’s Union Square, The Great American Smokeout was established. It’s been an annual event, held on the third Thursday in November since 1977, and has helped thousands of people give up cigarettes.

One of the most significant advantages to quitting smoking during the Great American Smokeout is the level of support from thousands of other Americans who are giving up cigarettes at the same time.

During November, there are also many available resources from former smokers and the American Cancer Society.

It’s never too late to quit smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or even smokeless tobacco. Instead, take this opportunity for a healthier, happier, more rewarding lifestyle.