Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking

In addition to the physical health benefits of quitting, many ex-smokers report that they feel calmer and happier after they stop smoking. Many also report an improvement in their sense of taste, having more energy, and feeling better about themselves knowing that they were able to do something so challenging. Physical health benefits include the following:

  • As soon as 20 minutes after a smoker's last cigarette, the body begins to recover from the negative health effects of smoking and the heart rate starts to slow.
  • Levels of toxic carbon monoxide in the blood return to normal after 12 hours without smoking.
  • Lung function improves and the risk for heart attack begins to drop as soon as 2 weeks after the last cigarette.
  • Coughing and shortness of breath decrease 1 to 9 months after the last cigarette.
  • Risk for coronary heart disease becomes half that of a smoker after 1 year.
  • Risk for stroke approaches that of a non-smoker after 5 years.
  • Risk for developing mouth, throat, esophageal, bladder, kidney, and pancreatic cancer decreases after 10 years.
  • Risk for death from lung cancer reaches half that of a smoker after 10 years.
  • Risk for developing coronary heart disease is equal to a non-smoker after 15 years.

Publication Review By: Karen Larson, M.D., Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Jul 2006

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2015