What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Smoking?

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Smoking?

It’s a well-established fact that smoking increases a person’s risk of lung disease, respiratory problems, cancer, stroke and heart attack. Many smokers know the negative health effects, but have trouble quitting due to the addictive nature of nicotine. Read on to find out how long it takes the body to recover from smoking and tips to get you on the path to healthier lungs.

Smoking and Your Lungs

Smoking causes irreversible scarring of the lungs that can lead to permanent damage. Quitting won’t repair that damage, but it can prevent further scarring.

Cilia are hair-like projections that keep airways clear of dirt and mucus, helping the breathing process. Cigarette smoke paralyzes and damages cilia in the lungs. They start to regain normal function soon after a person quits smoking. Therefore, it’s normal to cough more than usual at first. Coughing is a sign that cilia in the lungs are beginning to clean the airways again, which also improves the immune system.

Within just two weeks, people who quit smoking report improved lung function. Within one to nine months of quitting, coughing and shortness of breath will decrease. Additionally, the cessation of smoking prevents emphysema, a chronic disease caused by damaged air sacs in the lungs. (Learn more about a new FDA approved treatment for emphysema.)

Tips for Quitting

Many people testify that the hardest part about quitting is making the firm decision to quit. Every person is different, but here are a few tips to try:

  • Talk with your doctor
  • Set a firm date for your last cigarette
  • Start a new physical activity you enjoy
  • Save the money you would have spent on cigarettes and use it to buy a reward for yourself
  • Use medicine to help cope with nicotine withdrawal
  • Follow these tips from the Center for Disease Control

Most importantly, remember that smokeless tobacco, cigars and vaping are not safer alternatives to cigarettes. (Does Vaping Cause Cancer?)

It’s Never Too Late to Quit Smoking

Quitting can improve your health and the health of those around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous to friends, family and even pets. This is especially true for people with existing heart or lung disease, as well as children and infants.

Even older adults can benefit from quitting, regardless of age or how long they have been a smoker. In addition to improved breathing, quitting will help the body lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve taste and smell, and lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.

© 2020 Penn State Health