Benefits of quitting smoking

Readers share how they quit smoking.
Readers share how they quit smoking.

The list of health problems caused by smoking is endless: cancer, lung diseases, heart attacks, strokes, blindness, and fertility problems. 

The good news is that, no matter how old you are or how long you’ve smoked, quitting can help you live a longer, healthier life.

These are the benefits over time:

20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure start to return to normal.

24 to 48 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to a normal level.

2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

1 to 9 months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease, and the cilia (the tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function. They’re now better able to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

1 year after quitting, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s.

After 2-5 years, stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker.

5 years after quitting, the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and bladder is halved. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. 

10 years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.

15 years after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker.

Reviewed by Cape Town-based general practitioner, Dr Dalia Hack. October 2018.

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