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The benefits of giving up smoking

Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics
04 August 2020

For lots of people, smoking is a habit they would like to give up. This might be for health reasons, to save money or for their family. However, smoking is addictive, and giving it up can be a difficult thing to do. So, to keep you motivated, it can be helpful to learn about the positive benefits stopping smoking can have for your health.

If you’ve decided that it’s time to kick the habit, you might be wondering how soon you will see the benefits of your decision. The good news is that from the first day you quit, your health will start to improve. Even if you already have some health problems from smoking, you can still improve your health by quitting. Some of these problems might even get better or go away when you quit. Here I share some information about these positive changes.

Within days

The first few days of going without smoking are often the hardest. This is because you may start to experience nicotine withdrawal. However, it’s good to remember that the benefits of quitting start from the very first day you give up.

  • Just 20 minutes after you have your last cigarette your pulse and blood pressure will start to go down.
  • Within 12 hours the amount of oxygen in your blood returns to normal.
  • In the same timeframe, the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood will be reduced by half. By the second day, it will be gone completely.

Within weeks

If you manage to stop smoking for a few weeks, you will start to see even more benefits.

  • As early as two weeks after you stop, your circulation starts to improve.
  • After about 2 weeks, your sense of taste will start to get better (if this has been affected by smoking).
  • After a month, your skin may appear less grey and any wrinkles might be reduced.

Within the first year

As you start to count months of not smoking, even bigger changes start to happen inside your body.

  • As quickly as one month after giving up you might notice you cough less, and that your breathing improves.
  • Between three and nine months after quitting your lung function can increase by up to 10%.
  • By the end of the first year, your risk of a heart attack will drop by half.

By the end of the first year, the average smoker will also have saved around £1682 that would otherwise have been spent on cigarettes.

Longer-term benefits

If you manage to quit completely, your risk of some very serious health problems is greatly reduced.

  • After 10 years of not smoking, your risk of lung cancer goes down to half that of a smoker. Risks of getting other cancers like mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder, and pancreatic cancer also all decrease.
  • After 15 years of not smoking, your risk of having a heart attack is the same as somebody who never smoked.

Mental health benefits

As well as improving your physical heath, stopping smoking can also improve your mental health. Giving up smoking is associated with having a more positive mood, as well as feeling less stressed and less anxious.

Stopping the habit

Giving up smoking can be difficult, but there are some things which can support you:

  • Stop smoking services offering one-to-one help, as well as group sessions.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as patches or gum.
  • Medicines such as bupropion or varenicline.
  • Using e-cigarettes (also known as vaping). These are considered less harmful than smoking cigarettes and many people find them helpful, however they are not risk-free.

Dr Luke Powles
Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics

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    • Chéruel, Fabrice, Marta Jarlier, and Hélène Sancho-Garnier. "Effect of cigarette smoke on gustatory sensitivity, evaluation of the deficit and of the recovery time-course after smoking cessation." Tobacco induced diseases 15.1 (2017): 15. doi.org/10.1186/s12971-017-0120-4
    • Smoking: harm reduction, Public health guideline [PH45]. NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) www.nice.org.uk updated: 26 July 2013
    • Stopping Smoking. Action on smoking and health. www.ash.org.uk published March 2020
    • Adult Smoking Habits in Great Britain. Office for National Statistics and Public Health England www.ons.gov.uk published 2019
    • Mino, Yoshio, et al. "Does smoking cessation improve mental health?." Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences 54.2 (2000): 169-172. doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1819.2000.00654.x
    • Kim, Seong-Jun, et al. "The impact of smoking cessation attempts on stress levels." BMC public health 19.1 (2019): 267. doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6592-9
    • Taylor, Gemma, et al. "Change in mental health after smoking cessation: systematic review and meta-analysis." Bmj 348 (2014): g1151. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1151

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