How Your Body Heals After the Last Cigarette

You'll See Health Benefits Almost Right Away

Cigarette butt pinned onto a calendar date marked quit
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What happens inside our bodies after we stub out the last cigarette? Within the first 20 minutes of quitting smoking, the healing process begins, and smoke-free benefits will continue to improve your health and quality of life.

Quitting smoking can be difficult, especially in the early going. Cravings are strong, you'll be irritable and won't be feeling great.

But it's worth it to push through this tough period because the health benefits are almost immediate, from the time you smoke your last cigarette.

Here are the short-term health benefits of quitting smoking

Right After Quitting Smoking

Just 20 minutes after the last cigarette, your blood pressure decreases, your pulse rate drops and your body temperature increases. After eight hours smoke-free, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal, and blood oxygen levels improve. When you're 48 hours post-cigarette, you'll be able to taste and smell better.

Three Months After Quitting Smoking

After about two weeks, the worst of the nicotine withdrawal symptoms begin to subside. Over the next few months, the risk of heart attack declines your circulation improves. Your lung function increases and decline in lung function begins to slow.

The three-month mark is a tricky time for ex-smokers. You may feel a little bit of a letdown.

The exhilaration of quitting has worn off, but your body still hasn't fully recovered from nicotine's effect. You may start to experience cigarette cravings at this point but redouble your efforts to avoid smoking again. If you can get over this hump, it gets much easier very soon.

Six to Nine Months After Quitting Smoking

You'll start to feel less shortness of breath and have fewer problems with sinus congestion.

One thing you may notice is the return of a dry cough. This is part of the healing process, and while annoying, is only temporary; the cilia in the lungs are filtering the tar and other toxins left behind by cigarettes out of the lungs.

One Year After Quitting Smoking

If you hit the one-year mark, you've reduced your risk of heart disease by half, and are likely to remain smoke-free into the future. While it might seem like a lofty goal, once you get past the first smoke-free year, smoke-free time and its benefits pile up without nearly as much effort on your part.

Within five to 15 years, your health outlook improves even more.


Surgeon General's Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. Centers for Disease Control, 2014.