The Health Benefits of Having One Smoke-Free Year

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As of Dec. 20, 2019, the new legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S.

You hit important health-related milestones when you quit smoking. The longer you go without smoking, the more your health improves.

Whether you are in the first minute or the first year of your journey, these health benefits can help motivate you to stick to your smoke-free lifestyle and enjoy the rewards along the way.

Minutes After Quitting

As you work toward your goal of being smoke-free for one year, remember that you are already experiencing health benefits just moments after you quit.

Even 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop, which lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis (a condition in which plaques clog the arteries).

Days After Quitting

Smoking adds carbon monoxide levels to your blood. Excess carbon monoxide in the blood is linked with heart disease (including heart attacks) and atherosclerosis. Just several days after quitting, this level drops into a normal range.

Months After Quitting

Your lung function and your circulation will improve after a few months of being smoke-free, but it can start to improve as early as two weeks after you quit.

Yellowing of your teeth and fingernails stops when you quit smoking cigarettes. You'll probably notice that everyday activities that used to leave you out of breath (such as climbing a flight of stairs) become easier as your lung capacity improves.

Your taste buds start to recover. Food tastes better and your sense of smell improves. You probably became used to the smell of cigarettes, but after quitting, your breath, hair, and clothes will smell better.

Quitting smoking is also good for your skin. You can stop any premature wrinkling, gum disease, or tooth loss from developing when you quit.

One Year After Quitting

When you make it to the one-year mark of quitting smoking, it's a great time to take stock of all the important benefits your body receives.

After one year smoke-free, your risk of coronary heart disease drops to half that of people who currently smoke.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of smoking-related death. Other health benefits include:

  • Less coughing and shortness of breath
  • Cilia (hair-like structures in the lungs) regain normal function, which means they're able to clean the lungs and reduce your risk of infection
  • Significantly fewer cigarette cravings

In one study, participants who had quit smoking for one year reported a reduction in their cigarette cravings, less restlessness, and even fewer stressful events happening in their lives.

Researchers believe that they reported less stressful events because they no longer experienced the "acute" nicotine withdrawal that happens in between cigarettes—for instance, feeling irritable or edgy until they were able to smoke again. They were no longer emotionally or physically dependent on nicotine.

Benefits After One Year

One to two years after quitting smoking, you have a significantly decreased risk of a heart attack. Five to 10 years after quitting, your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, and larynx decrease as well as your risk of stroke.

10 years after quitting, your risk of various types of cancer decreases, including cancers of the lungs, bladder, esophagus, and kidney.

15 years after you quit smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease significantly decreases. It is now the same as that of someone who doesn't smoke at all.

Getting Support

Statistics indicate that only about half of those who quit smoking remain smoke-free at the end of their first year. However, with support, the odds are much improved.

Fortify your quit program by connecting with others who are going through what you are, whether it's online, with a counselor, in a support group, or alongside your partner or friend. You can even download a quit smoking app to receive daily encouragement and find more resources to help you quit.

Once you decide to quit, you'll likely be impatient to be free of smoking cessation tactics. You want to reach a state of mind where cigarettes no longer hold any importance. While this is definitely achievable, give yourself some time to heal from the many associations that have built up between smoking and daily life over the years.

A Word From Verywell

Relax and take the time you need to recover from nicotine addiction. Don't stress if you suddenly crave a cigarette months after quitting. Old programming in our brains gets triggered now and then, but the more practice you get with smoke-free living, the less often thoughts of smoking will pop up.

15 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Terry Martin
Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction.