Health benefits of quitting

There are immediate health benefits of quitting at any age.young-woman-happy-web.jpg

The risk of disease due to smoking declines after quitting and continues to fall as the years pass. The risk of some diseases decreases more rapidly than others. In some cases, the increased risk of a disease disappears completely. For other diseases, an increased risk may persist long term, even after 20 years of abstinence, especially for people who have smoked heavily for many years.

Within the first few months, blood pressure returns to normal and the circulation improves. The lungs start to heal and cough, mucus and wheeze rapidly decline. Ex-smokers typically report having more energy, sleeping better and feeling more relaxed. Quitting is a proud achievement and is a great boost to confidence and self-esteem. 


Some specific benefits of quitting are:

  • Decreased risk of heart attack
    The increased risk of a heart attack halves after about 3-4 years and continues to fall over time. In light smokers the risk returns to normal. For moderate to heavy smokers, an increased risk of about 20% still remains after 20 years. (1,2)
  • Decreased risk of lung cancer
    The risk of lung cancer falls by about 50% after 10 years and 75% after 20 years. (3)
  • Decreased risk of other cancers
    The risks of cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, bladder, kidneys, pancreas and cervix are reduced after quitting compared to continued smoking, and continue to decrease over time.
  • COPD 
    Quitting stops the rapid decline in lung function from past smoking. (4)
  • Decreased risk of stroke
    The increased risk of stroke halves after about 4 years of quitting and continues to slowly decline. (5)
  • Improvement in erectile dysfunction (impotence)
    Erectile function improves after quitting for most men. Younger men (<50years) have the best chance of improvement. (6)
  • Decreased risk in peripheral vascular disease (PVD)
    The risk of PVD is reduced by more than half after quitting smoking. The build-up of plaque on artery walls slows down and the risk of disease and amputation is less likely. (7)
  • Reduced surgical complications
    The increased risk of post-operative complications such as poor wound healing, infections and lung and heart problems are reduced by about 40% by 4 weeks after quitting. These risks reduce further after quitting for longer. (8)


Quitting is urgent

It is vital to stop smoking at the earliest opportunity. Smokers lose 3 months of life expectancy for every year of smoking after the age of 35y. You will gain years of life by quitting at any age. It is never too late to quit. (9, 10)

  • Quitting at 30y: 10 years gained
  • Quitting at 40y: 9 years gained
  • Quitting at 50y: 6 years gained
  • Quitting at 60y: 4 years gained 

  video_icon-small.jpg Click here to see a video showing how your health improves after quitting.


How quitting smoking changes your body

The good news is that the younger you are when you quit, the greater the health benefits. But quitting at any age can add years to your life. And some of the benefits are almost immediate. Below is an infographic which shows the amazing improvement in your body after quitting.


Source of infographic: Huffington Post



1) Lee SN. Using the negative exponential distribution to quantitatively review the evidence on how rapidly the excess risk of IHD declines following quitting smoking. Rev TP 2013.

2) Teo KK. Tobacco use and risk of myocardial infarction. INTERHEART study. Lancet 2006

3) Fry JS. How Rapidly Does the Excess Risk of Lung Cancer Decline Following Quitting Smoking. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 2013

4) Fletcher C, Peto R. The natural history of chronic airflow obstruction. BMJ 1977

5) Lee PN. Estimating the decline in excess risk of cerebrovascular disease following quitting smoking - A systematic review. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 2013

6) Kovac J. Effects of cigarette smoking on erectile dysfunction. Andrologia 2014

7) Lu L. Meta-analysis of the association between cigarette smoking and peripheral arterial disease. Heart 2013

8) Mills E. Smoking Cessation Reduces Postoperative Complications. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med 2011

9) Jha P. 21st-century hazards of smoking and the benefits of cessation in the US. NEJM 2013

10) Doll R. Mortality in relation to smoking, 50 years' observations on male British doctors. BMJ 2004

Last Modified: 31-05-2017