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What Happens When You Stop Smoking?


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I am not here to give you a roasting about how bad smoking is for you. I want you to see the positives in stopping smoking by letting you know what happens when you stop smoking.

As a smoker, you are bombarded with warnings about the health effects of smoking. The anti-smoking ‘nazis’ are always trying to make you feel bad about smoking cigarettes and the bad things it does to you and those around you (from passive smoking).

The primary benefit of what happens when you stop smoking is that you stop ingesting poisonous chemicals! There are over 4000 ingredients found in cigarettes, many of them added by tobacco companies to make their products more palatable to you as a smoker.

Of the many chemicals found in tobacco smoke, there are a few you might want to know about; benzene, nitrosamines and polonium are a few that are known to directly cause cancer. There is also ammonia, acetone, arsenic, cyanide and carbon monoxide to name a few more.

I want you to take note of carbon monoxide; it is a very toxic substance that can kill in large enough doses. The carbon monoxide from tobacco smoke attaches itself to the haemoglobin in your blood and stops oxygen or carbon dioxide attaching to the haemoglobin. This effectively hijacks your blood cells, hampering their ability to do what they are there for; carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the body via your lungs.

As a smoker, your blood will only have 85% of the oxygen carrying capacity compared to a non-smoker. Luckily, the blood ‘heals’ quickly and virtually all carbon monoxide is out of your blood within 24 hours of stopping smoking.

What else happens when you stop smoking? Well, when you smoke, the nicotine in cigarettes triggers an adrenalin spike, causing an increase in your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate. These are classic stress responses and they stress your body a little every time you have a smoke.

One thing that happens when you stop smoking is that you stop this stressing of your body which helps reduce your average blood pressure. This lightens the load on your heart and results in a reduced risk of heart enlargement or disease. When you stop smoking, your risk of heart attack halves within 12 months and fades to the same as that of a non-smoker within 15 years.

Another benefit amongst the many of what happens when you stop smoking is the reduction in the risk of cancer. We all know that tobacco smoke carries chemicals that cause cancer (carcinogens) and stopping minimizes our exposure to these chemicals.

It is not just lung cancer either of which about 90% is found in smokers. Smokers also have a greater risk of all types of cancer with roughly 40-50% greater risk than non-smokers in most cases. Stopping smoking has a direct effect of reducing cancer risk across the board with the risk of lung cancer can be halved within 10 years of quitting.

Probably the greatest benefit of what happens when you quit smoking is that your life expectancy in general improves. Smokers who quit before the age of 35 can pretty much expect the smoking they have done to have little or no impact on their life expectancy.

However, For every year after the age of 35 that you smoke, you can expect to reduce your life expectancy by 3 months. That is 2 and a half years every decade! So if you smoke to 60, you should expect to die 5-7 years earlier than you would if you quit at 35.

It is worth thinking about these benefits because although quitting smoking can be difficult, it is very much worth the effort for the sake of yourself and those who love you.

Tom Dainty is a quit smoking therapist and author of The Quit Smoking Bible , a cognitive behavioural therapy approach to quitting smoking. His work is only available from


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