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Health & Wellness

What happens in your body when you stop smoking

Tobacco increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, among other health problems, but if you stop smoking, the risks are drastically reduced. Discover how your body changes by abandoning this habit.

Smoking creates addiction, damages health, and can cause early death, regardless of how tobacco is consumed. The Ministry of Health warns in its last campaign against this substance, which insists that water pipes, Conventional cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes. Even if the latter does not contain nicotine – contribute to the development of cardiovascular, respiratory, or cancer diseases, among other health problems.

Also, passive smokers who have been exposed to second-hand smoke, or even the third hand, are more likely to develop these diseases. Five and ten years of being in a smoke-free environment can match your risk of contracting them with that of individuals who have never been exposed to these toxins.

Scientific evidence shows that smoking reduces life expectancy by around ten years; however, any time is good to abandon this harmful habit. Since in doing so, the body recovers, and the risk of developing most of the diseases associated with tobacco are progressively reduced and can be compared to that of people who have never smoked.

How the body reacts to quitting smoking

Quitting smoking has immediate positive effects. Patients re-appreciate the taste and smell of food – tobacco smoke atrophies taste buds. They recover the sensation of having a clean mouth, and in a few weeks, their capacity increases to perform physical exercise. But, without a doubt, the essential thing is that the chances of suffering numerous diseases significantly decrease. These are the main reactions of a chronic smoker’s body when he quits:

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide

  • In the first 24-48 hours, the amounts of carbon monoxide are almost nil, and after three days, the nicotine has been eliminated. In the blood of a smoker, the levels of carbon monoxide are between three and 15 times higher than those of someone who does not smoke and can cause headaches, rapid pulse, dizziness, or nausea.

Blood circulation

blood circulation

  • Thanks to the elimination of toxic substances present in tobacco, the improvement of blood circulation are almost immediate. But after a couple of weeks, the improvement is more evident and has positive effects on blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels in the blood, which benefits the heart and brain, among other organs.



  • The skin of smokers, says Dr. Barrios, usually has more wrinkles and becomes drier and saltier, but about six months after quitting smoking, they already notice the softer skin – which also loses the yellowish tone and the aged appearance.

Heart attack risk

heart attack

  • Smoking is one of the main risk factors for suffering a heart attack or other cardiovascular diseases. But after a year without smoking, the risk of myocardial infarction or stroke decreases. After two or three years without smoking, his risk of ischemic heart disease is similar to that of someone who has never smoked.

Pulmonary function

  • After three or four weeks, the cough and the amount of secretions decrease, and the former smoker begins to breathe better and feel that he has more energy. The cilia of the lungs recover, and the risk of respiratory infections is reduced. Pulmonary capacity can be recovered between 10 and 15% in the first year, according to Dr. Barrios, who adds that about three months after quitting smoking begins to improve tolerance to physical exercise.



  • Tobacco use increases the risk of several types of cancer, such as lung, nose, pharynx, larynx, pancreas, or bladder. But five years after leaving the habit, the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, pharynx, and bladder is reduced in half. While the chances of developing cervix cancer are the same as if you had never smoked. 

Physical and psychological dependence

  • “The worst of physical dependence – says Dr. Alcolea – is experienced during the first seven or ten days, which is when the patient suffers more anxiety, and from there it decreases. Although so that we consider that this dependence is more or less controlled have to spend at least three months. ” Regarding psychological or monkey dependence. This expert points out that although each patient is different, “almost always begins to be overcome between six months and one year”. However, the pulmonologist warns of the danger of what is known as control fantasy, which causes many former smokers to relax their defenses against tobacco, thinking that they are able to control their desire to smoke, and thus increase their chances of relapse.

Weight gain

weight gain

  • The other unwanted consequence of quitting smoking is the foreseeable weight gain, which according to Dr. Alcolea, is not a myth, but almost all patients gain about two or three kilos, which in the long term (in three or four years) lose again.
  • The specialist attributes it to the fact that the anxiety generated by the act of dispensing with tobacco leads the patient to eat compulsively. Almost always choose very caloric foods, such as chocolate and other sweets or nuts.
  • In addition, by improving the senses of taste and smell, discover new flavors that increase your desire to eat. The pulmonologist proposes that they practice exercise, which not only helps control weight but also reduces anxiety.

Effective treatments to quit smoking

Dr. Barrios recommends cognitive-behavioral treatment or psychotherapy, associated with pharmacological treatment with varenicline or bupropion, to quit smoking and prevent relapse. Bupropion, also, is not only one of the best drugs to achieve this goal, according to Dr. Alcolea, but it can help prevent weight gain.

Regarding the use of electronic cigarettes, Dr. Alcolea advises against replacing traditional tobacco with vaping, because it also has contraindications, and there are not enough studies to know its possible long-term harmful effects. It only justifies it in the framework of an aid program with the aim of quit smoking and always under the supervision of a doctor, for those patients who quit smoking generate a lot of anxiety, and it may be easier for progressive scaling.

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