The lungs recover from smoking

Smoking: what the body forgives

After the last cigarette, the body breathes a sigh of relief. So far, so well known. But what exactly can you look forward to when you stop smoking? How quickly does the body regenerate and can all damage be repaired? Read here what to expect when you quit smoking.

How quickly and largely the regeneration happens after quitting smoking varies from person to person and depends not least on the age, lifestyle and general health of the neo-non-smoker as well as the number of cigarettes previously smoked. However, the advantages of quitting smoking are always noticeable after a short time. This is how the body recovers after quitting smoking:

A few minutes after the last cigarette

Within minutes after the last cigarette, the body's first repair mechanisms set in: after just under half an hour, the blood circulation in hands, feet and skin improves. Pulse and blood pressure drop to normal values. The faster aging of the skin caused by smoking is stopped - the skin regenerates.

+++ More on the topic: Quit smoking - what works and what doesn't? +++

8 hours after quitting smoking

After eight hours, the oxygen transport in the body gradually normalizes. Because of smoking, tar is deposited in the lungs and in the mucous membranes, the lungs no longer work properly. The carbon monoxide (CO) contained in cigarette smoke can displace the oxygen from the red blood cells and thus reduce the oxygen content in the blood and ultimately in the entire body. After quitting smoking, the CO and oxygen levels return to normal. For the neo-non-smoker, this means: less carbon monoxide, but more fresh oxygen.

After 1 day

Smoking significantly increases the risk of heart attacks. Even after a heart attack, it pays to quit smoking, because the mortality rate for smokers after a heart attack is sometimes twice as high as for ex-smokers. 24 hours after quitting smoking, the risk of heart attack drops again - and it continues to decrease with every day and year of non-smoking.

After 2 days

Not smoking is more enjoyable: because smokers have a less pronounced sense of taste and smell, they usually use more salt and spices than non-smokers. But the sense of smell and taste can recover. The regeneration of the sensory cells begins as early as 48 hours after quitting smoking.

After 3 days

After three days of abstinence from cigarettes, significantly better breathing is noticeable.

+++ More on the topic: How is nicotine addiction treated? +++

After a few weeks of smoke free

After several weeks of abstinence from smoking, the body's self-cleaning process begins to take off. After two to twelve weeks without cigarettes, the circulation and lungs begin to stabilize.

After 1 to 9 months

After one to nine months, the airways will slowly clear again. Coughing fits and shortness of breath are reduced and normal lung function is restored.

After 5 years

After about five years without a cigarette, the risk of a heart attack slowly equates to that of a non-smoker. Because one of the causes of a heart attack can be the constricted coronary arteries caused by smoking. In ex-smokers, the constriction recedes after one year of non-smoking.

After about 15 years

The risk of lung cancer slowly begins to decrease after the last cigarette. An active smoker has - compared to a non-smoker - an up to 40 times (and even higher) risk of developing a malignant ulcer in the lungs. The lung cancer risk of a non-smoker does not decrease any longer for neo-non-smokers. But it is approaching this after 15 to 20 years. Other types of cancer are also related to smoking, and so the risk of these diseases should also decrease after quitting smoking.

+++ More on the subject: Passive smoking is harmful to health +++

What advantages can ex-smokers and non-smokers enjoy?

  • Non-smokers have better sex: Those who do without cigarettes have better blood circulation and more sensitive nerves. As a result, male non-smokers have better erectile function and non-smoking women can orgasm more easily.
  • Non-smokers are more fertile: Men who smoke are more likely to suffer from impotence.
  • Non-smokers have more beautiful skin and teeth: After quitting smoking, the complexion looks fresher and more even. Discoloration on fingers and nails disappears.
  • Non-smokers are fitter: Those who refrain from cigarettes are fitter and in better shape.
  • Non-smokers live longer: Smoking is a risk factor for many diseases, such as COPD, cancer or cardiovascular diseases.

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Dr. med. Peter Mahlknecht (first author 2010), Silke Brenner (2019)
Medical review:
Dr. Ludwig Kaspar
Editorial editing:
Astrid Leitner

Updated on:

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