What are the immediate benefits of quitting smoking?


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The immediate health benefits of quitting smoking are substantial:

  • Heart rate and blood pressure, which are abnormally high while smoking, begin to return to normal.
  • Within a few hours, the level of carbon monoxide in the blood begins to decline. (Carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.)
  • Within a few weeks, people who quit smoking have improved circulation, produce less phlegm, and don’t cough or wheeze as often.
  • Within several months of quitting, people can expect substantial improvements in lung function (21).
  • Within a few years of quitting, people will have lower risks of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases than if they had continued to smoke.
  • In addition, people who quit smoking will have an improved sense of smell, and food will taste better.

What are the long-term benefits of quitting smoking?

Quitting smoking reduces the risk of cancer and many other diseases, such as heart disease and COPD, caused by smoking.

Data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey show that people who quit smoking, regardless of their age, are less likely to die from smoking-related illness than those who continue to smoke. Smokers who quit before age 40 reduced their chance of dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases by about 90 percent, and those who quit by age 45-54 reduced their chance of dying prematurely by about two-thirds (22).

People who quit smoking, regardless of their age, have substantial gains in life expectancy compared with those who continue to smoke. Those who quit between the ages of 25 and 34 years lived about 10 years longer; those who quit between ages 35 and 44 lived about 9 years longer; those who quit between ages 45 and 54 lived about 6 years longer; and those who quit between ages 55 and 64 lived about 4 years longer (22).

Does quitting smoking lower the risk of cancer?

Yes. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing and dying from cancer. Although it is never too late to get a benefit from quitting, the benefit is strongest among those who quit at a younger age (3).

The risk of premature death and the chance of developing cancer from smoking depend on many factors, including the number of years a person smokes, the number of cigarettes he or she smokes per day, the age at which he or she began smoking, and whether or not he or she was already ill at the time of quitting. For people who have already developed cancer, quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing a second cancer (23-25).

Should someone already diagnosed with cancer bother to quit smoking?

Yes. Cigarette smoking has a profound adverse impact on health outcomes in cancer patients. For patients with some cancers, quitting smoking at the time of diagnosis may reduce the risk of dying by 30 percent to 40 percent (1). For those having surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments, quitting smoking helps improve the body’s ability to heal and respond to therapy (1, 3, 23). It also lowers the risk of pneumonia and respiratory failure (1, 3, 26). Moreover, quitting smoking may lower the risk of the cancer returning, of dying from the cancer, of a second cancer developing, and of dying from other causes (23-25, 27, 28).

How can I get help to quit smoking?

NCI and other agencies and organizations can help smokers quit:

Go to Smokefree.gov, a website created by NCI’s Tobacco Control Research Branch, and use the Step-by-Step Quit Guide.

Call the NCI Smoking Quitline at 1–877–44U–QUIT (1–877–448–7848) for individualized counseling, printed information, and referrals to other sources.

Refer to the NCI fact sheet Where To Get Help When You Decide To Quit Smoking.

Selected References

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010.

3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004.

4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.

5. National Toxicology Program. Report on Carcinogens. Thirteenth Edition. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program, 2014.