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Updated 11 October 2013

Timeline: the benefits of quitting

Did you know that your health starts improving within 20 minutes of stubbing out your last cigarette? Have a look at our list of health benefits over time.

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The list of health problems caused by smoking is endless: cancer, lung diseases, heart attacks, strokes, blindness, fertility problems, you name it, it's there. The good news, though, is that no matter how old you are or how long you've smoked, quitting can help you live longer and be healthier.

Have a look at these health benefits over time:

  • 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function, and are better ableto handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
  • 1 year after quitting, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s.
  • 5 years after quitting, the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and bladder is halved. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.
  • 10 years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.
  • 15 years after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.

Take charge of your health and add years to your life by quitting smoking today.

- Birgit Ottermann, Health24, updated March 2012

(Sources: American Cancer Society, Cansa and Health24)

Read more:

5 ways to quit smoking
How smoking affects your health
Quiz: are you ready to quit smoking?

 
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