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Smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness worldwide. In the United States, nearly 34 million American adults smoke cigarettes, with an estimated 480,000 deaths yearly caused by smoking.


“The good news is that quitting smoking has short-term and long-term improvements on your health regardless of age or how long you have been smoking,” said Sharad Chandrika, MD, Director of Interventional Pulmonary Medicine at Catholic Health.


How does my health improve after quitting smoking?

“Your health improves within minutes of quitting,” said Dr. Chandrika. “Over time, you lower your risk for diabetes, heart attack, stroke and pulmonary diseases.”

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • 20 minutes: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • A few days: Carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • Two weeks to three months: Your circulation and lung function improve.
  • One to 12 months: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Cilia (tiny, hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function. This increases their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk of infection.
  • One to two years: Your risk of heart attack drops dramatically. 
  • Five to 10 years: Your risk of mouth, throat and voice box (larynx) cancers is cut in half. Stroke risk also decreases. 
  • 10 years: Your risk of lung cancer is about half that of a person still smoking after 10-15 years. Your risk of cancer of the bladder, esophagus and kidney also decreases.
  • 15 years: Your risk of coronary heart disease is close to that of a nonsmoker.

What are the other benefits of quitting smoking?

In addition to improved health, you will:

  • Improve your sense of taste
  • Improve your sense of smell
  • Improve your oxygen levels and be less out of breath during exercise and activities like climbing stairs or doing chores
  • Stop the yellowing of your teeth and fingernails
  • Avoid premature skin wrinkling, gum disease and tooth loss 

Should I be concerned about lung cancer even if I quit smoking?

The risk of developing lung cancer is highest in current smokers or people who recently quit. After about 20 years, the risk decreases considerably. Talk to your doctor about scheduling a lung cancer screening if you:

  • Are age 50-80 
  • Have a tobacco smoking history of at least 20 pack years. (One pack-year equals smoking one pack per day for one year; one pack equals 20 cigarettes.)
  • Currently smoke or quit smoking within the past 15 years 

Learn more about lung cancer screenings


Is vaping a better option than smoking?

No! Vaping causes long-term lung damage and, in some cases, causes fatal lung injuries.

Learn more about the dangers of vaping


How can I quit smoking?

Quitting smoking can be overwhelming, especially if you are a long-term smoker. Numerous resources, however, are available to help you kick the habit with the right tools and support.

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