Quitting Smoking Timeline

The quit smoking timeline below shows what happens when you quit: hour by hour, day to day, each month and yearly.

These health related benefits can be useful as motivators and milestones when you stop smoking. As they show how the functions of the body begin to return to normal.

The healing process begins within just 20 minutes of stopping. However, long term benefits include major reductions in health risks related to diseases caused by smoking such as strokes, heart disease and lung cancer.

In the early phases of the timeline, your quality of life is improved in areas of health that we all tend to take for granted, like being able to breathe more easily.

However, the ulimate benefit of giving up should surely be the potential to live longer.

Quit Smoking Timeline - Health Benefits
Timeline Benefit - What happens when you quit
20 min.
  • Blood pressure and pulse return to normal.
8 hrs
  • Oxygen levels return to normal.
  • Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in blood reduce by half.
12 hrs
  • Carbon monoxide levels in blood drop to normal.2
24 hrs
  • Carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body.
  • Lungs start to clear out mucous and other smoking debris.
48 hrs
  • There is no nicotine left in the body.
  • Ability to taste and smell is greatly improved.
72 hrs
  • Breathing becomes easier.
  • Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase.
2-12 weeks
  • Circulation improves.
  • Lung function increases.
3 - 9 months
  • Coughs, wheezing and breathing problems improve as lung functions are increased by up to 10%.
12 months
  • Excess risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by about half and declines gradually hereafter.
5 yrs.
  • Risk of heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker.
  • Risk of stroke returns to the level of people who have never smoked (5 - 15 years).1
10 yrs.
  • Risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.
15 yrs.
  • Risk of lung cancer is reduced to close to that observed in nonsmokers.
  • Risk of coronary heart disease falls to the same as someone who has never smoked.
  • If you have quit smoking before age 50 you have halved the risk of dying in the next 15 years compared with continuing smokers.1
Table 1 - Quit Smoking Timeline - What happens when smokers quit.

More Benefits of Giving Up Smoking

The health related benefits outlined in the quitting smoking timeline above will be the main advantages of giving up to many smokers.

However, family members, friends, colleagues and associates who don't smoke will also probably benefit from you stopping too.

Not least of all because of the effects of second hand smoke.

See: quit smoking benefits and quitting facts.


1. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. The health benefits of smoking cessation. U S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. Centers for Disease Control. Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Office on Smoking and Health. DHHS Publication No. (CDC) 90-8416. 1990.

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of smoking: nicotine addiction a report of the surgeon general. (1988) Atlanta, GA.

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