If someone emailed you about an opportunity to cut in half the odds that you’d come down with a debilitating, quality-of-life-diminishing disease, would you do it?  Think about it – the risk for lung cancer cut in half. 

What if the risk of developing that disease was halved within one year? Odds are, most people would leap at that chance. 

That’s the quality-of-life improvement that follows the act of quitting smoking. Smoking cessation has near-immediate health benefits.  [Go to Quitline, Maryland’s free smoking-cessation assistance program or dial 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help kicking the habit.]

According to the American Lung Association, within 20 minutes of a person smoking that last cigarette, their body begins a series of changes: 

  • Blood pressure decreases 
  • Pulse rate drops 
  • Body temperature of hands and feet increases 

At 8 hours:
  • Carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal 
  • Oxygen level in blood increases to normal 

At 24 hours:
  • Chance of a heart attack decreases 

At 48 hours:
  • Nerve endings start re-growing 
  • Abilities to smell and taste are enhanced 

The first year after quitting:

  • At 2 weeks to 3 months:
    • Circulation improves 
    • Walking becomes easier 
    • Lung function increases 

  • 1 to 9 months:
Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, shortness of breath decreases 

  • 1 year:
Excess risk of coronary heart disease is decreased to half that of a smoker 

Long-term Benefits of Quitting: 
  • At 5 years: from 5 to 15 years after quitting, stroke risk is reduced to that of people who have never smoked. 
  • At 10 years: 
    • Risk of lung cancer drops to as little as one-half that of continuing smokers 
    • Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decreases 
    • Risk of ulcer decrease 

  • At 15 years:
    • Risk of coronary heart disease is now similar to that of people who have never smoked 
    • Risk of death returns to nearly the level of people who have never smoked


Health risks of smoking: 
  • Increased risk of dying prematurely due to smoking-attributable diseases 
Cancer: 
    • 9 forms of lung cancer 
    • 9 other cancers (i.e., cancer of the liver, pancreas, kidney, larynx, esophagus, colorectal, cervical) 
  • Cardiovascular Disease 
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
  • Reduced lung function 
  • Impaired menstrual function 
  • Impaired reproductive function 
  • Loss of bone density and increased risk of bone fracture 

Again, if you are attempting to quit smoking or using tobacco products, visit Maryland’s free Quitline program​