A timeline of quitting smoking
On the journey to becoming nicotine-free, having a clear timeline of how your body recovers and rewards you can be hugely motivational. Quitting smoking can be a tough challenge, and having that clear path mapped out can serve as a lil’ pick-me-up when the nicotine cravings start to kick in. Knowing what to expect as you’re kicking the habit will also allow you to enjoy all the health benefits of being smoke-free, especially as there are many significant stages to quitting
WHY QUIT SMOKING
It is no secret that smoking is extremely detrimental - the habit is known to cause over 480,000 deaths in the US alone. Whilst the average consumer is pretty clued up on the negative effects of smoking, nicotine is one of the most addictive substances out there - which makes the habit really hard to kick. But, with the help of modern-day help such as smoking cessation products and quitting apps, the path to a nicotine-free life has undoubtedly become easier.
The facts are in your favour: it is widely known that smoking products aren’t easy on your health. Take traditional cigarettes, for example: they are made with approximately 600 ingredients, 69 of which are widely known to cause cancer. From acetone (found in nail polish remover), to carbon monoxide (found in car exhaust fumes) and hexamine (found in barbecue lighter fluid), the line-up isn’t an appealing one.
Cigarettes aren’t the only villains here: vapes and other devices brought to life by Big Tobacco aren't innocent either. From heavy metals, to ultra-fine particles that are detrimental to your lung health, these devices aren’t easy on your heart and lungs. Additionally, due to the huge volume of nicotine contained in e-cigarettes (often higher than traditional ones), they are highly addictive, making your journey to a nicotine-free life even harder.
Not only does smoking affect your physical health, but it also has heaps of negative effects on your mental wellbeing. It’s a common misconception that smoking helps you relax, when, in fact, nicotine consumption can considerably increase anxiety and tension. According to research, quitting smoking can be as effective as antidepressants if you’re struggling with mental health issues. Research revealed that ‘quitting smoking was associated with significant decreases in anxiety, mixed anxiety and depression, stress, as well as a significant improvement in the psychological quality of life, when compared with continuing to smoke’.
THE TIMELINE OF QUITTING
When deciding to part ways with nicotine, having a clear timeline detailing all the mini-milestones that your body encounters along the way can serve as major motivation. In fact, the recovery process is sprinkled with physical and mental accomplishments to keep you going. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of everything that you encounter on your journey to becoming nicotine free:
After 20 minutes
Smoking considerably increases your heart rate by altering your blood’s chemistry; this can cause plaque - a waxy substance made of cholesterol, scar tissue, calcium, fat and other material build up. This causes the blood to thicken, which makes it harder for blood cells to move through the arteries and other blood vessels and get to the heart and brain. That being said, it only takes twenty minutes after finishing your last cigarette for your blood pressure and pulse rate to return to normal.
After 8 hours
Due to nicotine’s highly addictive nature and its capability to absorb into the bloodstream quickly, smoking causes a head rush that wears off quickly - causing smokers to seek it time and time again. However, around eight hours after your last nicotine encounter, the carbon monoxide in your blood drops to around half, which means your oxygen levels will slowly be returning to normal.
After 48 hours
The chemicals in cigarette smoke clog up your lungs, which can impact breathing, energy levels and oxygen intake. Two days into being nicotine-free, your lungs will start clearing out, and your bloodstream will be free of any chemicals. By this point, there is no nicotine left in your system.
Another mini-milestone is a slight improvement in your ability to taste and smell. Smoking considerably numbs your senses, but you will be able to slowly rediscover the world after just 48 hours!
After 72 hours
Half into your first week of quitting, you may be experiencing some withdrawal symptoms and irritability. However, hold tight - at this point, your bronchial tubes have started to relax, which will help boost the levels of oxygen in your bloodstream!
After 4 weeks
At this point in time, smoking-related symptoms will have decreased - you will experience a lot less fatigue and shortness of breath. Your withdrawal symptoms should have almost completely passed, which means you will also experience less tension and irritability. You are bound to experience a sense of heightened overall energy and be in a better state of mind.
After 3 months
Not only has your lung function increased significantly, but your blood circulation is also gradually getting better. This will result in a major improvement in skin quality - cue a more glowing, clearer complexion. Fertility issues will have also been deemed down at this point.
After 1 year
This certainly is a celebratory moment - you are experiencing most of the benefits of quitting smoking! Your lungs are functioning heaps better, breathing becomes easier and the risk of heart attack will be half of someone who is still smoking.
After 3 years
Your risk of heart attack has decreased even more, as well as your risk of lung cancer dropping significantly. At this point, various aspects of your life have improved considerably; from your sex life, to your social life and the amount of money you have saved.
After 10 years
Your risk of heart attack is now the same as someone who was never a smoker. Additionally, your risk of bladder, esophagus and kidney cancer has decreased significantly, as the precancerous cells have been replaced with healthy cells. After this milestone, your lungs will continue to heal.