Quit Smoking Timeline: What Happens When You Quit?

Tempted to quit? Now is as good a time as any.

Quitting smoking is one of the best decisions you could possibly make. Not only will this choice make a drastic improvement on your lifestyle, but it will also alter your health in countless ways.

Going ‘cold turkey’ is one way you can quit smoking. Evidence suggests that nine out of every 10 smokers will attempt to quit cold turkey, without taking any medications or using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).[1]

Once you quit smoking, some benefits can begin almost immediately. Explore the timeline below to see all of the positive side effects that you will start experiencing, both in the short and long-term.

20 minutes after you quit smoking:

When you smoke, nicotine will cause a short-term increase in your blood pressure and heart rate. It will also cause your arteries to narrow.[2]

Within 20 minutes after you quit smoking, your heart rate will drop and your blood pressure and pulse will return to normal.[3] 

2 hours after you quit smoking:

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms typically start around this timeframe.[4] These include: intense cravings, anxiety, tension, depression, irritability, and headaches, among others.[5] The good news is that these symptoms are temporary, and they generally begin to fade within the next three or four weeks.[6]

While some of these symptoms might be uncomfortable, this is your body’s reaction to having less nicotine. Think of these symptoms as a sign you’re making progress.

8 hours after you quit smoking:

In just eight hours after you quit smoking, your blood oxygen levels will have increased to normal, while carbon monoxide and nicotine levels have fallen by half.[7] The carbon monoxide found in cigarettes is responsible for reducing blood flow. This chemical also increases the amount of fatty acids, glucose, and various hormones in your blood stream when you smoke.[8]

24 hours after you quit smoking:

It might be hard to believe but after one full day of quitting smoking, your risk of heart attack will rapidly drop.[9]

Those who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day have more than twice the risk of having a heart attack compared to non-smokers.[10] According to the National Cancer Institute, people who smoke are up to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack. The good news – these threats are now behind you!

48 hours after you quit smoking:

Time to celebrate! After 48 hours, there is no carbon monoxide in your body and no nicotine.[11]

What does this mean, exactly? Well for starters, no nicotine means your ability to taste and smell has improved. You can also breathe easier because your lungs are now free of mucous and other debris left behind from cigarettes.[12]

After a week

This is huge. Studies suggest that smokers who make it through the first seven days are nine times more likely to be successful in the long term.[13] In just seven days, you will have made a huge step towards quitting for good.

2-3 weeks after you quit smoking:

After a few weeks, your circulation will have improved[14] and your lungs will relax so you will be able to breath much more easily[15]. You may also feel increased energy[16] meaning that you can exercise without feeling out of breath or sick.

One year after you quit smoking:

This is a huge milestone! After a year of being smoke-free, your risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half.[17]

Coronary heart disease occurs when plaque builds up in your arteries. Over time, this can lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmias, or in extreme cases, even death.[18]