This quitting smoking timeline will be of interest to anybody who has just quit or is planning to quit and wants to know how long they are likely to have to put up with the symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms can vary from person to person but in this article we will show an example quitting smoking timeline that the average person might expect when they stop smoking ‘cold turkey’.
If you use any kind of nicotine replacement therapies then symptoms are likely to last longer (although they may not be so severe) because the body is still getting nicotine and the addiction continues. If you use certain other therapies such as acupuncture or prescribed medications, you may escape experiencing some of the symptoms. So this quitting smoking timeline can only be an approximate guide and will not apply to every individual.
Quitting Smoking Timeline
20 minutes after finishing your last cigarette, your pulse, blood pressure and the temperature of your hands and feet will be back to your normal.
After 8 hours, the nicotine in your bloodstream will have fallen to around 6% of its maximum. Blood oxygen and carbon monoxide levels will be normal.
After 24 hours, anxiety will peak. On the positive side, your risk of a heart attack is already beginning to fall.
After 2 days, irritability is at its highest, but damaged nerves are beginning to heal and your senses of smell and taste will be improving. Already your body is experiencing significant benefits from quitting.
After 3 days, cravings will peak. This is not the end of cravings by any means but they will start to become less frequent and less intense after today. The lungs begin to heal and breathing starts to become easier. Your body would now test 100% nicotine free.
After 1 week, you are probably experiencing craving around three times a day. If you time your cravings, you will find that they only last two to three minutes, though it probably feels a lot longer. Keep telling yourself that you only have to hold out a couple of minutes each time.
After 2 weeks, cravings have dropped to an average of once per day.
After 3 weeks, receptors in the brain have returned to normal. Craving episodes will be rare after this. You may still think about smoking often, but that is not the same as craving. Being an ex-smoker is much easier from here.
After 3 months, the risk of smoking-related heart attack will be significantly less. Circulation has improved. If you catch a cold, you will be less congested and symptoms should clear up faster than they did when you smoked. Lung function is better and physical activity like climbing stairs will be much easier. If you had a smoking-related cough, it should have cleared (if not, see a doctor).
After 1 year, the extra risk that smokers have of suffering heart attack and stroke has reduced to half what it was when you smoked.
After this, the rate that things improve will depend even more on individual factors like how long you smoked, the age you were when you started, and how many cigarettes you smoked per day. As a very rough guide for the average person:
10 years: your risks of developing stroke, diabetes or pancreatic cancer are the same as for a person who never smoked. Lung cancer risk has reduced by up to 50% of the extra risk that applies to a smoker.
15 years: your risk of developing coronary heart disease is the same as that of a person who never smoked.
20 years: your risk of all smoking-related diseases is virtually back to what it would be if you had never smoked.
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Remember that these are rough averages and cannot be assumed to apply to individual cases. Non-smokers can suffer from lung cancer and other diseases too. We are not medically qualified and neither this quitting smoking timeline nor any of the other information on this site is intended to provide health advice of any nature.