If you’re a regular smoker, it may seem impossible to quit. Nicotine does that to you—it tricks your brain into thinking that it’s a necessary part of your lifestyle.
But cigarettes are designed to give you a small reward in return for chronic body issues. They have devastating, long-term effects that become harder and harder to reverse the longer you continue to smoke.
Smokers are at risk for many different types of cancers, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease, along with other issues. But there’s a link between mental health and smoking as well. If you’re living with a mental health condition, you’re about 34% more likely to be a smoker than someone without a mental health condition.
Once you quit smoking for good, not only will your physical health significantly improve—your mental health will improve too. It might seem like a huge mountain to climb now, but people who quit smoking report a wide range of benefits.
Here are the top 10 benefits of quitting smoking that your body will thank you for:
Nicotine releases dopamine in your brain, the “feel-good” chemical that triggers positive feelings and pleasure. If you’re living with depression or anxiety, that dopamine hit from nicotine might feel like a quick and easy way to get relief from your symptoms.
However, once your brain becomes more dependent on nicotine to get dopamine instead of producing it on its own, your mood could get worse in between sessions. Since your body is going through withdrawal, you’re more likely to feel even more sad or anxious until your next cigarette.
Once you quit for good, you won’t have to constantly put your body through withdrawal. Research has suggested that quitting smoking could actually help improve your mental health in the long run. Another study has shown that people who quit smoking have reported being happier and having a better quality of life overall.
When you’re a regular smoker, you’re not at risk of lung cancer only. Other cancers you’re at risk for include cancers of the:
According to the American Cancer Society, your risk of developing mouth, throat, and larynx cancers is cut in half around 5-10 years after quitting.
After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer is about half that of a person who has been smoking for the same amount of time. Your risk of bladder, esophagus, and kidney cancer also decreases at the 10-year mark.
Smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease and causes one of every four deaths due to heart problems.
Once you quit for good, your risk of developing coronary heart disease decreases significantly. Within minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate will drop to healthy levels, and within a few days, your risk of heart disease will begin to decrease.
According to the CDC, your risk of heart attack drops significantly in the first 1-2 years after quitting. After 3-6 years, the added risk of coronary heart disease decreases by half. And after 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease will drop to levels similar to someone who doesn’t smoke.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, quitting smoking will still help reduce the risk of having a first (or another) heart attack, premature death, and death from heart disease.
Smoking can cause high blood pressure and poor blood circulation, which can lead to many health problems.
In as little as 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure will begin to drop. After 24 hours, the nicotine level in your blood will drop to zero. And after several days, the carbon monoxide level in your blood will drop to the level of someone who doesn’t smoke at all. After two weeks, your blood circulation will improve.
Ever notice how a lot of smokers have a “smoker’s cough”? That’s because smoking inhibits your air passageways and restricts your lung function, causing you to cough repeatedly.
As your body adjusts to the absence of cigarettes, your lungs will function better and you’ll have an easier time breathing.
You’ll also reduce your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. If you’ve already been diagnosed with COPD, quitting smoking will slow the progression of the disease and will reduce the loss of your lung function over time.
If you have asthma, quitting smoking can help reduce symptoms and improve your response to medicine.
If you become pregnant, it’s highly advised that you quit smoking in order to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. The best time to quit is before you try to get pregnant, but quitting at any time during your pregnancy will still benefit you and your baby’s health.
When you quit smoking before or early in pregnancy, you reduce your risk of having a small gestational age baby. You will also eliminate or reduce the chance of any negative effects smoking could have on the fetus as it develops over time.
Quitting smoking will also reduce your risk of delivering a low birth weight or preterm baby.
Smoking over a long period of time can affect your appearance. Nicotine will stain your teeth and fingers and make them yellow. You can develop premature wrinkles and even psoriasis when you smoke over a long period of time.
When you quit smoking, your risk of developing skin conditions or gum disease will decrease significantly. Your skin will benefit from the improved blood circulation, and you’ll naturally have a “healthy glow” that will make you look younger.
It’s hard to smell anything over too much cigarette smoke! Research has also suggested that long-term smoking can affect your sense of smell and dull your taste buds. When you quit smoking, your sense of smell and taste will come back with a vengeance.
The prices of cigarettes—not including the price your body pays—keeps getting higher every year. The average price for a pack of cigarettes across America is about $6.28, which means that a pack a day could set you back $194 a month, or $2,328 a year. If you live in states like New York or Illinois, where a pack can cost up to $12, you’re spending even more per year.
When you quit smoking, you’re basically giving yourself a bonus at the end of the year. What would you do with an extra $2,328?
If you’d like to see specifically how much you’d save based on your own state, click here.
Probably the most important benefit to quitting smoking is that you’ll live a longer life. Once you quit smoking, you add as much as 10 years to your life expectancy. That’s 10 more years to spend with your friends and family, hang out with your pets, see the world, or do whatever you want without your smoking habit weighing you down.
Tobacco products may be highly addictive, but they’re not impossible to quit. If you’re struggling with quitting, some tips you can try include:
For more resources on quitting smoking, visit the CDC website.
Medically reviewed by: David Mou, MD, MBA