The First Two Days After You Quit Smoking

How Your Body Reacts to Smoking Cessation

Hand holding cigarette in ashtray
Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images

When you quit smoking, the health benefits begin within minutes of your last cigarette. According to the Surgeon General, physical improvements in your body begin within the first hour of smoking cessation.

At 20 minutes after quitting

At 8 hours smoke-free

    At 24 hours smoke-free

    At 48 hours smoke-free

    • Nerve endings start to regrow.
    • Ability to smell and taste improves.

    That's a lot of improvement for just 48 hours of smoking cessation.

    The chemicals in cigarettes affect you in more ways than you realize. When you quit and start to see changes in the discomforts you've been living with, like headaches, chronic sinus irritation, and fatigue, for instance, you start to put two and two together.   

    That's not to say that every physical ailment can be traced to tobacco use, but you will probably be pleasantly surprised at some of the changes that take place once you stop smoking. Best of all, this is just the beginning. You can look forward to many additional improvements in the days and months to come.

    Make The Decision to Quit and Stick to It

    It takes courage to put down that last cigarette and start smoking cessation.

    Most people feel an intense combination of fear and excitement leading up to their quit date. Feeling afraid to quit smoking is completely normal and is a by-product of nicotine addiction.

    Don't let that fear paralyze you, however. Pick your quit date and stick to it. The benefits you'll experience in the short and long term are well worth the work it takes to achieve.

    Breaking the Dependence

    Years of associating everything you did in your life with smoking created powerful links in the chain of psychological dependence you had on nicotine.

    • You thought you enjoyed smoking.
    • You convinced yourself that smoking calmed your nerves and helped you think more clearly.
    • You thought of cigarettes as a friend, a companion, a buddy.
    • You thought smoking helped you have more fun and enjoy life more fully.

    Logically, you knew better, but addiction can make people rationalize and justify all kinds of crazy notions. You (understandably) like the feeling of relief you get when the nicotine level in your bloodstream is replenished.

    From the time a cigarette is stubbed out until the next one is lit, smokers are in a state of physical withdrawal from nicotine. The more time between cigarettes, the more severe the withdrawal, resulting in edginess, inability to concentrate, and even feelings of depression. It's a vicious, never-ending cycle.

    That is an addiction, not smoking enjoyment. You don't think of smoking as enslaving and self-destructive when you first start, but over time addiction quietly teaches you that you are weak and powerless. Most people want to stop long before they do.

    Support for Your Quit Program

    Support is a key ingredient to a solid quit smoking program. A smoking cessation support forum is a place to meet people who are going through what you are, or have been there and can offer constructive advice. Your resolve will be bolstered more than you can imagine just by being around others who have the same goals you do.

    Remember that quitting tobacco is a process. It takes time. Your courage to take that first step and throw the butts away is a choice you'll never regret making. Your life will improve a thousandfold when you have kicked tobacco out, once and for all.

    You'll have even more benefits from two weeks to three months of quitting.

    Sources:

    Alberg AJ, Shopland DR, Cummings KM. The 2014 Surgeon Generals Report: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Report of the Advisory Committee to the US Surgeon General and Updating the Evidence on the Health Consequences of Cigarette Smoking. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2014;179(4):403-412. doi:10.1093/aje/kwt335.

    Within 20 Minutes of Quitting. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2004/posters/20mins/.