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This is what happens to you when you stop smoking, step-by-step

The Jerusalem Post logo The Jerusalem Post 6/14/2022 By Dr. Emelia Hardak/Walla!

Deep breaths: Smoking pollution in Tel Aviv © (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE PEXELS) Deep breaths: Smoking pollution in Tel Aviv

Today most people know how harmful smoking is to health, and how important it is to avoid it. However, data from Maccabi Health Services show that the rate of smokers in Israel is still about 21.5%, which is ⅕ of the population. It’s estimated that smoking causes about 8000 deaths annually in Israel; 10% of these deaths result from passive smoking.

Smoking affects almost every organ and affects overall health, from general negative effects on the body to decreased immune function. Smoking causes about 90% of all lung cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 85% of all lung cancer cases could be prevented if cigarette smoking was stopped. Smoking is also the leading cause of bladder and pancreatic cancer and cancers of the mouth and throat.

And that's not all. Smokers suffer from many respiratory diseases besides lung cancer. Smoking causes about 80% of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease i.e. COPD, which is one of the leading causes of fatigue and eventual death among smokers. Smokers are several times more likely than non-smokers to develop heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

The good news is that stopping smoking is completely possible, and that a lot of the accumulated damage will dissipate as soon as you put out the last cigarette.

This is what will happen to your body when you stop smoking:

  • After 20 minutes, expect an improvement in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • After 8 hours, expect a 50% decrease in the level of carbon monoxide and nicotine.
  • After 24 hours nicotine is removed from the body. There’ll be an improvement in your sense of taste and smell.
  • After 48 hours, carbon dioxide is expected to return to normal levels. The mucous membrane of the respiratory tract is cleansed and the risk of myocardial infarction i.e. heart attack is reduced.
  • After 72 hours, you’ll be able to breathe better and energy levels will improve.
  • After 2-12 weeks, expect an improvement in blood circulation.
  • After 3-9 months a decrease in the amount of coughing and wheezing will be apparent.
  • After one year, there’s a 50% decrease in the risk of heart attack.
  • After ten years, the risk of lung cancer will be reduced by 50%. The risk of heart attack will be equal to the risk of someone who never smoked.

This is what you must know about tobacco

Tobacco products contain between 4000-7000 chemicals including about 350 hazardous substances and about 70 carcinogens. The main components of tobacco smoke are nicotine, tar (the residual particles from lighting up) and gasses such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Although nicotine can be toxic in very high doses, its toxic effect as an ingredient in tobacco smoke is generally considered "modest" compared to that of other toxins in smoke. The main health problem of nicotine is that it causes smoking to be addictive.


Most tobacco users are cigarette smokers who inhale tobacco smoke into their lungs, so it’s not surprising that active smoking and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke causes 90% of lung cancer cases. Also, smoking damage develops gradually. Changes in smoking habits, the number of cigarettes, genetic predisposition and other diseases all affect the timing of when damage starts to develop.


Dr. Emilia Hardak is a lung disease specialist at Maccabi Health Services and the director of the Lung Unit at Bnei Zion Hospital.


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