Change for the Better – The Benefits & Health Effects of Quitting Smoking

For decades, the slew of negative health effects of smoking has been widely documented, and yet it continues to hold an enormous grip on our society. Smoking actually remains the leading preventable cause of death in Australia, claiming the lives of approximately 24,000 people each year.  

There are a variety of factors that prolong the prevalence of tobacco smoking in our nation. New smokers turn to the harmful habit as a way of dealing with stress, or in the case of those in the younger stage of life, after falling into peer pressure from a wider group of smokers in an attempt to conform. Unfortunately, nicotine is highly addictive, and while over half of all smokers admit to wanting to quit, the process can cause some powerful hardships, resulting in only 6% of smokers who try to quit each year finding success. 

If you are looking to kick the harmful habit, then the key is finding the right motivations and benefits of quitting smoking for you. This is what you can use to focus your energy on when times get tough, specifically tailored to what is most important in your life. 

Naturally, there are an array of positive health effects in both the short-term and long-term stages of quitting smoking, spreading right from the first 20 minutes to decades later, lowering your risk for many debilitating and fatal diseases. 

It can also benefit those around you. Passive smoking is incredibly dangerous, adding 25% – 30% to the risk of non-smokers living with a smoker to develop serious conditions, such as heart disease. This especially harms children, those with breathing difficulties, and unborn babies. 

Consider the potential financial benefits of quitting smoking, too. Smoking-related illnesses cause great strain on the healthcare system, and governments across the world have applied large taxes on tobacco and smoking related products to both pay for this increase, and disincentivize smokers. The price of smoking is only increasing, leaving quitters set to save thousands of dollars each year. 

There are serious environmental and ecological benefits that can come from more people quitting smoking, as well. Wide Scale deforestation and ecological devastation is commonplace in the production and processing of tobacco. At the very least, it will cut back on the egregious amount of litter ash and cigarette butts in our public areas. 

There is motivation to be found in every smoker’s life, and some further research and education can help to cement it as the driver on your journey to quit.

Short- & Long-Term Stages of Quitting – A Roadmap for a Healthier Life After Smoking

It is important to recognize that quitting smoking is a journey, not a sprint. Many smokers often wrongly assume they have left it too late to see any real effects and health benefits. In actuality, there are a range of short term and long-term effects your body will thank you for after quitting smoking, broken down in a range of stages:

Health Effects & Benefits Within 1 Day:

  • Within in the first 20 minutes, your heat rate will begin to slow to healthier levels
  • In 6 hours, with a slowed heart rate, your blood pressure will start to stabilise
  • 12 hours after your last cigarette, the excessive amounts of carbon monoxide within your blood will be removed
  • Oxygen can more easily reach vital organs and muscles
  • Fingertips also become warmer, and you have a greater ability to steady your hands

Health Effects & Benefits Within 1 Week:

  • After 5 days, the majority of nicotine will have been expelled from your body
  • Your senses of smell and taste will markedly improve
  • Blood levels will include higher amounts of protective antioxidants (i.e. vitamin C).
  • Skin appearance is set to improve with greater elasticity and nourishment

Health Effects & Benefits Within 3 months:

  • Ex-smokers find their lungs to have an improved, natural cleaning system, clearing mucus, dust, and tar from their organs and reducing coughing and wheezing
  • Immune systems are now recovering to combat infections more effectively
  • Blood viscosity (thickness) is lowered, making it less ‘sticky’ in order to promote a better circulation to organs and extremities

Health Effects & Benefits Within 6 months:

  • Stress levels have significantly dropped
  • Coughing and shortness of breath continues to decrease as less phlegm is produced

Health Effects & Benefits Within 1 year:

  • Lung function is significantly improved, allowing for easier breathing
  • Lungs can also remove mucus as needed, providing optimal cleaning and reducing risk of infection
  • Your risk of heart disease has now halved

Health Effects & Benefits Beyond 1 year:

  • Within 5 years, the risk of strokes have noticeably decreased, and the risk of mouth, throat and larynx cancer is halved
  • Within 10 years, lung cancer risk is now half of that of a smoker, as well as decreases in the risk of cancer in the bladder, oesophagus and kidney. 
  • Within 15 years, the risk of stroke and heart attack is comparable to a person who has never been a smoker. 

The Real Benefits of Quitting Smoking Beyond Our Personal Health Effects

As we mentioned above, although quitting smoking can have a range of positive health effects in both the immediate and prolonged stages of your journey, there will also be tremendous benefits in other aspects of your life. 

Reducing the amount of smoke you expel into communal air could actually be saving lives. Second-hand smoke, or passive smoking, causes 1.2 million non-smokers deaths per year worldwide. In Australia, 11% of deaths related to smoking will actually be a non-smoker who has developed a smoking-related disease through passive exposure alone. This could be a heart attack, severe asthma, cancer, diabetes and more. 

Then there is the financial aspect. Elevated taxation strategies and high margins placed on smoking products have made it an expensive hobby. Researchers say that a smoker consuming roughly a pack of cigarettes can save at least $9,000 per year after quitting, simply on tobacco and lighters alone. When you factor in the lower health care costs likely to be required, one of the serious benefits of quitting smoking could be the extra hundreds of thousands of dollars retained in the later stages of your life. 

And of course, there are the effects on the environment. Climate change is getting to the more frightening stages of its progression and becoming the great battle of our time. As a society, we need to be doing everything we can to mitigate its impact. Trees, for example, are crucial in absorbing the excess carbon dioxide present within the atmosphere, yet the tobacco industry is chopping down over 600 million trees every year in order to grow and process their harmful product. With lower demand for the product, naturally there will be lower production, saving our environments. 

There are a myriad of motivations to choose from that can fuel your next steps. Whether it be overcoming the negative health effects, or the financial and ecological benefits throughout the incremental stages of your journey, you need to find the right reasons for you personally to commit to quitting smoking. 

Dr Tom Bracewell


Dr. Tom Bracewell is a dual UK and Australian qualified General Practitioner (GP; Family Doctor) with a keen interest in various medical areas, including smoking cessation, acute and emergency care, sports medicine, and pediatrics. Additionally, Tom is passionate about exploring the efficiencies and advancements that digital health can bring to patient populations. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Nottingham and gained valuable experience working in hospitals across Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and London, where he worked in different hospital specialties.

During his General Practice training at the Whittington Hospital in North London, Tom embarked on an 18-month endeavor in Melbourne, where he worked in the fast-paced emergency department of The Northern Hospital. This experience not only allowed him to gain invaluable expertise in acute and emergency care but also provided insights into rural medicine. After returning to the UK to complete his GP qualification, he decided to return to Melbourne in 2021 to continue his career in General Practice. With over 10 years of experience spanning hospital medicine, digital health, and general practice, Tom brings a wealth of expertise to his patients.

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