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What are the Effects of Quitting Smoking?

Anna T.
Anna T.

The effects of quitting smoking are typically both physical and mental. Physical effects may include headaches, sore throat, and coughing. Some of the mental effects a person might experience after quitting smoking are anxiety, depression, and feelings of restlessness. All of these feelings are temporary and are gone for most people within a few weeks to one month. The mental effects tend to last longer than the physical effects.

Physical effects of quitting smoking do not usually last more than one week. The reason for the headaches and cold symptoms a person might experience after he or she stops smoking are related to the fact that the body expects the nicotine at regular intervals throughout the day. Not receiving the nicotine when the body expects it can cause adverse reactions and make a person feel very sick overall. After about three days, the nicotine will have left the body's system, and the body's addiction to the substance will start to go away. At the end of one week, the physical symptoms have usually also subsided, and a person may be dealing only with the mental effects of quitting smoking at that point.

Cigarettes in an ashtray.
Cigarettes in an ashtray.

A person who is experiencing the mental effects of quitting smoking probably feels as though he or she is on an emotional roller coaster ride. It is not unusual for someone who gives up cigarettes to feel happy one minute and sad or angry the next for a few weeks. Many people also complain of feeling restless and jittery. Insomnia may be a problem as well, and when sleep occurs it might be filled with vivid or disturbing dreams. Most people who make it at least three weeks without a cigarette will have gotten through the worst of the mental side effects.

Woman smoking a cigarette.
Woman smoking a cigarette.

Quitting smoking is very hard for many people, but there are ways to make the withdrawal process somewhat easier. It may be a good idea for a person who has recently kicked the habit to try to keep busy as often as possible. If the mind is occupied with other things, he or she probably won't be as likely to think of cigarettes. Many people who quit smoking often feel like they need to have something in their hands all the time to replace the cigarette that used to be there. It might be a good idea to get in the habit of carrying around a pen or something similar until that feeling goes away.

Smoke rising from a cigarette.
Smoke rising from a cigarette.

Doctors can also prescribe medications that may help a person get through the process of quitting smoking. There are nicotine pills, patches, and gums that might be useful to take until the worst of the side effects are over. The most important effects of quitting smoking are those related to overall health. No matter how bad the initial side effects are, in the long run most people are doing their bodies a favor by reducing their risks of cancer, heart disease, and many other health problems that are associated with smoking.

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Discussion Comments


@irontoenail - Another useful technique to use is also purely psychological but it really helped me when I was trying to quit. I basically started a strict diet at the same time as quitting with the intention of continuing both as long as possible, but putting a much higher priority on the smoking.

So whenever I got to the point where I was craving a cigarette like mad, I would eat some chocolate or otherwise break the diet instead. That way I got to break the rules and get some relief, but didn't smoke and fall prey to the addiction again.

It's not an easy way to quit smoking, but it worked for me.


@pastanaga - Speaking of exercise, that's actually a really good thing to start or to ramp up as part of an attempt to stop smoking. I found that if I exercised very hard, to the point where I was breathing heavily, and then imagined smoking right at that moment, it was a really good psychological deterrent.

Of course the exercise also just makes you feel better in general, which can help to counter-act the negative effects of quitting smoking, like the depression and anxiety. And it can just make you feel good about your health in general, since you'll soon be able to do things that you might not have been able to achieve when you were smoking.

I know I was quite happy when I was finally able to climb a couple of flights of stairs without having to stop or collapse at the top and hack out a lung while I was at it.


Nicotine is stored in fat, so it can take a while for it to completely leave your system. This is why people often crave cigarettes after finishing a workout when they are quitting. Fortunately having a good workout can help you to resist restarting because of the confidence boost. But it does help to be aware of why you might suddenly have a craving for cigarettes even when you gave them up months ago.

It took a long time for it to completely leave my system, but I'm a fairly heavy person so that might have made a difference.

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