Cigarette Smoking and Vaping

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What happens after you quit smoking?

Cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, but quitting can be daunting.
Many fear it will take a long time to see improvements in health and well-being, but the timeline for seeing real benefits is faster than most people realize.
Health benefits begin in as little as an hour after the last cigarette and continue to improve.

Fast facts on quitting smoking:

Here are some key points about smoking cessation. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
Quitting smoking means breaking the cycle of addiction and essentially rewiring the brain to stop craving nicotine.
To be successful, smokers that want to quit need to have a plan in place to beat cravings and triggers.
The benefits of quitting smoking begin in as little as 1 hour after the last cigarette.
The sooner a smoker quits, the faster they will reduce their risk of cancer, heart and lung disease, and other conditions related to smoking.


The benefits are almost instant. As soon as a person stops smoking their body begins to recover in the following ways:

After 1 hour

In as little as 20 minutes after the last cigarette is smoked, the heart rate drops and returns to normal. Blood pressure begins to drop, and circulation may start to improve.

After 12 hours

Cigarettes contain a lot of known toxins including carbon monoxide, a gas present in cigarette smoke.
This gas can be harmful or fatal in high doses and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs and blood. When inhaled in large doses in a short time, suffocation can occur from lack of oxygen.
After just 12 hours without a cigarette, the body cleanses itself of the excess carbon monoxide from the cigarettes. The carbon monoxide level returns to normal, increasing the body’s oxygen levels.

After 1 day

Just 1 day after quitting smoking, the risk of heart attack begins to decrease.
Smoking raises the risk of developing coronary heart disease by lowering good cholesterol, which makes heart-healthy exercise harder to do. Smoking also raises blood pressure and increases blood clots, increasing the risk of stroke.
In as little as 1 day after quitting smoking, a person’s blood pressure begins to drop, decreasing the risk of heart disease from smoking-induced high blood pressure. In this short time, a person’s oxygen levels will have risen, making physical activity and exercise easier to do, promoting heart-healthy habits.

After 2 days

Smoking damages the nerve endings responsible for the senses of smell and taste. In as little as 2 days after quitting, a person may notice a heightened sense of smell and more vivid tastes as these nerves heal.

After 3 days

3 days after quitting smoking, the nicotine levels in a person’s body are depleted. While it is healthier to have no nicotine in the body, this initial depletion can cause nicotine withdrawal. Around 3 days after quitting, most people will experience moodiness and irritability, severe headaches, and cravings as the body readjusts.

After 1 month

In as little as 1 month, a person’s lung function begins to improve. As the lungs heal and lung capacity improves, former smokers may notice less coughing and shortness of breath. Athletic endurance increases and former smokers may notice a renewed ability for cardiovascular activities, such as running and jumping.

After 1-3 months

For the next several months after quitting, circulation continues to improve.

After 9 months

Nine months after quitting, the lungs have significantly healed themselves. The delicate, hair-like structures inside the lungs known as cilia have recovered from the toll cigarette smoke took on them. These structures help push mucus out of the lungs and help fight infections.
Around this time, many former smokers notice a decrease in the frequency of lung infections because the healed cilia can do their job more easily.

After 1 year

One year after quitting smoking, a person’s risk for coronary heart disease decreases by half. This risk will continue to drop past the 1-year mark.

After 5 years

Cigarettes contain many known toxins that cause the arteries and blood vessels to narrow. These same toxins also increase the likelihood of developing blood clots.
After 5 years without smoking, the body has healed itself enough for the arteries and blood vessels to begin to widen again. This widening means the blood is less likely to clot, lowering the risk of stroke.
The risk of stroke will continue to reduce over the next 10 years as the body heals more and more.

After 10 years

After 10 years, a person’s chances of developing lung cancer and dying from it are roughly cut in half compared with someone who continues to smoke. The likelihood of developing mouth, throat, or pancreatic cancer has significantly reduced.

After 15 years

After 15 years of having quit smoking, the likelihood of developing coronary heart disease is the equivalent of a non-smoker. Similarly, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer has reduced to the same level as a non-smoker.

After 20 years

After 20 years, the risk of death from smoking-related causes, including both lung disease and cancer, drops to the level of a person who has never smoked in their life. Also, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer has reduced to that of someone who has never smoked.


Smoking is a harmful habit that can lead to severe health complications and death. When a person quits smoking, the body will start to naturally heal and regain the vitality of a non-smoker over time.
Some effects, such as lowered blood pressure, are seen almost immediately. Other effects, such as risks of developing lung cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, take years to drop down to the levels of a non-smoker.
However, each year of not smoking decreases risks and improves overall health, making quitting smoking an excellent choice for anyone who started the habit.
Last medically reviewed on November 19, 2018
RespiratoryVascularCancer / OncologySmoking / Quit Smoking
Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Jenna Fletcher on November 19, 2018

Vaping: Is it bad for you?

Does vaping without nicotine have any side effects?

The safety and long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes or other vaping products still aren’t well known. In September 2019, federal and state health authorities began investigating an outbreak of a severe lung disease associated with e-cigarettes and other vaping productsTrusted Source. We’re closely monitoring the situation and will update our content as soon as more information is available.
Vaping, which is the act of vaporizing a liquid to inhale, is an increasingly popular alternative to cigarette smoking.
Some manufacturers of vape products claim that vaping is a completely safe alternative to smoking. However, early research into the safety of vaping suggests that this is not the case. In fact, it appears that vaping, even without nicotine, can have harmful effects on the body.
In this article, we discuss the current research on the side effects of vaping without nicotine.

What is e-liquid?

The type of e-liquid that a person uses can influence side effects.
E-liquid refers to the liquid that vape devices or electronic cigarettes vaporize. People may also refer to it as e-juice or vape juice. The side effects that a person experiences when vaping depend partly on the type of e-liquid that they use.
The specific components of e-liquids vary among brands and products. The base liquid is generally a mix of ingredients such as water, vegetable glycerine, and propylene glycol. Manufacturers then add different flavorings or additives to this mix to create a particular flavor.
Many of these ingredients have a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)Trusted Source certification for use in food products. However, the vaping process heats and vaporizes these ingredients. There is little research to suggest that food-grade ingredients are safe for vaping.


Vaping without nicotine prevents nicotine dependence and other side effects that have an association with nicotine.
However, vaping without nicotine can also cause side effects, including those below.

General toxicity

Many of the chemicals in e-liquids may have toxic effects on the body. A 2012 laboratory study found that these effects were due not to nicotine but to the chemicals that manufacturers use to flavor e-liquids. Importantly, this was also the case for e-liquids that contained food-grade ingredients.
The findings of a 2015 study showed that heating the propylene glycol and glycerol in e-liquids creates compounds that release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning that it has the potential to cause cancer.
A more recent study investigated the effects of e-liquid on young vape users. The study compared three groups of adolescents: those who used e-cigarettes only (e-only), those who used e-cigarettes in addition to smoking standard cigarettes (e+), and those who had never used either (control).
Overall, the study showed that vaping was less damaging than cigarette smoking. However, adolescents in the e-only group had significantly higher quantities of toxic chemicals in their urine compared with those in the control group. These chemicals included:
propylene oxide
Other research supports these findings, showing that heating up and vaporizing e-liquid chemicals makes them especially toxic to lung cells. As a result, the researchers “caution against the widely held opinion that e-cigarettes are safe.”

Lung and throat irritation

In the short term, vaping e-liquid can irritate the lungs and throat. People who vape often refer to this as “throat hit.” This term describes the tingling, burning sensation that a person experiences as they inhale the vapor.
This sensation comes from heating and inhaling the chemicals in the e-liquid. As the authors of an e-cigarette study in Tobacco Induced Diseases note, inhaling large amounts of propylene glycol and glycerol can irritate the airways. They also point out that the levels of these chemicals in the e-cigarette are high enough to cause irritation after just one puff.


A 2018 study found that several common e-liquid flavoring ingredients caused a damaging inflammatory response in lung cell samples. The e-liquids that the study included did not contain nicotine.
Chronic inflammation of lung tissue can lead to irreversible scarring in the lungs.
Larger scale studies in humans will help establish the long term risks that e-liquid vapors pose to lung tissue. However, early evidence suggests that they have a damaging effect on these organs.


Taking deep breaths may help resist the urge to smoke cigarettes.
Many people say that vaping helps them resist the urge to smoke cigarettes, but it does come with risks, even without nicotine.
People can look for alternatives to vaping that satisfy some of the things that they enjoy about the habit. Some examples include:
Drinking sparkling water: The tingling, burning feeling from drinking a carbonated beverage may cause a sensation that resembles throat hit.
Chewing gum: Chewing flavored gum, with or without nicotine, may provide an enjoyable flavor experience similar to that of vaping.
Playing with a toothpick: Holding a toothpick in the mouth helps distract the hands and mouth, which can take away a person’s urge to smoke or vape.
Eating sunflower seeds: The act of eating sunflower seeds requires a person to put their hand to their mouth repeatedly. This repetitive movement mimics those that a person makes when taking drags from a vape, which can help alleviate the urge to vape.
Taking deep breaths: Using a vape often requires a person to take very deep breaths that they may not take otherwise. Taking several very deep breaths may help reduce the urge to vape.

Vaping without nicotine vs. smoking cigarettes

A large body of research focuses on the negative effects of cigarettes. This evidence is partly why vaping became popular in the first place.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source note that cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States, making it responsible for almost 20% of all deaths. The risks of cigarette smoking are very likely, therefore, to be more significant than the risks of vaping without nicotine.
However, many manufacturers falsely claim that their vape products are completely safe. On the contrary, a growing body of evidence suggests that vaping also carries health risks.
To fully understand the long term risks of vaping, scientists will need to conduct large scale studies over many years. Nonetheless, initial research suggests that vaping with or without nicotine is harmful to the body.


Vaping can have many side effects, even when the e-liquid does not contain nicotine. Despite qualifying as food-grade ingredients, the flavorings and additives in e-liquids can have numerous harmful effects on the body when a person heats and vaporizes them.
Research shows that the chemicals in e-liquid may have particularly harmful effects on lung tissue. Heating these chemicals can also trigger the release of carcinogens.
Research into the safety of vaping is still in its early stages, and large scale studies are necessary to establish the long term risks. However, the results of early research show that vaping, even without nicotine, is not a completely safe alternative to cigarette smoking.
Medically reviewed by Kevin Martinez, M.D. — Written by Jon Johnson on September 27, 2019

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