On May, 31 we celebrated the World No-Tobacco Day. A yearly recurrence sponsored by the World Health Organization, to encourage people to stop smoking and to raise awareness about the damages caused by smoking cigarettes.

Why is quitting smoking so important? And what does happen in our body from the very moment we stop introducing nicotine in it?

We asked Doctor Licia Siracusano, oncologist and supervisor of the Stop Smoking Clinic at Humanitas.

Lowered heart rate – after 20 minutes

Quitting smoking is already good from the beginning. After twenty minutes your heart rate will get lower, going back to normal.

Normalization of blood pressure levels – after 2 hours

If you don’t smoke for two hours, your heart rate will get lower, your blood pressure levels will start going back to normal, and the blood flow gets better.

Drop in carbon monoxide levels in the body – after 12 hours

Carbon monoxide gets released by burning tobacco, that gets inhaled while you smoke. This substance bonds very well to blood cells. Thus high carbon monoxide levels in the body may hinder the bond of cells with oxygen, leading to oxygen shortages in the blood and consequent cardiovascular issues.

12 hours after the last cigarette, carbon monoxide levels drop and oxygen levels rise.

Reduction of coronary artery disease risk – after 24 hours

Smokers are 70% more likely to develop coronary artery disease (one of the most common heart diseases) than non-smokers. Together with the coronary artery disease risk, heart stroke risk gets lower too.

Recovery of the sense of taste and smell – after 2 days

By quitting smoking, you encourage the growth of nerve endings, thus restoring your sense of taste and smell. After 3 days, lung capacity gets better as well.

Improved look of skin and hair – after 2-8 weeks

Skin and hair get a healthier look. The hair look shinier, the skin gets suppler and wrinkles diminish.

Less coughing and shortness of breath – after 1-9 months

After a month without cigarettes, lung cilia (tiny structures that expel mucus from lungs) start recovering. If they are healthy, they are able to fight infections and free the lungs in an efficient fashion. Having free lungs significantly reduces coughing and shortness of breath.

A lower risk of heart diseases, lung diseases and tumors

After a year, your risk of cardiovascular diseases will drop. Instead, after five years, the risk of stroke and neoplastic disease will drop.

After 15 years since the last cigarette, your risk of cardiovascular disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and tumor, is the same as non-smokers.