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What to expect when you quit smoking

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Understanding the changes

It's helpful to know what to expect when you stop smoking, especially if you're not sure whether you want to change.

There are various important changes that happen when stopping smoking at any age. This is both in the short and the longer-term.

Most of them are positive changes but there can be some short-term negative ones to know about too.

Tobacco withdrawal

If you have moderate or high dependence to tobacco then you may have something called 'tobacco withdrawal'. See our smoking quiz to find out more.

Withdrawal symptoms usually peak after a few days and many people only have them for 10-14 days. Some symptoms can continue for up to 4 weeks after quitting. Common symptoms can include:

  • Urges to smoke - usually lasts more than 2 weeks
  • Increased appetite - usually lasts more than 10 weeks
  • Feeling more irritated than usual - usually lasts less than 4 weeks
  • Feeling down or depressed - usually lasts less than 4 weeks
  • Concentration problems - usually last less than 2 weeks

Tobacco withdrawal and weight gain

Some people can put on weight after they stop smoking. For some people, this can seem like one of the hardest symptoms of tobacco withdrawal.

One thing that may be helpful to keep in mind, is that the weight gain is less harmful to your health than smoking.

If you're concerned about putting on weight when you quit smoking, why not have a look at our advice on how to lose weight. Here you'll find sensible and safe information and tips for losing and keeping off weight.

Managing withdrawal symptoms and cravings to smoke

It's important to remember that these symptoms are usually mild and settle with time.

You may struggle with your emotions as a result of withdrawing from smoking. Find out more about managing emotions.

It may also pay to remind yourself that you're likely to have improved mental health as a result of stopping smoking. This will happen once these initial withdrawal effects have passed.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is a common treatment used to manage withdrawal symptoms. Learn more about NRT.

Managing cravings

It's likely that you'll have occasional, strong cravings to smoke during this time too. Remember that these symptoms are temporary.

They're positive signs that your body is adjusting to being tobacco free. Find advice on managing cravings.

You can also reduce or stop cravings with NRT. During withdrawal, the most important thing to do is not to smoke, not even a puff.

Short-term benefits

There are many positive short-term benefits to stopping smoking. These are to your mental and physical health, your finances and your lifestyle.

Health benefits from quitting smoking include:

  • More energy and less tiredness or fatigue Increased lung capacity meaning you're able to breathe more easily and cough less. This may mean it's easier to exercise and keep physically active.
  • Better mental health. This includes improved mood and reduced irritation (once any withdrawal has ended).
  • Better oral health. This includes better-smelling breath and an improved sense of taste and smell.
  • Improved immunity. This means you're less likely to get common, every day illnesses like colds and flu.
  • Better quality sex due to improved circulation and blood flow
  • You can also increase fertility by stopping smoking

You may also notice that you're less stressed and have improved self-esteem once you quit smoking. That's because you know you're making a healthy change for your future.

Every time you choose not to smoke, you'll also be saving money by not spending it on smoking. You might like to try SmokeFree Norfolk's savings calculator. This can help you work out the potential savings you could make from quitting smoking.

Longer-term outcomes

Longer term, you can expect to see extra benefits to yourself, your family and friends by quitting smoking. Some health benefits you can expect in the long term include:

  • Extending some of the short-term benefits that can come from stopping smoking
  • Living a longer, healthier life with an improved chance of having a disease free, mobile old age. On average people who quit smoking by the age of 30 can add as much as 10 years to their life. Those who quit at 60 can gain 3 years of good quality life.
  • A reduced risk of developing smoking related-diseases. These include heart disease, bronchitis and cancers.
  • A reduced risk of your family and friends developing diseases from inhaling your second-hand smoke. This is also known as 'passive smoking'.
  • Improved skin and fewer wrinkles and less skin discolouration

By stopping smoking you may be able to do more of those activities you want to be doing. For example, exercising and being active.

As you'll be less stressed, you may be better focused, and better company for family and friends.

You may also feel proud of yourself that you're setting a healthy example for your friends and family. You might even encourage others to quit smoking themselves.

SmokeFree Norfolk lists some of the health benefits from quitting smoking. The list includes benefits from as soon as 20 minutes afterwards to 10 years after you've quit.

What's next

If you're not sure if you'd like to quit smoking, why not weigh up the benefits and downsides to smoking. You can take a look at what a smoke-free future might look like.

If you'd like to learn how to use rewards to help you stop smoking, find out more about incentives.

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