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What happens when you quit smoking

So, you’ve recently said no to cigarettes once and for all. Find out what the immediate health — and financial — benefits are of quitting.

You stubbed out your last cigarette in your no-longer-in-use ashtray, and man, does it feel good. (Congratulations, by the way.)

Quitting smoking comes with tons of benefits. Your health starts improving almost as soon as you put out that last cigarette. And ex-smokers may get other perks too, such as lower plan rates for health care and life insurance. If you’re looking for more motivation to quit smoking, maybe these benefits will inspire you.

Interested in exploring a life insurance policy? Get more details now, or call a licensed agent at 1-844-211-7730 to discuss your options.

What happens to my body when I quit smoking?

Your body starts reaping the rewards of quitting almost immediately, and it continues for years to come. According to the American Cancer Society, these are some of the immediate health benefits you may experience after quitting smoking:

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • After a few days: The carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.
  • Between 2 weeks and 3 months: Your circulation improves and lung function increases.
  • Between 1 and 12 months: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 1 to 2 years: Your risk of a heart attack decreases dramatically.
  • Between 5 and 10 years: Your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and voice box is cut in half. Your stroke risk also decreases.
  • 10 years: Lung cancer risk is cut in half compared to someone who is still smoking (after 10 to 15 years). Your risk of cancer of the bladder, esophagus (the tube that connects your throat and stomach) and kidneys also declines.
  • 15 years: Your risk of coronary heart disease is comparable to that of a nonsmoker.

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What happens to my lungs when I quit smoking?

While smoking has negatively impacted your lungs, you can start to reverse those effects by quitting.

“While you may never have the same lung functioning as if you had never smoked, the good news is that when you quit smoking, you stop the damage that is being done to your lungs, and over time the lungs can stabilize and even recover in part,” says Sara Belton, Ph.D., R.N. She’s a nurse navigator for Providence Saint John’s Health Center’s Lung Screening Program at the Cardiothoracic Outpatient Clinic in Santa Monica, California.

Belton adds that after roughly 15 years of not smoking, your risk of lung cancer is cut in half compared to what it would have been if you’d never quit. “That can also make a big difference in both your quality and quantity of life, so it is best to quit smoking,” she says. “It’s never too late.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that certain people get a yearly lung cancer screening test called low-dose computed tomography (aka a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). During this test, you’ll lie down on a table, and a CT machine that uses a low amount of radiation will be used to take pictures of your lungs for your doctor to study.

Former smokers who meet the following criteria will want to have a lung cancer screening every year:

  • Are between 50 and 80 years old
  • Have a 20-pack-year or more smoking history
  • Have quit within the past 15 years

“Most insurance companies and Medicare require you to meet all the criteria for screening to be approved,” Belton says. If you don’t and are close or have concerns about your risk, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about getting a lung cancer screening, she adds.

“It’s worth checking with both your physician and your insurance company on what may be possible for your situation,” Belton says.

Need health insurance? Explore your options now, or contact a licensed agent at 1-844-211-7730.

How does quitting smoking affect my health insurance options?

Under the Affordable Care Act, you cannot be denied health insurance coverage because you are a smoker. However, insurance companies can charge smokers a higher premium.

When you do quit smoking, it’s important to notify your insurance company. While you may not receive a reduction on your insurance premiums right away, it’s possible that you could see reduced premiums when the policy renews for the next term. It’s also a good opportunity to find out what your insurance coverage is for lung cancer screenings.

In addition, you may qualify for other types of supplemental insurance, such as critical illness insurance and life insurance. You can talk with a licensed insurance agent who specializes in those types of policies to find out what you could qualify to purchase. Be sure to ask if there are any waiting periods before coverage kicks in — and ask if the premiums may decrease the longer you are a former smoker.

How can I get help with quitting smoking?

If you are inspired to quit smoking, there are some great options available to help you out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, has resources available, as well as a hotline you can call if you’re thinking about quitting. The number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Many health insurance companies also offer their own programs to help their policyholders quit smoking, so you can ask a licensed health insurance agent what is available for you (call one now at 1-844-211-7730). Types of care related to smoking cessation, such as counseling and prescription medications, may be covered by your health insurance (explore your options now).

In addition, if you purchase smoking cessation products such as patches or gum, you can do so using pretax dollars from your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). (You can only get an HSA if you have a high deductible health plan, or HDHP; you may be eligible for an FSA through your employer’s insurance, but you’ll want to check with your company’s human resources representative first.)

Either of those options can further reduce how much you spend out of pocket to quit smoking. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that the product you’re purchasing with your health account is an eligible expense.

Bottom line: You don’t have to quit smoking all on your own, and whenever you do, it will not only make you immediately healthier but also potentially save you money. Not a bad outcome, right?


American Cancer Society. “Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time.” November 2020. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Who Should Be Screened for Lung Cancer?” July 2023. Retrieved from “How insurance companies set health premiums.” Retrieved from Accessed June 26, 2023

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