Helping understand health effects

Part of having a discussion with clients about giving up smoking is making sure they understand the effect it could be having on their health. This discussion can be confronting, but smoking can have a serious impact on enjoying life and raises the risk for diseases and health conditions.

If a client isn’t ready to quit but wants to reduce the risks their smoking has on others, let them know that they can:

  • Smoke outside so other people don’t breath in their smoke
  • Avoid smoking in cars, even if they’re alone – the smoke clings to the inside of the car and people can breath it in when they get in
  • Encourage and educate their kids to not take up smoking
  • Avoid letting kids light or roll their cigarettes for them
  • Support family or friends trying to quit by not smoking around them. This is especially important around a pregnant woman trying to quit, since every time she smokes her growing baby takes it in too

Benefits of quitting smoking

When a client understands the risks and decides to give up the smokes, it can be encouraging for them to know what’s in store for them.
Sharing the changes that will occur within their body within minutes, hours, days and even years after they kick the habit can be encouraging for them to know through the early stages of their quitting strategy.


20 minutes after quitting…

The effects of quitting start to set in immediately. 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate will begin to drop back toward a normal level.

2 hours after quitting…
Your heart rate and blood pressure will be close to normal levels again. Blood circulation will also start to improve. The tips of your fingers and toes may start to feel warm.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually start about two hours after your last cigarette. Early withdrawal symptoms include:

  • intense cravings
  • anxiety, tension, or frustration
  • drowsiness or trouble sleeping
  • increased appetite


12 hours after quitting…
The carbon monoxide in your body decreases to lower levels. In turn, the amount of oxygen in your blood increases to normal levels.

Why is this good?

Carbon monoxide, which can be toxic to the body at high levels, is released from burning tobacco and inhaled as part of cigarette smoke. Carbon monoxide bonds very well to blood cells, so high levels of the gas can prevent the cells from bonding with oxygen. The lack of oxygen in the blood often causes serious heart conditions and other health problems.


24 hours after quitting…

Your risk for coronary artery disease will already begin to reduce. Your risk of having a heart attack also starts to decline. While you’re not quite out of the woods yet, you’re on your way!

Why is this good?

The risk of coronary artery disease for smokers is 70% higher than for non-smokers.

48 hours after quitting…

Your ability to smell and taste will improve. You’ll soon start to better appreciate the finer things in life.

Why is this good?

It’s not life-threatening, but an inability to smell or taste well is one of the more obvious consequences of smoking, caused by damage to nerve endings. At the 48 hours, the nerve endings have been given enough time to begin to regrow.

3 days after quitting…

At this point, the nicotine will be completely out of your body. This means that the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal may peak around this time. You might experience some physical and emotional symptoms during withdrawal. These include:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • cramps
  • sweating
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • depression

This is when quitting smoking can become especially difficult. If you’re able to make it to this point, reward yourself so you feel motivated to continue. Use the money you would have spent on cigarettes to buy something nice for yourself.

2 to 3 weeks after quitting…

You’ll be able to exercise and perform physical activities without feeling winded. For most smokers, withdrawal symptoms start to subside about two weeks after quitting.

Why is this good?

Stopping smoking for a couple of weeks gives your body time to regenerate and heal. Your blood circulation and heart function will improve significantly during this time. Your lungs may also begin to clear, allowing you to breathe more easily.

1 to 9 months after quitting…

The cilia inside your lungs begin to repair. With properly functioning lungs, coughing and shortness of breath will continue to decrease dramatically.

Your withdrawal symptoms will also go away completely within nine months after quitting. The length of time it takes varies depending on how long and how often you smoked before quitting.

Why is this good?

The cilia are the tiny, hair-like structures that push mucus out of the lungs. Once the cilia are able to do their job efficiently, they can fight off infection and clear the lungs more easily.

1 year after quitting…

Your risk for heart disease is lowered to half that of a smoker’s. This means that someone who smokes is more than twice as likely as you are to develop any type of heart disease.

5 years after quitting…

After five to 15 years of not smoking, your risk of having a stroke is the same as that of a non-smoker.

Why is this good?

A wide array of toxic substances is released in the burning of tobacco. Over time, these substances cause your blood vessels to narrow, which increases your risk of having a stroke.

10 years after quitting…

It may take 10 years, but if you quit, eventually your risk of dying from lung cancer will drop to half that of a smoker’s. 10 years after quitting, the risk of getting other types of cancer also decreases.

Why is this good?

Smokers are at higher risk than non-smokers for a daunting list of cancers. These include:

  • oral cancer
  • throat cancer
  • lung cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • pancreatic cancer

Of these cancers, lung cancer is the most common form of cancer that affects smokers. Smoking is a main cause of lung cancer and accounts for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths worldwide.