15 Side Effects When You Quit Smoking

Edited by Grimm, Anonymous, Rohit Arora, Eng and 4 others

This guide is part of our series of articles on improving and maintaining your health and wellness.


Quitting Smoking Has Side Effects You Should Be Aware Of

The side effects of quitting smoking are unpleasant, but thankfully short term.

It's not easy to quit smoking, but not knowing the side effects can make it seem almost impossible. This because quitting smoking involves the unpleasantness of breaking a physical addiction, while also trying to overcome the mental routine and habits that are a part of smoking. Being aware of the side effects associated with quitting smoking can make the early stages less intimidating, and much easier to cope with.

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When looking over the side effects listed below, it's important to keep in mind that everyone is different. Most people usually only experience two to three of these 15 side effects of quitting smoking. Another important thing to keep in mind is that these side effects rarely last more than two weeks. However, it is important to consider that the main healing process of quitting smoking is a 12-week process, and mild symptoms can persist during this period, especially if you were a heavy smoker.

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For those of you who plan to quit smoking, or who are already on the path to quitting, knowing the side effects will help you be prepared to deal with the worst parts of quitting. If you've read our earlier guides on the topic, you'll also know that these unpleasant side effects can be managed through a combination of diet, exercise, and other steps, which we discuss in our VisiHow Guide on How to Quit Smoking.

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  1. 1
    Many people who smoke may not even realize that they have an anxiety problem - until they quit smoking. This is because the nicotine in cigarette smoke provides an immediate relaxation in the form of meeting the body's need for nicotine. This also offsets anxiety issues by relaxing the smoker, but not actually addressing the underlying anxiety issue. When a person quits smoking, they forced to deal with the early symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, and any anxiety issues they may have. This can be quite difficult for some, with doctors prescribing anti-anxiety medications to help people suffering anxiety problems while trying to quit smoking.
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  2. 2
    As the body begins to clear out the toxins and tars associated with smoking, it will form mucus around these impurities. This can leave the lungs feeling heavy, or watery, and may cause significant coughing for some people. Doctors may prescribe certain medications and cough suppressants in certain severe cases, but for most people, the worst of this coughing passes after a week or two.
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  3. 3
    Both tobacco and nicotine are very bad for the digestive tract. Over time, just like the rest of the body, the digestive tract adapts to nicotine and the effects of tobacco. However, when you quit smoking, the digestive tract undergoes a healing process. It learns to function without nicotine, and no longer has to overcome or adapt to the other toxins in cigarettes. Because of this, while it's healing, things can stop working properly. This can result in constipation. Since the healing process can last for up to 12 weeks, constipation can occur more than once. Natural or over the counter laxatives can help you treat constipation.
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  4. 4
    At times you will want a cigarette more than anything else on the planet, and if you deny yourself that cigarette, you'll want something else. However, recent studies have shown that addiction is a chronic and predictable brain disease. Put simply, that means it is a problem with the brain that keeps occurring, but it occurs in a predictable manner. It's one of the reasons people find it so hard to quit smoking. Because of this, intense and predictable cravings will be triggered as the brain repeats the pattern of addictive behavior. However, in time the neural network supporting these cravings will physically deteriorate. This deterioration will also weaken and lessen the severity and intensity of addiction cravings. Unfortunately, this process takes between 6 to 12 weeks, and requires a great deal of willpower.
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  5. 5
    Difficulty Concentrating:
    Many people find it difficult to concentrate due to the numerous physical discomforts associated with quitting smoking. This makes it difficult to concentrate, and can make tasks that require a high degree of focus nearly impossible to perform. Because of this, many people who are serious about quitting smoking will take a week or more off work while they focus on quitting.
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  6. 6
    Feeling Depressed, Sad, or Down:
    People who aren't familiar with depression often assume that it's little different than just feeling down or sad. However, this is not the case. Feeling down or sad are a part of the withdrawals for some people who quit smoking, but these feelings should not last more than a few days or a week. Depression, on the other hand, lasts weeks, and in some cases much longer. It is perhaps the most serious problem someone who is quitting smoking can experience. If you think you are experiencing depression, it's best to seek counseling, and get help from a professional.
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  7. 7
    One of the common side effects of quitting smoking is that your serotonin levels will abruptly drop. Research has shown that low levels of serotonin contribute to migraines. There are other contributing factors as well, such as caffeine withdrawals (to combat insomnia), fatigue, and dehydration due to not drinking enough water. All of these can make headaches worse when quitting smoking, and so should be managed through proper rest, hydration, and treated with aspirin or paracetamol if necessary.
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  8. 8
    The inability to fall asleep can often be attributed to the other unpleasant side effects of quitting smoking. However, many people are not aware of the fact that the chemicals in their cigarettes cause the body to purge caffeine more quickly. This means that you will feel the effects of caffeine more than you would have when smoking. Where it might have previously been normal for you to consume large quantities of caffeine, when you quit smoking, those same levels of caffeine can keep you awake all night.
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  9. 9
    When everything else seems to be going wrong with the body due to the withdrawal of nicotine, it's common for stress levels to skyrocket. This feeling that everything is wrong can make even the most gentle of people quite irritable and unpleasant. Thankfully this phase will pass, but it's best to steer clear of others, or at least let them know that you'll be less than your usual cheery self while quitting smoking.
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  10. 10
    Overwhelming Fatigue:
    Your body will be healing itself of all the damage smoking has caused. This isn't just limited to nicotine and carbon monoxide, as there are over 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes. There's really a lot going on. Your blood vessels will be expanding, your body will be flushing out accumulated toxins, and the lungs will be repairing and cleaning themselves. While it all sounds great, the fact is that it can be overwhelming, and leave one absolutely exhausted.
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  11. 11
    The increased stress caused by not having nicotine in the blood stream, combined with the mental association of not smoking, can cause restlessness. In extreme cases, this can result in panic attacks, though this is quite rare. As a general rule, engaging in any form of physical activity can best combat restlessness associated with quitting smoking.
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  12. 12
    Sensitivity to Smells:
    About 48 hours after you quit smoking, nerve endings and senses that were deadened and blunted by smoking will begin to regenerate and re-grow. You'll start noticing smells more, and may find that certain strong odors are particularly unpleasant. This can include cleaning supplies, like bleach, or things such as refilling your car's gas tank. The symptoms vary from person to person, though there are also pleasant side effects, such as being able to appreciate the smell of fresh coffee, flowers, and perfumes more.
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  13. 13
    Slower Heart Rate:
    Two hours after your last cigarette, the heart will begin to beat more slowly. Blood pressure will also drop. This is normal, as smoking artificially elevates both of these, but it can cause concern for some people. The average resting heart rate of an adult is between 60 and 80 beats per minute, with that number being lower for those who are very fit.
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  14. 14
    Sore Throat:
    When you quit smoking, the body begins to produce more mucus. This is to help clean out the tar and other toxins from the lungs and throat lining. Often it will also cause you to feel like there is a lump in your throat, and can even cause flu like symptoms, complete with nasal drip. These symptoms generally don't last more than a week, and can be treated with the same remedies you'd use for a cold or flu - throat lozenges, warm teas, and similar medicines. You can even use some of the methods singers use to soothe their vocal cords.
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  15. 15
    Weight Gain:
    Weight gain is a common problem for people who quit smoking. While many attribute this to the need to 'always be doing something', this is, in fact, incorrect. Modern research has shown that nicotine triggers a sugar release in the blood stream. This happens in a matter of seconds, which is why many of those who smoke don't feel the need to eat or snack as much. This is why they remain thin. Then, when they quit smoking, the 20 minutes it can take for a regular meal or snack to release sugar into the blood stream can seem like an eternity. Because of this, they end up eating more than they normally would, and put on weight.
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Tips and Suggestions on Avoiding Smoking Side Effects

  • Drink at least one gallon of water a day for the first three days you quit smoking. This is important because the extra water will help your body flush out the accumulated toxins, and also keep you hydrated.
  • Make yourself small but healthy snacks. Any time you'd normally have a cigarette, check the time, and only eat one pack of your snack. Then see how you feel in 20 minutes. Usually you'll feel fine, and won't want another snack.
  • Change your routines and habits to trick your body. The body adapts to changing environments, and becomes accustomed to certain behaviors. Smoking is one of them. By changing your routine, you'll throw your body off by changing a routine it is comfortable with. This can help unsettle it enough to lessen some of your more severe cravings.

Article Citations and References on Smoking Side Effects

The following articles, government sites, and medical journals were used in this guide.

Questions and Answers

I quit smoke since last 15 days, and I have a lot of headache and jaw pain?

I quit smoke since last 15 days, and I have a lot of headache and jaw pain

  1. 1
    Take a relaxing warm bath. Do yoga meditation techniques or start working out. Do not drink coffee or caffeine-based soda drinks.
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  2. 2
    Jaw pain.
    Jaw pain does happen along with withdrawal effects as the person tries to clench his or her teeth subconsciously. Always control yourself when you close your mouth. Do not exert pressure with your jaw onto the top row of your teeth. Every time you close your mouth, double-check your teeth, let the jaw stay relaxed. Your teeth should be aligned correctly and not overexerting pressure onto each other. If the pain does not go away, you will have to see the dentist.
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After quit smoking, and while cleaning nose, I see blood spots?

Now day 15 I quit smoking. My nose while cleaning, I can see small blood in it

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Stop smoking and what are the side effects after stopping?

My brother is addicted smoker, per day he smokes above 25 cigarettes, so can I know how to stop this and what are the side effects after stopping?. I have tried: I'm trying to quit his smoking as soon as possible... I think it was caused by: I don't know but please tell me what are the side effects?

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How does a person maintain being smoke-free person?

I have been smoke-free for nearly three-months without any supplements. My energy level has been quite lacking and metabolism is shifting like crazy.. I have tried: Cold-turkey has been the most helpful so far.. I think it was caused by: Triggers since adolescents like social situations (mainly).

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I am having problem breathing, I have quit smoking and its been 1.5 month?

I am having problem breathing, I have quit smoking and its been 1.5 month. I have tried: Nothing. I think it was caused by: Nothing

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I am having sore throat and some lump after quit smoking?

I have quit smoking for last two month, now I feel there is lump and sore throat. what to do?

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Is it normal to have a sensitive throat and cough seven months after quitting smoking?

I quit smoking 7 months ago and just recently within the last 2 months have a sensitive throat and a new cough. Is this normal. My Doctor can't see anything wrong with my throat.

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