15 Side Effects When You Quit Smoking

Edited by Grimm, Rohit Arora, Eng, VisiHow and 14 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

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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.

When looking at 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.

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.

  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 bloodstream 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. Anytime 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 smoking since last 15 days, and I have a lot of headache and jaw pain?

I quit smoking 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 it is been day 15 since I quit smoking and while cleaning my nose, I can see small spots of blood.

This is common. Do not panic. You are beginning to have increased blood flow again and your capillaries in your nose are adjusting. This also happens during a cold, dry winter. Use a saline spray if it continues. This will help with irritation. You might also want to run a humidifier in your room while sleeping if the air is dry.

Stop smoking, what are the side effects after stopping?

My brother is an addicted smoker, he smokes over 25 cigarettes per day, so may 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?

There are several side effects listed in the article on this page. What you have to realize is that your brother will have to really want to quit. You can't make someone stop smoking unless they really want to stop for themselves. Badgering him will only make the situation worse. Instead, sit him down and explain to him how much you love him and wish for him to quit. Offer him all the motivational support he will need if he quits. You clearly have his best health in mind. Perhaps purchase some smoking cessation aids as a gift for him. The US has an online as well as over the phone support setup at Smokefree.gov. If you are not in the US, the website still offers some great information on how to quit. Look for what is available in your region for helping your brother to quit smoking.

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

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

Treat Respiratory Problems and Lung Disease with Garlic is a VisiHow article you should read for tips on treatment. Coughing after you quit smoking is normal but difficult to breath is not. This is something that you need to discuss with your personal physician. You might need the assistance of an inhaler for a bit of time and your physician should test from other illnesses that can cause what you are experiencing.

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 had sensitive throat and a new cough. Is this normal. My Doctor can't see anything wrong with my throat.

This could be allergies or dry air that are suddenly causing the cough. Since your doctor sees no visible causes, consider allergy medicine to see if it stops. You will also want to sleep with a humidifier on in your room at night. This might be something as simple as a cold beginning to appear.

How long will the side effects last?

My husband quit smoking 3 weeks ago, and I want to know what he will be going through so that I can help him. What are things I should do?. I have tried: Nothing. I think it was caused by: I don't know!

Helping a Smoker Quit is a motivational page posted on Cancer.org. It has some great tips such as wash all the clothes that smell like smoke and clean your carpets and drapes if your husband smoked in the house. You should also calculate how much your husband spent each week on cigarettes. Put that amount into a savings account for a once in a lifetime trip or purchase. This will help as a motivation to your husband.

How can I quit cold turkey without all the side effects?

I'm only 41 and I'm ready to quit smoking I've heard all the tricks smoke 1 throw 1 away etc. Tried almost every trick that you can think of, nothing worked. So I think it's time I just go Cold Turkey

You can't avoid some of the side effects. It will be trial and error for two weeks if you quit cold turkey. Replace your smoking habit with something else. Every time you want a cigarette, refocus yourself. People have had success with playing a quick game on their phone such as Candy Crush or walking around the block. Whatever it is, you will find that you will use the refocus efforts towards the side effects too.

What can I do about Dehydration? I am trying to quit smoking but dehydration is a hard thing to deal with. I become dehydrated day and night?

I drink water but it does not last in my body. What solution do you have for that? I wake up at night several times because of dehydration.

There are sprays for dry mouth in the pharmacy section of retail stores. What you are experiencing is dry mouth and this can be relieved.

Acute chest pain 48 hours after quitting smoking, is this normal?

Hi, I am 48 hours into cold turkey and experiencing these sharp little pangs from what appears to be my heart. I was experiencing some serious anxiety leading up to and in the first 24 hours but this is improving.. Avoiding all alternative crouches and the doctors. Any natural detox to help cleanse the arteries?

Anytime you have chest pain lasting more than 15 minutes, you need to seek emergency medical treatment. It can being something benign but you should rule out a more significant issue.

Now I am battling a sense of loss of control over voice. Everyone says I sound like I am catching a cold, I do not sound the same. My doctor does not have a clue and says to go to ENT doctor. I am worried because it has been three weeks?

I have been going through a boatload of problems since I quit smoking 180 days ago. The chest pains were horrible. Cardiologist says no problem there. Advise to do Yoga and keep exercising. Also had an upper GI done because of pain. No problem there also. Had awful burning and tingling sensations all over upper body for over a month. Now I am battling a problem with my voice. Sounds like I am catching a cold. Sounding namely like this all the time. It's been three weeks and I am worried about what is causing me to sound like this, especially when I hear myself speaking. Going to an ENT today to see if its OK. But my anxiety has been over the top. A friend who quit last year tells me it is all normal. It will take a year to get back solidly on the ground after smoking for so many years. Is this all true?? The voice change situation is what I am seeking answers to. I have not found any answers to this situation. How long does it take for voice to return to normal or does it get any better? I have tried: Worry... Worry and more Worry. I look everything up and speak to people who have quit. Go to physicians and they really do not have a clue as to how a person who stops smoking feels, or what is normal etc. The medical community needs to be more versed on this subject especially since they are promoting their patients to quit all the time!! I think it was caused by: Stopping smoking seems to be the root cause. Never had any of these problems when I smoked. It appears smoking masked a lot of other problems I had already it seems

You are possibly correct in thinking that your previous smoking habit was hiding a bigger vocal chord issue. Make an appointment with the ENT. They are well versed in smoking effect issues and can give you some answers.

It has been 2 weeks since I quit smoking my face has broken out badly and all I want to do is sleep. Please help me?

All I want to do is sleep and my face is breaking out bad, I quit smoking 2 weeks ago, please help.

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I did quit in december 2016 and I still have nasal drip and bad allergies like I never had while smoking?

I did quit in december 2016 (heavy smoker) and I still have nasal drip and bad allergies like I never had while smoking. And my sense of smell disappeared. I take hay fever medication to no avail. I did quit more than 1 year ago and I still have nasal drip and no sense of smell - symp[symptoms like allergies but they don't get better with histamine medication. I have tried: Allergy medication. cold/flu medication. medical evaluations to no avail. I think it was caused by: The nasal drip started few days after I did quit smoking and it is just the same after 1 year

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Is this normal to feel so much pain with quitting cold turkey ? I need help?

I quite smoking. I am having a hard time sleeping staying asleep. I am having this dry cough for three days. And migraine that comes and goes ever two minutes. All the things I read say to take cough drops or home remedies but they haven't worked at all. The migraines and the pain from quitting. The tips that they give have not helped to me it has made it worse for me. I so just want to pick up a cigarette and smoke so I don't feel like this. I want to sleep and not cough when I am taking a breath. Give some helpful advice. I have tried: I have tried water I have tried the patches and lozenges and gum. One hurt my arm and the other two made me throw up. I have tried sugar free gum which helps but only a little bit. I have tried listening to music just to fall asleep. I have taken migraine medicine but it doesn't do anything but make it worse for me. Which is making it hard for me not to sleep. I think it was caused by: Quitting smoking has caused these problems for me I would like one just so it could stop

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I quit smoking 6 months ago after 6.5 years of smoking. How many months the withdrawal symptoms will last?

I am 30 years old. I used to smoke average 7-8 cigarettes per day for 6.5 years. I quit smoking 6 months ago after I got severe bacterial infection in my throat. I recovered from infection sooner but since then I have several issues with my throat. The major one was lump in throat sensation which used to reappear several times a day. Endoscopy done in Aug this year showed no problems. Even I didn't face difficulties in swallowing. I had read about Globus sensation somewhere and I still think the lump sensation is due to that(or due to withdrawal symptoms?). I used to feel dizzy with mild headache. My throat muscles also used to feel strained most of the times. Also, I got the sensation of swelling of chin area. . Nowadays the same(swelling of chin area) happens along with a feeling of swollen lymph nodes(though they feel tender while touching), mild pain in jaw and ear keeps on recurring and mild headache. Today I met ENT doctor who asked me whether I had common cold recently which I had 1 week ago and it was severe. He told me that I had mild congestion and my throat felt dry due the cold I had and due to dehydration. He advised me to stay hydrated and eat veggies and fruits. . In this span of six months I visited several doctors, most of them telling that the problem especially lumpy sensation was due to . GERD(gastroesophageal reflux disease). And yes, I used to have severe acid refluxes at times. With all these info, I want to ask whether all these problems are due to withdrawal symptoms? How many more months are these going to last? My situation is different from others because I might be facing two conditions at a time( Withdrawal symptoms and GERD). But, I am confused about which one is the root cause and I also get scared at times when the mentioned problems increase. Or may be I have some other condition. But if at all the conditions are due to withdrawal symptoms, kindly let me know when these all will end. I have tried: Medications related to GERD. Endoscopy. I have tried all food habits including immune boosting foods and drinks. I think it was caused by: My lifestyle and eating habits. Smoking being the main culprit.

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I'm into my 5th month of no smoking and have a sore throat and mucus constantly?

I'm into my 5th month of no smoking and have a sore throat and mucus constantly the cough sometimes is so strong . And I lose my voice often

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