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What happens when you smoke

  • Health facts

    Smoking even one cigarette a day:

    • causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, and your major blood vessels to become smaller, causing your heart to work harder
    • causes your blood to clot faster; tobacco users have a higher chance of heart attack, stroke and circulatory problems
    • increases your chance of impotence
    • reduces the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, making you short of breath
    • slows your ability to heal
    • decreases your taste and smell

    The human body was not designed to smoke.

    Financial facts

    Smoking one pack each day, at $7.50 per pack, costs:

    • $7.50 a day
    • $52.50 a week
    • $210 a month
    • $2,730 a year
    • $13,650 in 5 years
    • $27,300 in 10 years
    • $68,250 in 25 years

    In Minnesota, the health care cost of smoking is estimated at more than $3 billion every year.

    Other facts

    • Your teeth turn yellow or brownish in color.
    • Your skin wrinkles more.
    • Your breath, hair, clothing and household furnishings all smell like smoke. (This smell is caused by thirdhand smoke.)
    • Secondhand smoke can have harmful effects on the health of your entire family.
    • Seventy-five percent of tobacco users have at least one parent who smokes.
    • Restaurants and public places do not allow smoking.
    • Your furniture, curtains, and carpeting smell like smoke, which you do not notice. (This smell is caused by thirdhand smoke.)
    • Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer.

    Tobacco tax increases are proven to prevent kids from smoking and help adults quit. According to ClearWay Minnesota (, the $1.60 tax raise in Minnesota in 2013 was estimated to:

    • prevent an estimated 47,700 kids from starting smoking and help more than 36,600 smokers quit
    • save Minnesotans more than $1.65 billion in long-term health care costs
    • prevent more than 25,700 early smoking-related deaths

    Benefits of quitting tobacco


    • 8 hours: 
      The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal, and the oxygen level in your blood increases to normal. Your breathing starts to improve.
    • 24 hours: 
      Your chance of a heart attack decreases.
    • 48 hours: 
      Nerve endings start to grow again. Your senses of smell and taste improve.
    • 2 weeks: 
      Circulation to your hands and feet improve. Your ability to exercise is increased. According to the American Lung Association, your lung function may increase up to 30 percent.
    • 1 to 9 months: 
      Your cough, stuffy nose, and shortness of breath decrease. Your energy level increases.
    • 1 year: 
      Your chance of heart disease is cut in half.
    • 5 years: 
      Your chance of a stroke is the same as someone who does not use tobacco. Your chance of dying from lung cancer is cut in half.
    • 5 to 10 years: 
      Pre-cancerous cells are replaced with normal cells.
    • 10 years: 
      Your risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease is close to the same of someone who never used tobacco.

    Other benefits

    • You have fewer colds, sinus infections, and lung problems such as pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma attacks.
    • You chance of developing an ulcer is lowered.
    • You are less likely to develop cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas.
    • Your healing ability is improved.
    • Your HDL (good cholesterol) levels increase.
    • You have increased energy, power and strength.
    • Foods have more flavor because your sense of taste and smell improves.
    • Side and night vision improves.
    • Smoking-related health risks for your unborn child are eliminated.
    • There is less chance that your children will use tobacco.
    • You have less of a chance of being in a car accident.
    • You have lower car, life and homeowner insurance rates.
    • You will be free from the hassle, mess and control of the tobacco habit.
    • You have more spending money!

    Behavioral tips and coping skills for quitting tobacco

    Getting started

    • Make a list of reasons for quitting.
    • Think positively.
      • Believe you can.
      • Remind yourself, "I'm choosing not to smoke today."
      • Remember that it's "not that I can't smoke, it's that I'm choosing not to."
      • Tell yourself often: "I can do this."
      • Visualize yourself as someone who doesn't use tobacco.
    • Use relaxation breathing.
      • Inhale to count of eight.
      • Hold to count of four.
      • Exhale to count of eight.
    • Substitute items for cigarettes.
      • Chew gum.
      • Suck on hard candy.
      • Chew on straws or toothpicks.
      • Eat low-calorie snacks.
    • Keep your hands busy.
      • Play cards.
      • Read books.
      • Put together puzzles.
      • Play with rubber binders/bands.
      • Make crafts.
      • Write letters.
      • Draw.
      • Paint.
    • Concentrate on the good things in your life!
    • Change your environment:
      • Change your routine to help avoid temptation. Even small changes can lower the craving to smoke.
      • Get rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters in your home, car, desk or office.
      • Change your favorite smoking areas to make them remind you less of smoking.
      • Make your home and vehicles smoke free.
    • Get support from others:
      • Talk to your family, friends or coworkers about how to support you while you quit.
      • See if others you know would like to quit with you. This way you can support each other through the tougher times of quitting.
    • Plan your reward for each day you do not smoke. Think about small, pleasurable activities you can do during your day that give you joy. Long-term rewards are helpful as well, but the small rewards are just as important
    • Remember that even the most intense craving lasts only five to 10 minutes. Wait it out. Tell yourself, "This too shall pass."

    Avoiding a relapse

    • Think about what you are gaining from quitting tobacco, instead of focusing on what you've given up. For example, "It's easier to play with my kids or grandkids."
    • Have a plan for how you will deal with unexpected urges. (Take a walk, make a call.)
    • Think your way through difficult situations ahead of time whenever you can.
    • Think about past quitting attempts and what was helpful to you. Reuse them again if possible or try something new.
    • Explore ways to move your body with safe and realistic expectations. Increasing your physical activity can help you manage weight gain and work through emotions that otherwise would make you want to smoke.
    • Avoid foods high in calories and fat. Sugar can increase cravings to smoke. Limit large amounts of sugar.
    • Drink lots of water. Ice water may be helpful in getting rid of a craving.
    • Reward yourself when you reach milestones: one day, one week, two weeks, one month, etc.
    • Go to places where you cannot smoke—stay away from the places you used to smoke.
    • Think about the money you saved!
    • Think of quitting as an act of love—for those you care about and for yourself!

    Resources for quitting tobacco 

    Allina Health

    • Tobacco Intervention Program at Abbott Northwestern Hospital:
    • Tobacco Intervention Program at Mercy Hospital:
    • Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing (LiveWell Center) tobacco intervention coaching:
    • Tobacco Intervention Program at River Falls Area Hospital:
    • Allina Health United Lung and Sleep Clinic Tobacco Cessation Program:


    • QUITPLAN® (Minnesota):
      1-888-354-PLAN (7526)
    • Quit Smoking Hotline (all other states):
    • online tobacco cessation support:
    • American Lung Association:
    • Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center's Residential Treatment Program:
    • Chantix® GetQuit Support plan:
      1-877-CHANTIX (242-6849)
    • financial aid for Chantix® or Nicotrol® inhaler:
    • To buy aromatherapy:
      Plant Extracts 1-877-999-4236
  • Source: Allina Health Patient EducationUnderstanding Stroke, fifth edition, neuro-ahc-90662
    Reviewed by: Allina Health Patient Education experts
    First published: 02/01/2006
    Last reviewed: 05/01/2018

  • Quit smoking Heart hands