Tobacco use

Quit tobacco for your surgery

Tobacco and surgery risks

Tobacco products include cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS, includes e-cigarettes and JUUL®), smokeless tobacco (dip or chew), cigars, hookahs and pipes.

Using tobacco increases your risk of the following during and after surgery:

  • heart problems
  • lung problems (complications) such as pneumonia
  • infections such as infections of your surgery site (incision)
  • blood clots
  • slower healing of your surgery site
  • higher levels of pain and more problems with pain control

Tobacco use keeps oxygen from reaching your surgery site and it can increase your recovery time.

Benefits of quitting

  • Research shows that quitting 4 weeks before surgery can reduce any problems after surgery up to 30 percent.
  • People who quit smoking report having better pain control.
  • Your body responds quickly to quitting:
    • 8 hours: the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. The oxygen level in your blood increases to normal.
    • 48 hours: Nerve endings start to grow again.
    • 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.

When you should quit

Ideally, you should quit as soon as possible. Research shows that:

  • the harmful effects from cigarettes begin to go down about 12 hours after your last cigarette smoked
  • at least eight weeks without cigarettes is the best way to reduce problems almost as low as people who do not smoke.

The American College of Surgeons recommends at least four weeks without cigarettes.

You should not use tobacco the day of surgery up to one week after your surgery. Your doctor may tell you when to quit before your surgery.

If you quit for surgery, you double the chance of staying off cigarettes for good. Many people report they have no cravings while in the hospital.

Not ready to quit? Consider taking a break!

If quitting tobacco makes you feel nervous and seems overwhelming, consider taking a break or a vacation from tobacco use.

  • You will get the physical benefits for the period of time that you are not using tobacco.
  • You will reduce your risk of problems during surgery and still increase your chances of a smooth recovery after surgery.

If you can, set a goal to stop using tobacco for one month after your surgery. This will allow your body to heal the best after your surgery.

Ways to quit or take a break

  • abrupt stop (cold turkey)
  • nicotine replacement therapy* (gum, lozenge, patch or inhaler)
  • medicines (Chantix® and Zyban®)
  • behavioral strategies (such as calling a friend or going for a walk)
  • aromatherapy (black pepper oil)
  • take a break (vacation) from tobacco

*Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can nearly double your chances of successfully staying off cigarettes. It works best if you use it with the help of a doctor or counselor. Ask your doctor about using NRT around the time of surgery. Go to to learn more.

Any step you take without tobacco is going to help you.Small steps are better than nothing!


Allina Health

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


  • Minnesota Department of Health:
  • Quit Smoking Hotline:
    1-800-784-8669 (1-800-QUIT-NOW)
  • online tobacco cessation support:
  • American Lung Association/Tobacco Quit Line:
    651-227-8014 or 1-800-586-4872                     
  • Chantix® GetQuit Support plan:
    1-877-242-6849 (CHANTIX)
  • financial aid for Chantix® or Nicotrol® inhaler: 
  • *Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center’s Residential Treatment Program: 
  • Plant Extracts aromatherapy:

*There may be a cost to you. Check with your insurance provider.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Understanding Your Colon or Rectal Surgery, can-ah-95399
First Published: 01/24/2013
Last Reviewed: 08/15/2017

Did you know
Tobacco products contain more than 7,000 chemicals. More than 70 are known to cause cancer.
Secondhand smoke causes as much damage to healing as if you were smoking.If you live with someone who smokes, ask him or her to smoke outside for at least the time of your recovery.
Did you know?
Using your surgery as a motivator to quit tobacco increases your success rate of quitting for good.