What really happens when you quit smoking? 6 common questions answered


Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you stop smoking? Vitality Magazine has the answers to six of the most common questions

love your lungs in a pair of hands

Quitting smoking is an incredibly hard (but rewarding) obstacle to tackle, and the health benefits are vast. From better mental and physical health to reducing the risk of 12 types of cancers.  

Not only that, Vitality research found that smokers can improve their life expectancy by 15% when they quit smoking, by improving brain, heart and lung health (1).  

So, why are 6.6 million Brits still choosing to spark up every day?  

There are a number of reasons. But, ultimately, it’s because nicotine, the primary reinforcing component of cigarettes, is highly addictive, and one your brain craves when it’s deprived.  

This can cause a lot of anxiety around quitting, while it’s hard to know what will happen to our bodies when we quit.   

To help give you some clues, Vitality Magazine is here to answer some common quitting questions to help make sure you are ready to take your first step on your smoke-free journey.  

Your common quitting questions answered

Will I develop a cough when I quit smoking?  

When you make the decision to quit, you may begin to feel and see changes, one of which might be coughing more than usual. 

As your body begins to recover it will remove the damage left behind from smoking in our lungs – this can trigger a cough.  

“Coughing more than usual may be a sign your body is starting to heal,” shares the Mayo Clinic

This isn’t something to be concerned about, however. It could take up to a few weeks or up to a year to clear but will disappear on its own.    

Will I become depressed when I quit smoking? 

Research shows that those who smoke are more likely to have depression than those who are non-smokers. So, by quitting smoking, you are actually taking better control of your wellbeing.  

Changes in mood are bound to happen when you do decide to quit. This is due to the nicotine dependency, so it’s incredibly important to seek support through this time. 

There are available 24/7 services – such as Mind – as well as quit smoking Programmes that will be there for you when it may get tough.  

TogetherAll is a mental health hub where you can get 24/7 help from their online mental health community. Follow the link here to access the service in Member Zone.  Want to become a member? Visit vitality.co.uk.

Will I develop insomnia when I quit smoking? 

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that makes it hard to fall asleep. Sufferers can also find it hard to stay asleep and then to rise early.  

Around 40% of people experience insomnia when they quit smoking. This is due to nicotine withdrawal, which is inevitable in the quitting process. 

Should you be struggling with sleep, Vitality members can access our partner Headspace to help encourage a peaceful sleep. 

You can begin your Headspace journey today with Vitality. If you are a member with health insurance or life insurance, you could get 12 months membership to Headspace on us.   

All you need to do is log into Member Zone for more details.

If you’d like to find out more about mindfulness and its benefits, you can read more below. 

Will I gain weight when I quit smoking?  

Smoking causes a reduction in appetite and increased metabolism, which is why losing weight is often associated with smoking. 

When we stop smoking putting on weight can happen, but it’s not as simple as some people think. 

Quitting smoking affects people in different ways, some may lose weight while others may gain weight.  

Though you’ll be pleased to know that either way it tends to balance out in the long run. 

Will stopping smoking lower blood pressure and cholesterol? 

What is often referred to as the “silent killer” due to its lack of clear symptoms, a person’s blood pressure will decrease in as little as half an hour after their last cigarette.  

The risk of blood clots also reduces significantly when you quit smoking.  

Cholesterol, meanwhile, is a little different. We all have LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, often referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol, and HDL (high-density lipoprotein), known as the ‘good’ cholesterol.  

When we quit smoking your ‘bad’ cholesterol will lower and the ‘good’ goes up. 

This helps slow down the build-up of plaque within our arteries, which will noticeably improve how we breathe. 

Will stopping smoking improve my skin? 

Smoking constricts our blood vessels, limits the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the skin. And by quitting you will see noticeable benefits, including:

  • Improves complexion and pigmentation
  • Reduces signs of aging
  • Restores collagen production. 

To find out more on the effects of quitting smoking, visit the Allen Carr website for more information. 

Ready to start your quitting journey? 

Through the Vitality Programme, our members can get access to smoking cessation expert, Allen Carr, to help them quit for good.  

Allen Carr takes users through a number of stop smoking sessions lasting approximately 4-6 hours in three different ways. It also provides free telephone support after you’ve attended the sessions. 

As a Vitality member, you could save up to £349 on the Allen Carr Stop Smoking Programme. Available with qualifying health insurance and life insurance plans.

Find out more from Vitality’s stop smoking partner and how to access the programmes by logging into Member Zone, or visit our Rewards page to discover more on how you can earn points and get more from your plan.

[1] Vitality data, 2023

[2] Vitality data, 2023

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