Click2Quit Logo

What Smoking Does to Your Body

Cigarettes – and that’s all of them, even so-called light or low tar brands – contain over 4,000 chemicals, including at least 60 that increase your risk of cancer. They also contain nicotine, which isn’t thought to cause cancer itself, but is the reason why you crave one in the first place.

You see, when you smoke, your brain grows more receptors that thrive on nicotine. Then, when you quit, these receptors no longer get the nicotine they need – and that’s what causes the cravings.

It may surprise you to know that nicotine can actually help you stop smoking. Therapeutic nicotine, which is in NiQuitin products can double your chances of quitting, compared to relying on willpower alone. This is because it gives your body the nicotine it craves with none of the cancer-causing smoke. Then you step down the dosage gradually as your need for nicotine lessens – until ultimately you don’t need it any more.

You might be surprised at the sheer number of ways that smoking impacts your health – and the benefits you stand to enjoy by quitting at any age. Read on for the full facts about nicotine and smoking, or download your own Quitting Fact Sheet.

Your skin, hands, teeth - and the world around you.

Lots of people start smoking in their teens because they think it makes them fit in and look cool. As they get older, they spend hundreds of pounds a year on cosmetics to try and disguise the ageing process. As an adult smoker, you find yourself with:

  • Wrinkles around your eyes and mouth - smokers' skin can be prematurely aged by between 10 and 20 years
  • Skin that has been dried out by tobacco smoke and starved of oxygen and nutrients, as smoking restricts your blood vessels and reduces the flow of blood to your skin
  • Tobacco-stained fingers
  • Yellowish brown teeth, gum disease and bad breath
  • A wardrobe, house and car that permanently smell of smoke

Once you've quit smoking your skin should be healthier because it's getting more oxygen and blood. Your hands will lose that yellowish tint, your teeth are no longer being stained, and your breath, hair and clothes no longer smell like an ashtray. 

Your sex life and health

Men who smoke are more likely to suffer impotence and loss of stamina. Overall, smoking increases the risk of impotence by about 50% for men in their 30s and 40s.

For women, smoking can reduce fertility. In one study, smokers were more than three times more likely to take over a year to conceive, and it was estimated that smoking women were only 72% as fertile as non-smokers. 


If you smoke, your risk of developing Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes could be as much as two to three times higher than if you don’t. And if you do develop it, smoking also significantly increases your risk of complications and death.

Quit smoking and your risk of diabetes drops. Plus, a healthier body makes physical activity easier, lowering the risk even further.

Your weight

Many smokers are afraid of quitting because they think as soon as they stop smoking they’ll put on weight. The truth is, whilst smoking does suppress the appetite it also deadens the taste buds, stopping you from enjoying your food.

Watching what you eat and exercising regularly can help prevent the weight gain that’s sometimes associated with quitting smoking. For highly dependent smokers, the NiQuitin 4mg Lozenge can help you to control your weight while you quit. For more tips, click here.

Your heart and circulatory system

Smokers are two to three times more prone to heart attacks than non-smokers, and much more likely to suffer from strokes, blood clots and angina - and die from heart disease.

Quit smoking and the improvements are dramatic - and they happen fast. 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and pulse should return to normal. 24 hours later, your risk of heart attack is lower. And after just 5 years, your risk of heart disease has dropped to half that of a smoker.

Smoking and your lungs

Tobacco smoking is responsible for nearly all cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. That includes diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which leave sufferers breathless and unable to do many activities.

90% of primary lung cancers are caused by smoking. It’s the biggest cancer killer in the UK and nearly one in four smokers who die prematurely die of lung cancer. Your lungs are damaged not just by the number of cigarettes you smoke, but by the number of years you’ve been a smoker. So the sooner you quit, the better.

After three days as a non-smoker, your breathing improves. You might develop a bit of a cough as your lungs clear themselves of mucus - but don't worry, it’ll soon pass. Your lungs will function 5-10% better after 3-9 months, and by the time you've stayed away from cigarettes for ten years your risk of lung cancer will be half that of a smoker.

Other types of cancer

As a smoker, you increase your risk of cancers of the mouth, bladder, kidneys, pancreas, stomach, liver, colon and cervix, as well as the risk of developing leukaemia.

Giving up smoking at any age will increase your life expectancy, provided you stop before you develop cancer or another serious disease.

Quitting Fact Sheet

Download this Fact Sheet for everything you need to know about the effects of smoking and the rewards of quitting.

Download instructions

To download the file just click the link below. You’ll be able to view, print and save it on your computer in the normal way.

This download is in a PDF format, which means to read it requires an application called Acrobat Reader version 4, or above. It’s already installed in most computers, but if you don’t have one you can download it now, free, by clicking on this link.

Find out What Smoking Does to Your Loved Ones