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Smoking and Tobacco

Clearing All By-Products Out of Your Body...



I quit on January 1st 2006 after smoking for 1 year and 5 months at an approximate amount of 3-5 cigarettes inhaled daily. However, I heard that even though there are many benefits of quitting smoking, it is impossible to totally clear your body of all by-products accumulated as a result of cigarette smoke even after quitting for 2 years. Is this true? If not, how long would it take in my case to totally clear my body (i exercise regularly and have a generally healthy diet by the way)?


Congratulations on quitting cigarettes and staying smokefree!

The components in cigarette smoke are many but include carbon monoxide, nicotine and its breakdown product, cotinine. The half-life of nicotine is about 2 hours and the half-life of carbon monoxide is about 4 hours. So clearly - in 17 months these have been eliminated from your system. However, the impact of smoking on blood vessels, lungs and other body parts takes more time to recover.

The 2004 Surgeon General's report details the benefits of quitting. 

Some examples are listed:

Heart disease - A year after you quit, your risk of coronary heart disease will have decreased by half. After 15 years, the risk will be nearly that of a non-smoker.

Circulation - Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.

Lungs - Two weeks to three months after smokers quit, lung function starts to improve. Two weeks to three months after smokers quit, coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, shortness of breath decrease.

The risk of lung cancer decreases by as much as half ten years after quitting smoking completely. The risk of death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is reduced after quitting smoking completely.

After smokers quit, they eventually return to a normal rate of decline of age-related lung function. Ten years after smokers quit, the risk of lung cancer drops to nearly one half that of a smoker. Smokers who quit lower their risk of bronchitis and pneumonia.

A poster detailing the benefits of quitting (2004) can be found on the Surgeon General Report site.


For more information:

Go to the Smoking and Tobacco health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN
Professor Emeritus
College of Public Health
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University