It isn't easy for long-time smokers to kick the habit, but those who do manage to quit smoking often notice health benefits in as little as a few weeks. When you smoke cigarettes, the chemicals that are inhaled cause the lungs' lining to become inflamed. The tiny hairs that line the lungs, known as cilia, become paralyzed and are less effective at clearing out mucus and other substances from the airway. After quitting, the inflammation begins to subside, less mucus is produced, and new cilia can grow. In addition, ex-smokers report less shortness of breath when they exercise.
Smoking's toll on the body:
- Breathing becomes easier because less carbon monoxide gets into the bloodstream. This gas found in cigarette smoke binds to red blood cells in place of oxygen.
- The buildup of mucus in the airway often causes smokers to cough, and can lead to lung infections such as chronic bronchitis. After quitting, some of the inflammation will be reduced, but some won't.
- The human body is able to repair some of the damage caused by smoking, but not all. Long-term, heavy tobacco use can cause irreversible damage. Lung tissue can be scarred and lungs can lose elasticity, affecting efficient oxygen exchange.