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How long does it take to Stop Smoking?

If you’re thinking about stopping smoking; one of the first questions you might have, understandably, will be ‘how long does it take to quit?’. The good news is that even if you’ve been smoking for a very long time, when you decide to quit, your body will begin to repair itself from the ill-effects of the addiction almost immediately.

This article will take you through what makes smoking so addictive and why it is difficult to stop; providing some context on how long it actually takes to kick the habit for good.

Nicotine addiction

Nicotine is the stimulant found in tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars. It is classified as a drug that can affect a person's cognitive function. What makes nicotine so addictive is the effect that it has on the brain, altering the balance of the two chemicals known as dopamine and noradrenaline. When nicotine changes the levels of these chemicals, your mood and concentration levels are affected in a way that produces feelings of pleasure; while reducing stress and anxiety levels.

Since this is a change that happens very quickly when smoking a cigarette, it is incredibly easy for smokers to become dependent on this nicotine rush. Even a light smoker; someone who smokes less than 10 cigarettes on average every day, can receive around 100 hits of nicotine per day, every day. So you can see how smoking can be one of the most difficult habits to give up.

Nicotine withdrawal

Smoking increases the number of nicotine receptors in your brain. When you stop smoking, those receptors continue to expect nicotine, and when they don’t get it, they begin to adjust. That adjustment process is what causes both cravings and withdrawal, and overcoming these withdrawal symptoms and cravings is one of the determining factors in whether you successfully quit or not.

Some of the symptoms you can experience with withdrawal include:

  • Cravings (E.g. cigarettes, food)
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Irritability and anxiety

How long does nicotine withdrawal last?

Withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person and depend on factors such as how many cigarettes they smoked a day and for how long. Typically, symptoms usually last for around one to three months after you quit, although symptoms such as low levels of energy and irritability can take longer to shake off.

How long does nicotine stay in your system?

Once you’ve stopped smoking, it will take nicotine around 72 hours to leave your body- and the withdrawal symptoms you experience will take effect around two to three days after you quit.

Any effective smoking cessation programme will have to consider this long adjustment period; the period of time it takes your nicotine receptors to go back to normal. For this reason, you’ll find that some doctors recommend weaning off nicotine slowly with vapes or nicotine replacement therapy, rather than just going cold turkey.

When will I stop craving cigarettes?

Most people who have quit smoking will start to feel better after around a week, and all of the symptoms should be gone within three months. In terms of nicotine withdrawal symptoms, this average is true across all types of smokers; heavy and light, so you should never be caught in the trap of thinking that it's too late to think about quitting.

Using vaping to help you stop smoking

According to NHS research, vapes, otherwise known as e-cigarettes, are more effective than other nicotine replacement therapies, with up to 50,700 quitters a year in England giving up smoking as a result of using vapes. The key benefit of vaping is that it replicates many of the physical acts of smoking, such as the hand-to-mouth action.  It also helps to provide that nicotine ‘hit’, without inhaling any of the harmful toxins contained within tobacco.

As part of the nationwide Swap 2 Stop campaign, LiveWell Dorset is providing smokers in Dorset who are trying to quit with one free vape kit to help them on their journey to a smoke-free life. Sign up to Swap 2 Stop and claim your free kit today.

Start your stop-smoke journey with LiveWell Dorset

LiveWell Dorset supports adults in Dorset to take steps to a happier and healthier life. Our free advice and coaching is provided by your council. Register to receive our support or call us on freephone 0800 840 1628. Once you’ve registered, we’ll call to discuss your stop-smoke plan. We're here for you.


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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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