Quit Smoking Side Effects Timeline.

Welcome to the Quit Smoking Side Effects Timeline, a quick reference guide for smokers who want to find out what happens when you quit smoking. This timeline is variable and dependent on an individual’s level of addiction.  Some will experience all of the day to day quit smoking symptoms and side effects of nicotine withdrawal, while others may only experience a few.

Please note, if you are looking for a timeline on how the body repairs itself as opposed to stages of withdrawal, please be sure to check out the post, What are the Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking?


Quit Smoking Side Effects Timeline

Stage One

First 7 Days

Side Effect – Chronic Physical Cravings.

Chronic physical cravings begin shortly after quitting then rapidly increase in intensity until they peak somewhere between 48 and 120 hrs, at which point they begin to gradually weaken. Physically, this is the toughest stage of the quit smoking and withdrawal process.

Having a greater awareness of how and why cravings occur can go along way toward making this quit smoking symptom more manageable…

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Side Effect – Irritability and Intense Mood Swings.

These are largely influenced by cravings and will peak at roughly the same time as cravings. If the smoker is also quitting caffeine, the symptom may be worse. With a bit of planning and know how, this quit smoking symptom can also be better managed on a day to day basis…

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Side Effect – Intense Fatigue.

A smoker begins an intensive healing process when they quit smoking. This process can severely fatigue the mind and body. Again, if the smoker is also quitting caffeine the symptom may be worse. It is important to get as much rest as possible and explore ways that can potentially help by combating the fatigue and tiredness that come with quitting smoking…

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Side Effect – Headaches.

It is not unusual for people to experience headaches when they first quit smoking. It is possible that the headaches experienced during nicotine withdrawal are the result of fluctuating serotonin levels. This is also a common symptom of caffeine withdrawal. Again, there are some things you can do to manage the head aches on a day to day basis…

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Side Effect – Chest Discomfort.

Smokers may experience a tight and uncomfortable feeling in their chest. This just goes away with time. Some ex smokers may also experience sharp pains in the chest, and while this may be normal, it really is a good idea to speak to your doctor and have your lungs checked. Even if only for peace of mind.


Side Effect – Constipation.

Nicotine and tobacco smoking interfere with normal digestive functions. Upon quitting smoking the digestive system undergoes a radical period of healing. Because of this, the digestive functions of your body may become unsettled as they become accustomed to a life without nicotine and tobacco smoke. For many ex smokers, this manifests as constipation…

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Side Effect – Flu and Cold Like Symptoms.

As the respiratory system heals, smokers will experience cold and flu like symptoms. The day to day symptoms can be headaches, flashes of hot and cold, chest congestion, cough, sore throat and nasal congestion.  The smoker will also likely begin coughing up tar…

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Side Effect – Increased Hunger and Weight Gain.

Nicotine is an appetite suppressant. When nicotine users quit they tend to experience an increase in their appetite. Food, particularly sugary foods, increase dopamine levels and may decrease severity of cravings. There are ways to minimise the weight gain…

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Quit Smoking Side Effects Timeline

Stage Two

7 – 21 Days


Side Effect – Moderate to Severe Cravings for Cigarettes.

The chemical dependency to nicotine is significantly weakened by around days 5-7. However, there is still significant healing required throughout the brain and cravings will still occur, though not as physically intense or long lasting. Many cravings will also be related to emotions and everyday memories that are still associated with smoking. They will begin to weaken over time and ebb and flow in severity.

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Side Effect – Moderate to Severe Irritability and Mood Swings.

Again, this side effect is largely influenced by the intensity of cravings.

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Side Effect – Mild to Moderate Fatigue.

As the now ex smoker, approaches the 2 week mark, fatigue levels will start to drop. Many ex smokers will begin to experience greater levels of energy.

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Side Effect – Headaches.

Headaches should begin to clear up by the end of the first two weeks.

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Side Effect – Mild Chest Discomfort.

This should weaken significantly once the chemical dependency is overcome. It may persist in a much milder state, alongside cravings.


Side Effect – Constipation.

This will likely persist in varying degrees of intensity.

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Side Effect – Flu and Cold Like Symptoms.

This will likely persist in varying degrees of intensity. The ex smoker will likely cough up more tar, more often as the lungs begin to clean out.

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Side Effect – Increased Hunger and Weight Gain.

This will likely persist in varying degrees of intensity and be tied in with cravings.

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Quit Smoking Side Effects Timeline

Stage Three

3 – 12 Weeks.


Side Effect – Mild to Moderate Cravings for Cigarettes.

Ex Smokers will progressively notice large gaps between cravings. There will likely be a number of spikes in relative intensity during this period, followed by a significant decrease in cravings. By week 6, most ex smokers are well and truly in control as the chemical dependency is well and truly beaten. By 12 weeks, levels of nicotine receptors in the brain should be equal to that of a non smoker and cravings from here on are triggered by habitual behaviors and emotions.

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Side Effect – Mild to Moderate Irritability and Mood Swings.

Mood swings will become far less intense as cravings  weaken and become more manageable.

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Side Effect – Mild Constipation.

The digestive system should be back to normal by the end of this period.

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Side Effect – Mild Flu and Cold Like Symptoms.

These symptoms will become a lot less frequent.

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Side Effect – Mild Hunger and Weight Gain.

By the end of this period, ex smokers should be in a much better position to manage weight gain.

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By the 12 week mark, most ex smokers will feel comfortable with their new lifestyle.


Quit Smoking Side Effects Timeline

Stage Four

3 Months – 24 Months


Side Effect – Very Mild and Infrequent Cravings.

Cravings progressively weaken to the point of almost being non existent. A six month ex smoker will likely experience very weak urges that add up to seconds per day as opposed to minutes. However, this period is still risky, as the periodic “walls” of cravings may become frustrating. These walls and urges will continue to weaken and by 12 months, most if not all ex smokers will go weeks even months between craves.

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  1. This is the fifth or sixth time I am ready to quit smoking and this time I am very Confident that I will be able to do this seemingly easy task. Last time I tried to quit I quit for almost a week unless I started again. I am a university student and this might be the biggest of all problems. I had made many smoker friends and when they ask its really hard to say no.

    This time however I will quit no matter what. May God help me in this task…
    I quit now!!! and forever!!!

  2. I’m on day 7 so far so good I’m using an e CIG and just like the patch your decrease your nicotine.My husband and I have a family goal so every time I think I want a smoke our goal pops in my head!

  3. Sophie Cook says:

    After almost 55 years of smoking 40 a day (I know! How bad is that! ) I have been smoke free since the first week of December- I feel so proud of myself. I am coming up 70 years of age, and never thought I could achieve one day yet alone two months! Smoke free. I could screem some days for just one cigarette, but knowing the craving lasts just a minute or two helps me a great deal, then the feeling of accomplishment is well worth the effort. People, if an old grumpy lady can quit, so can you. I take it a day at a time. I wish with all my heart that I had more courage to do this in my youth.. My only hope is that it lasts and I can make it out the other side so that I can enjoy the rest of my days smoke free.

  4. Mohamed Anas says:

    Hello everyone
    i’m Mohamed and i’m an addict LOL

    i stopped smoking for two weeks now …usually i smoke about 30 per day ..after one of my family was diagnosed with cancer i decided to stop ..im using an antidepressant ( Citalopram ) since the diagnosis ..it seem to be helping relief the craving ..it’s very mild ..the habit is what concerns me ..chocolate, gum, juice and walking can be a great help …my mind is more active ..my eye sight is better ..love the feeling of fresh air flowing into my lungs ..just little chest burns and constipation but i’m glad to read that it’s just a side effect but im going to consult my doctor just to feel good …keep fighting …if it’s not going to make you live longer …your mind will learn the right way to live..and your body is going to tell you that it feels right
    good luck to all :)

  5. Hi everyone

    This is my 6th day smoke free, and today has been the hardest so far. Don’t know why.

    Good luck to us all, and keep all of us smoke free n healthy (and rich) lol


  6. Whew! Yo I swear, I LOVED CIGARETTES!! My GF dared me to stop on NEW YEARS EVE, and guess what??? I DID!! I didn’t realize I had a permanent sore throat until I quit… I didn’t realize how bad my car, and bedroom smelled until I quit… I didn’t realize how I couldn’t Eat, Poop, Drink, Wake up, Have a convo with buddies, or even have sex without depending on those little jokers, until I quit.. Didn’t realize how bad my breath smelled, and how my teeth were starting to stain until I quit. I’m telling you, it feels good to breath again and actually save money lol.. On top of me being a musician, all my friends still smoke. I encourage them all to smoke around me just to challenge myself. and Im done! I’m sure it isn’t this easy for everybody, but who wants depend on something Man-Made to get them through life??? Not I! don’t go back people.. that poison takes over, and YOU become a prisoner in YOUR own body. Oh, and i can’t forget to mention the fact that they KILL YOU.. annd THEY TELL YOU THAT!! I really hope these words find the right person and help them!
    Cheers! -Kmar

  7. Hey all,

    Glad to see other quitters :) This is definitely one thing worth quitting on. I’m 7 days in the bag, cold turkey. And, while I’ve quit for much longer in the past, I think this is the most solid effort (…actually, I don’t want to say effort, because this time is permanent). I read Alan Carr’s “Easy Way to Quit Smoking” and it breaks down the psychology/physiology of smoking. Great book and works well for someone analytically minded like myself.

    Good luck all! Keep pressing forward and remember: you’re not giving up anything.

  8. 2mos smoke free, used hypnosis… Only works if you really want it to, but for me it was a way to quite cold turkey. Whitenend my teeth that was nice, started working out again and noticed my endurance really improved and my resting heart rate when down a lot. I use to have high blood pressure not anymore… It has been a 25 year habit and really has positively changed my life to quite…

  9. I recently quit too, about 6 weeks now and I’m so happy and proud :) I hated the trap of being addicted to nicotine, and the smell of it, and the cost too! I smoked for 34 years with a few breaks now and then but I am determined not to smoke again and I’ve done well so far. The cravings are few and far between now. I found this site because I was looking up about chest congestion and when it will clear up. But it’s all well worth it. All these comments are encouraging too. GL everyone!!

  10. thirdtimesacharm says:

    It is really comforting to have found this site. I smoked my last cigarette 09/21/14. good luck to all ! Turned 42 09/27/14 n have smoked since age 11 with 2 solid attempts to quit. phew! Here we go !!!!

  11. Had my last cigarette in mid-September 2013 after using the patch and an electronic cigarette. After my last smoke, I used the electronic cigarette off and on till mid-January 2014 when I finally became nicotine free. I am so happy and proud I finally kicked the habit but it has been the toughest thing I have ever done. I enjoyed smoking for over 35 years and I still get those urges to light one up but my will power still manages to overcome the desire. I wish everyone who wants to stop smoking the best of luck. It’s very hard but I have found it very rewarding especially in regards to my health. Trust me, you will notice a difference in the months following that last smoke. It’s so scary to give up something you enjoy and/or depend on but if I can stop smoking, anyone can stop smoking.

  12. Best of luck…

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