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95% of ex-smokers see positive changes soon after quitting

  • New research reveals smokers can expect positive changes as soon as 2 weeks after quitting, including having more energy (45%), feeling healthier (42%) and improved breathing (42%)
  • Data announced as the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities’ (OHID) national quit smoking campaign, Stoptober, returns to encourage smokers to quit this October and highlights both the immediate benefits and longer-terms gains ex-smokers can expect
  • Smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death in England with over 5 million people in the country still smoking
  • Campaign is supported by TV stars and ex-smokers Bobby Norris and Malin Andersson

A new nationwide survey released today ahead of Stoptober shows nearly all (95%) ex-smokers see positive changes in their life as early as 2 weeks after quitting.

Stoptober’s mass quit attempt will launch on 1 October, calling on smokers in England to join the thousands of others committing to quit. While smoking rates are declining, over 5 million adults in England still smoke and smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death in the country – linked to 64,000 deaths a year. The total cost from smoking to society in England is approximately £17 billion a year – this includes the cost to the NHS of treating diseases caused by smoking at approximately £1.9 billion a year.

This supports the government’s bold new measures – such as financial incentives for all pregnant women who smoke to quit – to help us achieve our bold ambition to be Smokefree by 2030.

New data from more than 3,000 ex-smokers, found some of the top benefits they saw within 2 weeks of quitting included having more energy (45%), feeling healthier (42%) and breathing better (42%). In addition to key improvements in health measures, many survey respondents also noted improvement in their ability to exercise (22%), healthier looking skin (24%), their sense of taste returning (25%), and saving money (34%). On average, a smoker could save £38 a week by quitting smoking, which is around £2,000 a year.

These findings reinforce the near-immediate improvements smokers can expect when they quit – including improvements to senses of taste and smell within as little as 48 hours.

NHS doctor, Dr Dawn Harper, said:

As a GP, I am always trying to encourage my patients to quit smoking as I know the detrimental impact it has on so many of our body’s systems. Quitting is one of the best things a smoker can do for their health, and kick starts a range of benefits from easier breathing to reduced coughing to better tasting food. It will also put you on the road to long-term health benefits including reduced risk of heart attack and lung cancer. So why not give it a shot this Stoptober?

Stopping smoking also brings multiple long-term health benefits, including a reduced risk of several cancers and lung diseases. Just one year after quitting, the risk of a heart attack is halved and after 10 years, the risk of death from lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, said:

Over the past 12 years Stoptober has helped over 2 and a half million people quit. However, while smoking rates are in decline, there are over 5 million adults in England who still smoke, so it’s vital we support everyone to go smoke free. Quitting will improve your health whatever your age and no matter how long you have smoked. It’s never too late to stop. I encourage you to give it a go.

Health Minister, Neil O’Brien, said:

Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death. When people quit smoking, the benefits are huge – they are healthier, wealthier and pressure on the NHS eases.

Stoptober will motivate thousands to quit smoking this October by providing people with the support and confidence to go smoke free.

We remain committed to our bold ambition to be smoke free by 2030, bolstered by a package of new measures giving vapes to a million smokers, new financial incentives for pregnant women to quit and new pack inserts to provide support to people to quit.

Stoptober is based on evidence showing that if you can make it to 28 days smoke free, you’re 5 times more likely to quit for good. This year’s new campaign – ‘When you stop smoking, good things start to happen’ – is designed to highlight the immediate benefits smokers can expect when they stop smoking.

While stopping smoking can be challenging, the survey also revealed interesting findings in terms of where people find support to quit, with family and friends (29%) and talking to others who have quit smoking (21%) rated as key motivators. Other top tips included finding a distraction from smoking such as keeping hands busy (37%), changing routine (37%) and going for walks (37%).

Ex-smokers The Only Way Is Essex star Bobby Norris and Love Island’s Malin Andersson are joining the campaign this year to tell their stories of how they quit successfully and encourage others to also give quitting a go.

The Only Way is Essex star, Bobby Norris, said:

Three years ago, I finally made the decision to give up smoking after almost 20 years. I was surprised by how quickly I felt the benefits – I’ve instantly had more energy to do the things I love like improving my fitness, I feel so much healthier, I never want to go back. With the great support on offer via Stoptober I couldn’t recommend a better time to get involved and give it a go from this year.

Campaigner, broadcaster and former Love Islander, Malin Andersson, said:

I quit 2 years ago because I was pregnant but was amazed to discover there are so many other benefits to stopping smoking, such as being able to breathe easier, I had more energy and just felt so much healthier. I used to smoke 8 to 10 cigarettes a day for 8 years – so I know how hard it can be to quit, but after seeing these improvements, I had to stick with it. This could be you too!

Stoptober offers a range of free quitting support, including the NHS Quit Smoking App, Facebook support group, an online Personal Quit Plan and local stop-smoking service look-up tool, as well as advice on stop smoking aids including information on how vaping can help you quit smoking.

For free support to quit this October, search ‘Stoptober’.

Background information

Stoptober is the annual campaign under the OHID umbrella brand, ‘Better Health: let’s do this’ that encourages smokers across the country to join in and give quitting a go in the month of October.

Visit Better Health: quit smoking to find out more on what support is available.

A survey was conducted by Censuswide, reaching over 3,000 adults in England between 23 August and 31 August 2023. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

Current adult smoking prevalence in England (2022) is 12.7%, equating to 5.3 million people (Office for National Statistics)

Between 2019 and 2020, 448,000 hospital admissions were attributable to smoking in England.

There are benefits to mental health too: evidence shows that once people have got past the short-term withdrawal stage of quitting, they have reduced anxiety, depression and stress and increased positive mood compared with people who continue to smoke.


OHID analysis (2022). Based on smoking attributable mortality (new method) 2017 to 2019. Local Tobacco Control Profiles – Data.

HM Revenue and Customs, 2019. Disaggregation of HMRC tax receipts: methodological note.

HM Revenue and Customs, 2020. Measuring tax gaps 2020 edition: tax gap estimates for 2018 to 2019

OHID, 2020. Smoking Prevalence in adults (18+) – current smokers (APS) (2020 definition)

Fidler JA, Shahab L, West O, Jarvis M J, McEwen A, Stapleton. A and others. The smoking toolkit study: a national study of smoking and smoking cessation in England, BMC Public Health 2011: 11: 479.

OHID analysis. 2022. Based on the 4 sources above. To estimate the average spend per smoker, data on tobacco spending from the Smoking Toolkit Study was adjusted based on government data on tobacco tax revenue and illicit tobacco, due to expected under-reporting. This data was also matched to income and smoking prevalence data to estimate how spend on tobacco varies across England.

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