If you're a smoker who quits, how long will it be before you start enjoying the health benefits? According to a major new study, your health starts to improve from the very first day, although it may take 20 years before your risk of lung cancer returns to normal.
Your chances of living a healthy life also increase if you start smoking later in life, researchers from Harvard University have found.
They tracked the health of 104,519 female participants in the Nurses' Health Study over a 22-year period and, in that time, 12,483 died. Of these, 64 per cent of deaths among smokers and 28 per cent of deaths in past smokers were directly attributable to cigarettes - so health risks are more than halved if you quit.
The risk of heart disease drops dramatically very soon after quitting, but it may take up to 20 years before you get the 'all clear' on an elevated risk of lung cancer.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2008; 299: 2037-47).