British Lung Foundation
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Breathing worse after giving up smoking.Why ?

I'm 62.I gave up smoking about a year ago.Soon after I was diagnosed as having COPD. Stage three apparently. When I was smoking I could swim in the sea and even have a go at amateur surfing. Four weeks after giving up smoking I suddenly couldn't walk more than about 50 yards without gasping for breath. I'm in about the same position now. This seems to happen to quite a few people. Has anyone got the answer please ?

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39 Replies

I know it sounds foolish, but this is one of the things that's putting me off giving up completely. I'm down to about 7 or 8 a day now from 40, but I've heard so many of my friends say how awful they've felt for months and months after giving up.

Sorry I can't offer you any reason for the way you feel and hope you find your health improves day by day.

Best wishes

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I found out about Breathe Easy today. ( Why the GP can't tell us this stuff instead of us finding out about it is beyond me ! )

I called my local one and spoke to the lady who helps run it. She has to use a nebuliser. Believe it or not she still smokes as it makes her feel better than not smoking. I wouldn't mind feeling worse if I knew it would get better. If it is COPD then it apparently wont. Very frustrating. People I ave spoke to who have given up smoking say it took anything from 3 to 5 years to breath properly but they didn't get COPD though.


Sorry my friend I can't bring myself to call you by a shorten version of your name. Smoking and stopping WOW, First of all my friend a great big Well done for quitting this maiming and killing stick. Nope don't say bet this idiot as never smoke so he might try calling us. You would be a long way from the truth. No I wasn't a smoker the reason that I say this is because I was a eater of cigarette's. Yes between 60 to 80 Park Drive Plain a day So I couldn't have smoked much stronger unless I went to Capstan full strength. I stopped 26 years ago even though it was really difficult I stopped quite easily really. Something hit me in my mind and stopped there and then. Yes I had problems after quitting, Whilst smoking I was playing table tennis, Swimming, Yes I had played football most of my life and yes Rugby and some Hockey but no I never played any after I stopped. Then another downer, I found food that I loved I couldn't stand the taste or smell after stopping smoking So yes my diet altered no not to am approved diet I would eat lots of wrong food. Last night a young friend was saying what they was eating just then. I was truthful and replied with I am eating a large bag of pork scratchings and a can of Coke so no I am not perfect, far from it. Like I said my friend I was having problems health wise. I was diagnosed with my lung disease 20 years after stopping smoking. What I got out of it was. Thank god I did quit because common sense informed me that if I hadn't then I know that I wouldn't be typing this right now. Yes my Organs would have been donated long before now. So you see my friend I don't think of it like that, I can't play football like I could before. I can't go swimming like I did before stopping, The way I think now my friends Is because I quit I have been able to see my grandkids grow up into young men a girl That I am so proud of. Yes I have been able to enjoy a beautiful longer life with Ann my wonderful Wife yes and still drive to Cornwall every year for a 3 week holiday. Last Year 2 weeks before I was to make my drive to Cornwall. I was invited by the British Lung Foundation to give a series of Talks to a leading Pharmacuetical Company in Surrey. Yes I could have stopped in a Hotel but I would rather spend that time with my family, So I drove from North Nottinghamshire Down to Surrey gave my Talks and drove home again. If I hadn't stopped smoking when I did not only would I have not done that Drive but hundreds of people would not have been aware of what living with Lung disease is really like for us People. 3 Weeks ago I was invited to Manchester Yes I stayed in a Hotel because this time I was doing some Training on behalf of our NHS So that I could help make sure not only myself but other tutors Could Help us people with Lung Disease how to Self Manage our Lives whilst living with long term conditions. Yes I have 4 Lung diseases and a serious back pain due to a bad accident. Yesterday I had to go for my annual Review the Nurse was going WOW as I was blowing in the Spyrometry The reason for that was My Diseases hadn't progressed one iota in the Past 6 years. Yes what a fantastic life I live. No I am not always what we all wish we was I was taken Ill after I lost a young friend in October and wasn't fully about till March But guess what those Exacerbations never once made me really ill Because my Self Management Let me Know that once my Antibiotics and Steroids took hold I would be soon on my way Back. Yes My friends that is what quitting Smoking did for Me. It gave me my life back and made it a beautiful life and if tiy allow it then I am certain you would soon feel the exact same. Bless You All. Breathless


That was really nice to read all those things that you have now like a longer life enjoying with your love ones, i just quit smoking for a month now and previously i can have 1 pack a day after that planned to quit. Things I encountered were things I never encountered when I was still smoking, sometimes its scary like I cant breathe well but I dont loose hope that one day all of this hard things Im foing through right now will paid off , please if you can suggest anything feel free to send me mail, time to time I have this breathing problem I dont know what to do .

You may call me Puff if you like ! I gave up smoking because I had angina. A stent was put in. It was also found that I'd had a mild heart attack that I didn't know about. I don't drink alcohol. I'm not overweight and I was quite active. The only thing left to cause my angina/heart problem was smoking. So I stopped. Just like that. Lucky for me I found it relatively easy. Then all of a sudden....COPD. Grrrrrr !!


My dads nurse said you feel worse straight away when you quit,because something in cigerettes dilates the air ways so when you stop it seems harder to breath.But in the long run you will feel much better for not smoking .


50 years of smoking and quit 7 years ago........but lungs are steadily decreasing........and no one can explain why?

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90me with me I quite 8 years ago ,Feeling short of breath now doing the slightess thing ,Had a COPD Test and I didn't blow very well but my Doc said no obstruction ,but I have lungs of a 90 Year old Woman ,I am 71 . Sorry that I started smoking . But we have to carry on ,I have bought a salt inhaler but its not doing much good

I see you wrote this 2 years ago, I'm going through the same thing. 50 years of smoking and quit 3 years ago, has anyone found anything out for you? Are you any better?

Thanks Rena

I have very slowly lost lung power in terms of percentage. When I first stopped smoking (50 yrs) I was told I had 74% of my lungs left working. It is 8-9 years later now, and my last test showed I now have only 52% of lungs working. I haven't met anyone with copd who is improving....just managing as I am the best I can. You do have to try to fight it, exercise, lose weight, breathing meds if you can afford.


My husband - exactly the same ........ or so he thinks! But if he was really honest then he would remember that he has been coughing for years - the "smokers" cough, had a chest infection every winter (never bothered with antibiotics!), and was starting to be out of breath. In my opinion he already had COPD by the time he stopped smoking. He was absolutely furious that, like you, his breathing seemed to be much worse. BUT the upside is that his COPD has not progressed in the last few years - because he is managing it. Our lovely family doctor, who has since retired, told me that if you can stop smoking, COPD will not progress significantly but that does not mean you will stop ageing!!! Well done for stopping - think of all the money you are saving!

I agree about Breath Easy - we only found out about after five years after my husband had been very will and my sister (a nurse) asked if we had been referred to the community specialist respiratory team. A phone call to our practise nurse got a referral and onwards to pulmonary rehab which has been a godsend.

Good luck !! TAD xx

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Better late than never I suppose ! Well it's taken me a year to find this site which has led me to things like Breath Easy. I asked my doctor today about pulmonary rehab but he said that was for people at a later stage of COPD than me.

Go back and ask again, it is not only for later stages of COPD

Best wishes

Jo :-)

My husband was told the same - go back and ask again!! It is not and my doctor was really surprised when I told her how useful it had been. Good Luck xx ps it might be an idea to ask the helpline if there are any guidelines which you could quote!

You always feel like the smoke clears your airways, feel better after a ciggy

but obviously just a mental thing

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not just psychological - there is a chemical that opens the airways and medics have only just begin to understand/ be honest about this - I found this out from a stop smoking helpline ! that makes such sense to me from previous quit times when I restarted for that very reason and didn't commit to quit for same reason . so my plan now is slowly reducing before quitting. reckon that will be much easier to cope with.



I have COPD, was taken into hospital with pneumonia three weeks ago, to be honest it scared me to give up smoking! It’s three weeks now I’ve not smoked but ... now I’ve taken all my steroids and medication for pneumonia I feel very much out of breath!!

I have been feeling like maybe just one cigarette to clear my air waves!!! Or is that an excuse!!!!!

Yes - I certainly agree - pulmonary rehab is for anyone with copd - and the sooner someone gets referred to it after diagnosis the better.

Delivery of pul rehab can differ from area to area - but certainly push to get on it - phone your local Physio Department of your local hospital - they will know where it is held and also what the way in is for your area.



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I think using stem cell's in the future will be the only cure.

I remember my smoking increased just before diagnosis. I could barely breath, even sitting down all day. I found the only thing that gave me any relief was a cigarette, so I was practically chain smoking and yet I had previously been a light smoker. I stopped smoking immediately on diagnosis, but like you are all saying, my breathing felt much worse and I kept waiting for that magic time when I would finally feel the benefit of giving up. That moment never arrived. There may have been some gradual improvement, but nothing major.

I think two things made our breathing feel easier when we smoked - one as mentioned above is that there's an ingredient in cigarettes that temporarily dilates the airways (those tobacco companies certainly know what they are doing!), and two, if you think about how we smoked - a good draw in, hold it a second then a long steady steady out breath .....well try it - mime smoking a cigarette and notice what type of breathing you use ... I think they call it 'PLB' at rehab (pursed lip breathing for the uninitiated) - oh the irony! :)


And I've been told, when smoking the little hairs in the airways get knocked into submission by the chemicals in the smoke etc. When someone stops smoking these little hairs start waking up and doing what they are there to do - moving mucous etc out of the lungs and causing the cough and clearing all sorts of gunk out.

So the smokers cough is the same thing - wake up in the morning not having had a cig during the night - the little hairs start working and then a morning cig or two knock them back sensesless.



Your story seem's to mirror mine,

In April last year i stopped smoking and shortly after i was having problems breathing, to the piont i was exhausted going up and down stairs.

Went to the doctors and test's began, they found out i needed to have three stents fitted which happened March this year, I felt great afterwards then three - four weeks on the breathing problems came back again,

I was told last week that it was COPD.

Even though i don't have any answers for you or myself it does give some comfort to know i'm not alone.

please can you tell me what stents are?

They open the arturies to the heart, its much better than having heart bypass surgery , had that done in 2000, you recover much quicker from stents as it's keyhole and less intrusive ;-)

how good is that - glad they help you .

I was out in the garden the next day trimming a shrub. Only for 10 minutes though !

It's like a wire cage that holds the arteries open. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to put in.They put a tube in the groin artery or the arm and feed it to the heart. You're awake when they do it and you can watch it all on a screen if you wish. Then rest that day and go home the next day.

i think that you should try to do small things first off and then SLOWLY biuld up to big things like swimming in the sea and windsurfing

keep trying

Elyse -may :)

Hi There,

Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals and additives to make it more enjoyable, attractive and addictive.

When you have a cigarette the inhaled smoke has a numbing/paralysing effect on the airways - this may explain why people feel better after a cigarette as this effect can mask any problems/symptoms. When a person stops smoking the little hairs in the airway (Cilia) start to come to life again trying to sweep away any mucous etc that is there.

It is still much better to stop smoking smoking as this stop any further damage and slow down the progression.

I hope this helps.




Im 34, I gave up smoking 4 years before. I've been going through the same symptoms as you have for the last 3 years. There is no sign of improvement. I started using nebulizer and was advised to take montec LC (probably for allergy). Ive been very active physically while I was smoking and never had COPD or used any medication for breathing. Im unable to sleep properly because of OBD & now it seems my lungs have become too sensitive that I start to cough if I turn on my window airconditioner. Have you managed to get any remedy or cure for your symptoms. It would be of great help if you can share your treatment info.


I also had smoked 2 packs a day But was in hospital most times for not being able to breath Last time in hospital was 7 years ago I walked out of hospital Threw my cigarett's away Haven't smoked since than Now I have COPD. can't walk I have Neourapthy Jumping and shaking leg's and arms Can't win

Without being an alarmist, it sounds like you might have the beginnings of Emphysema or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). What happens is that when you smoke, chemicals in the cigarettes paralyze your lungs and you don't realise the damage they are causing. When you quit, the tiny cilia hairs inside your lungs begin to function again and your Emphysema or COPD is brought to the surface.

You can't expect to smoke and get away with it. Smoking causes all kinds of terrible, permanent health issues. Emphysema and COPD are just a couple of them. You can expect that this will be permanent and over time (many many years), it will worsen (as your lungs naturally deteriorate with age). You will likely end up with an oxygen mask around your mouth to be able to do even the simplest of things such as walking.


I was diagnosed 2 yes ago with mild COPD. I gave up immediately. Yes it was hard. I tried the usual stuff - NICOTINE patches but nothing worked. I started using an E CIG (( told my dr )) he was fine. I started at 24ml - strong like tobacco. Since 2 yrs now I have graduated went down the stages. 24ml, then 18, 12, 8, and now I use 0% E CIG. I would say I always bought flavorous - stupid using tobacco. Occasionly I might take a puff of me E CIG - no nicotine. There is no taste, but I'm happy with that. What really helped me was my husband gave up cigs to give me support. Now we are a house of non smokers. My children are so proud of me - they don't smoke and I have a new grandson. Sorry to babble. At Xmas I was very ill with flu which affected my lungs. Dr put me on Prednisol which taste disgusting. He changed my inhaler to a purple one with steroids in it. Still to take my Salamol as and when I need it. I'm worried about the wheezing which is not getting better. I'm lucky my drs surgery has a qualified COPD nurse - beats sitting in a hospital. Thats my story. One thing that did happen was my young son - healthy - fit - never smoked has developed Cancer. Life is a bitch. Thank you for listening to my story.



are you going to rely to me?

I signed up to the forum after searching the internet to find out if anybody else had had breathing problems after stopping smoking. I had smoked for 56 years and quit towards the end of last year. I was 70 last May and was taken into hospital with pneumonia and was quite ill. I honestly had never had a chest infection in my life. When I came out of Hospital I thought 'Sod it' and started smoking again. My breathing has improved to what it had always been before and I can run up and down the stairs again without a problem. I am getting into the mindset again, and going to read Alan Carr's book again, and quit. I know that one persons experience can hardly be called significant fact, but my breathing is so much better since I started smoking again that I do feel that there has to be an additive in the tobacco that is responsible for this. Never the less, I can do the math, and I will Quit.

From what I understand that smoking tobacco can have a anesthetic affect on inhaling so the lungs do not reject the smoke/heat. Once you stop smoking long term the lungs start to do what they a were made to do and that is move the junk away. This is why so many have a worse time breathing as it is moving more than usual. I stopped in 1992 and my GP now says I am classed as a non smoker now.

I think it can take some years to clear all the rubbish smoking has deposited in the lungs.

you breath more difficultly after because your lungs are more numb when you smoke when you quit your feelings and tiny fibers grow and heal and your nerves come back to normal so you can actually feel how hard it is to breath. but when you were smoking your nerves are damaged and you can't tell how hard it is to breath. after a good few weeks or months depending on the person this should pass and you will feel great. also you will be so much more fitter and find yourself running swimming cycling a lot more easier. I gave up for 11 months and I started to exercise when I did skipping was so fit that I would push myself so hard and keep going for up to 1 hour as fast as possible and do it with ease. as apposed to 20 mins slowly and can't wait to end due to lack of breath. it's very rewarding and it takes time but is worth it all at the end. save every penny you would spend on cigs for a year and see how much you saved and buy yourself something very good or carry on saving. good luck and just stay positive. no matter what you think and how stressed you get just remember smoking isn't going to help you financially or physically in the long run. you will be so much more happy and feel great everyday when you quit and then you can plan your next goal like weight training running ect be mindful that your appetite will increase dramatically just replace food with something healthy like fruit and lean proteins otherwise you will give yourself other complications with your health and there'd be no point in quitting smoking. good luck again and save save save. (-;


Hi all,

I'm not a particularly heavy smoker but have recently quit and I'm experiencing a tightness too. I did find exercise helped but had to get through the initial tightness. Ventolin can help this.

I quit as I'm hoping to get into commercial diving so I've been frantically looking for something that might speed up recovery.

I came across an Enzyme call serrapeptase which sounds really promising for lung recovery and also clearing out all the sh*te in the arteries. Its worth looking into, I've read some great things. This isn't a plug, do your own research, there's lots of supplements available. I hope it might help!

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