Quitting smoking

Why It’s Important to Stop Smoking Before Plastic Surgery

Christie Auyeung Plastic Surgery Leave a Comment

The prospect of plastic surgery can be both exciting and daunting. There’s a lot to think about, including the safety risks associated with a surgical procedure. Thankfully, there is a lot that you can do to make sure that your plastic surgery goes as smoothly as possible. Probably the biggest one: quit smoking.

Smoking causes serious harm to nearly every organ of the body, including the heart, blood, lungs, bones, and skin. There are more than 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke linked to cancer, heart disease, and stroke. However, you can start to reap health benefits almost immediately after quitting smoking. If you are considering plastic surgery, quitting smoking is a crucial step to preventing complications during surgery and ensuring your body heals properly.

Let’s break down the basics

Smoking prevents proper healing after surgery

Plastic surgery involves modifying the shape of certain areas of the body. Whether it’s a tummy tuck, face-lift, or breast augmentation, skin or tissue is moved from one area to another. The result is a change of blood supply to these areas. During the healing process, these tissues receive less blood than under normal conditions.

Nicotine, the addictive chemical present in tobacco, causes blood vessels to shrink all over the body. Additionally, nicotine makes blood stickier and more likely to clot. This causes a lot of problems for tissues recovering from plastic surgery, which already receive less blood than normal. Clogged blood vessels and constricted blood vessels diminish blood flow to tissues, which can result in tissue destruction and prevent the operated area from healing properly. The carbon monoxide and cyanide found in cigarettes also amplifies this effect on the body.

Smoking increases risks in the operating room

The negative effects of smoking become apparent from the start of a surgical procedure. During surgery, smokers are at increased risk for experiencing oxygen shortage, developing blood clots, or contracting an infection.

A study from the European Society of Anesthesiology showed that compared with people who don’t smoke, smokers need 33% more anesthesia in the operating room and an additional 23% more pain medication after surgery.

Not convinced yet?

In recent years, plastic surgeons have become very strict about requiring patients to quit smoking before undergoing surgery. Twenty-five years ago, it may have been acceptable for an active smoker to undergo a surgical procedure. “Nowadays, if a doctor knew a patient was smoking and they did surgery, many of us would say that’s malpractice,” said Dr. Patrick McMenamin, the president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, in an interview with the New York Times.

Quitting smoking can be intensely difficult, but the desire for plastic surgery can be a strong motivator. “When someone hears this from an internist or cardiologist who says it’s really bad for you, it increases your risk of lung cancer it’s bad for your heart, people tend to blow that off if they’re feeling well,” recalls Dr. Alan Gold, the president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. “With plastic surgery it’s a little bit different. People are desirous of an elective procedure, and that’s their main objective in coming in. It’s something they truly want.”

Sometimes, the desire for plastic surgery can be a more powerful motivator than the overall health benefits of quitting smoking. Either way, any additional reason to quit smoking is a good one.

Considering plastic surgery?

If you smoke and are considering plastic surgery, the best thing you can do to prevent complications is to quit smoking. The effects of nicotine are the same when smoking, chewing nicotine gum, or wearing a nicotine patch, so the safest option is to stop using any products containing nicotine. Most surgeons recommend quitting at least two to four weeks before surgery, depending on the individual and the procedure.

For more information on quitting smoking, here are some resources to explore:




Christie is a UChicago grad currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. In her free time, she enjoys tap dancing, learning to windsurf, and trying new foods.