Smokers & Surgery – The Impact of Smoking

Surgery & Smoking – How Nicotine impacts your surgical recovery and cosmetic surgery results

Smoking can be detrimental to your health in many ways. One major downside is that it can ruin the results of your cosmetic or plastic surgery and lead to extreme complications like infections, tissue death, nipple loss or wound breakdown.

Smoking directly increases your risk of infection and wound complications. Smoking or taking nicotine in any form can lead to reduced blood flow, which automatically translates to poor healing and serious risks to your health.  Surgery and smoking is a bad combination.

Dr Scott Turner is a Sydney plastic surgeon and performs breast surgery, body surgery and facial cosmetic surgery on non smokers and patients willing to stop smoking before and after surgery.

Having Cosmetic Surgery can HELP You Give Up Smoking

Yes, you read it correctly. In recent research, cosmetic surgery can actually help people choose to give up smoking for life. The results of the research shows an association between cosmetic surgery and quitting smoking on a long-term basis. Individuals who are asked to quit smoking for a specified time pre & post-surgery end up quitting smoking altogether or starting to smoke-less. 

The study involved a group of 85 people who were habitual smokers and underwent cosmetic surgery. All the patients were asked to quit smoking for a minimum of two weeks prior to the surgery.

Five years after the surgery, nearly 47 patients responded to the follow-up survey. A lot of these patients were women above 40 years of age who underwent either of the following procedures; tummy tuck, breast lift and facelift. Out of 47, 42 patients were daily smokers and the rest of them were social smokers. 

About 40 percent of the patients said that they don’t smoke cigarettes on a daily basis since the surgery. About one-fourth of the patients said that they haven’t smoked since the procedure. 

The rest of the patients said that their cigarette consumption was reduced significantly after the surgery. Nearly 70 percent agreed that discussing the surgical risks due to smoking encouraged them to quit and/or reduce smoking. 

If you have been trying to quit smoking for quite some time, cosmetic surgery might help you achieve that goal for good. 

How Smoking Impacts the Results of Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery

1. Smoking Delays Healing

All in all, smoking, nicotine, cannabis, is a sure-fire way to ruin the outcome of your surgery. Let’s look at how smoking/nicotine will impact the results of your surgery:

We all wish to recover as smoothly as possible after the surgery. If you continue to smoke, your skin won’t heal at a rapid pace. When you smoke, it leads to lower absorption of important nutrients such as Vitamin C (an essential for healing/recovery). If you don’t want to stay in bed, feeling miserable, it’s best to quit smoking prior to undergoing any kind of surgical procedure. 

2. Higher Risk of Infections 

Delayed wound healing essentially means that you will be more vulnerable to developing wounds. It can lead to staph infections and contamination of bacteria which are very difficult to get rid of when you are smoking. You might end up with a horrible wound infection, accompanied by terrible scaring. 

3. Fatal Complications 

Smokers are at a higher risk of fatal complications including strokes, formation of blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, and other circulatory diseases. These risk and complications can be minimized greatly if you quit smoking for the specified time period. I am sure none of us wants to have any of these complications post-surgery, at the cost of smoking a few cigarettes. 

4. Tissue Death – Skin Necrosis

Smoking constricts the blood vessels which essentially translates to poor circulation of blood. It also compromises skin repair functions. This can lead to poor organ function and permanent damage to your tissues. 

5. Increased Medication Requirement 

It is no surprise that tobacco, cannabis, and nicotine down-regulate the effects of medications, drugs, and other substances. Essentially, you’ll need a higher dose of pain medications, antibiotics, and other drugs to keep your levels balanced. It can further compound the problems that can add to the recovery. 

6. It Might Lead to Lack of Exercise

Your surgeons will advise you to stay fit and healthy post-surgery to maintain the results of lipo, tummy tuck, mummy makeover etc. Smoking can damage your lungs, lead to cardiovascular problems which prevent you from exercising. This can lead to unhealthy weight changes which are not recommended post-surgery. 

7. Lower Immunity to infection

We don’t want low immunity at any time during the year, especially when we are recovering from surgery. With a lower immunity, you will be less likely to cope with any bacterial that you might encounter during the surgery or healing phase. Moreover, nicotine lowers nutrient absorption which further slows down the healing process, keeping you at a higher risk of getting infections. 

8. Bottoming Out of Breasts, Premature Aging, Low Survival of Fat

If you are smoking, the breast implants can bottom out prematurely because your skin lacks strength. If you have undergone face fat transfer, the chances of fat survival will be greatly minimized. Smoking also leads to premature skin ageing and weakens it over time. It badly influences the results of a facelift and mummy makeover surgeries. None of us wants to spend a ton of money, only to see it wasted. 

9. Increased Inflammation and Pain 

For most cosmetic surgery procedures, you won’t feel any significant pain and discomfort post the surgery (provided you take all the pain medications timely). However, chemicals found in cigarettes will increase inflammation, pain, and swelling throughout your body that you would have otherwise. It also lowers the impact of your medication which worsens the pain. 

10. Increased Risk of Bruising and Discolouration

We all wish to look normal as soon as possible after the surgery. Bruising is common post any kind of surgical procedure. If you didn’t wish to look like someone has beaten you up for weeks after the surgery, quitting smoking is essential. Smoking will worsen the bruising and will cause it to linger for much longer. 

Dr Turner’s 8 Top Tips for Smokers to quit or cut down when having Plastic Surgery

Now that we have established it is important and critical to quit smoking, vaping and using nicotine products for at least three to six weeks before getting the plastic surgery done. It is time to figure out how to do it. And no, you are not allowed to opt for e-cigarettes, vapes, patches, nicotine gums or any other substitutes. You need to go cold turkey on nicotine. 

Needless to say, it is easier said than done. Here are a few tips that can help you:

1. Get inspired to take action

We all have a particular look we wish to achieve with our plastic surgery. Put up your inspiration picture in your room, on your phone, and maybe one in your car too. Whenever you feel the urge to smoke, simply look at the picture and remind yourself why you are getting the procedure done. 

2. Find and Avoid your smoking ‘triggers’.

If you smoke when you are with a particular group of friends, maybe it’s time to avoid the gathering for some time. Do you smoke in the car? – keep gum or candy in the car instead. If seeing someone else smoke triggers you, it’s time to stay out of such gatherings. 

3. Develop Hobbies & Activities

Spend time nurturing your hobbies and other interesting activities that might help take your mind off smoking. It can include hiking, gardening, painting, watching a movie, or even painting your nails. 

4. Avoid Smoke and Smokers

Try to spend your leisure time in smoke-free zones such as a mall, at a movie theatre, with friends and loved ones who don’t smoke. 

5. Use Other Alternatives to nicotine

Discuss non-nicotine prescription medications with your doctor that can help you quit smoking before the surgery. You might want to do this step a little in advance. 

6. Commit to others

Tell your friends and family that you are quitting smoking and I am sure they will be very supportive. A little bit of support goes a long way when it comes to quitting a daily habit. 

7. Learn More about the effects of smoking

Read on the effects of smoking on surgery. Learning about the facts will get your priorities in order and help you quit them for your health. 

8. Get More Help

If you have tried quitting before but failed, taking a bit of professional help can work wonders. Join a group, visit a psychologist, taking advice from your doctor can provide the needed support. 

Smoking FAQs – Questions about Smoking & Surgery

Can I have plastic surgery if I smoke?

Smokers have significant complication rates as compared to non-smokers after plastic surgery. Hence, it is recommended to quick smoking for at least 3 to 6 weeks before and after the plastic surgery. Most surgeons will not perform a surgical procedure if you smoke. 

When should I stop smoking before plastic surgery?

It is recommended to quit smoking as well as stop consuming anything that contains nicotine for at least three to six weeks before getting plastic surgery. 

What happens if you smoke and have surgery?

Smoking will distort your immune system, delay the healing process and lead to a lot of post-surgical complications. 

Can you be denied surgery if you smoke?

Yes, you might be denied surgery if you smoke or refuse to quit it for a specified time duration. 

Do they test for nicotine before surgery?

Yes, most hospitals will do a test for nicotine detection prior to the surgery; a urine or breath test as a part of your pre-op assessment. 

What happens if you smoke before plastic surgery?

If you smoke before plastic surgery, it can lead to a variety of problems such as loss of cheek skin, nipples or tummy skin after a facelift, breast lift, breast reduction, or tummy tuck surgery, infections, death of fat cells, hard lumps, delayed wound healing, thick, wide scars, blood clots, increased pain, permanent small vessel damage, loss of breast implants, and life-threatening complications. 

Why does nicotine affect surgery?

Nicotine minimizes blood flow, slows down healing, increases the chances of infection, impacts your immune system, and negatively impacts your overall health.

Can I get a boob job if I smoke?

It is best to quit smoking for at least 5 weeks before getting a boob job. Otherwise, it can interfere with your healing and lead to skin loss, tissue death along a variety of problems. 

Can I get breast surgery if I smoke?

Yes but most plastic surgeons wouldn’t recommend that you undergo breast surgery if you are smoking or cannot quit it for a specified time period before and after surgery. 

Can I get a facelift if I smoke?

Most plastic surgeons refuse to perform facelifts on patients who are active smokers or are using nicotine in any form. Many perform nicotine tests before surgery begins.

What happens if I don’t stop smoking before a tummy tuck?

If you don’t stop smoking prior to a tummy tuck, it can increase the risk for poor wound healing, skin necrosis, infections, death of fat cells, hard lumps, delayed wound healing, thick, wide scars, blood clots, increased pain, permanent small vessel damage, loss of breast implants, and life-threatening complications

Will your nipples fall off if you smoke?

There is a small chance of nipple death or nipple necrosis. Smokers who undergo breast reduction or breast lift are at greater risk of losing a nipple after breast surgery. Nipple blood supply can be significantly reduced. The nipple may change colour to a dusky pink, then a darker brown and finally black. Then it falls off – dead. Don’t smoke!

How long does it take for nicotine to leave your system?

Generally, nicotine will leave your blood within 1 to 3 days after you stop using tobacco. However, the surgeon will advise you to quit it for 3 to 6 weeks. – WebMD

Can a surgeon tell if you smoke?

Yes, your doctor can tell if you smoke occasionally by looking at medical tests that can detect nicotine in your blood, saliva, urine and hair.

What happens if I don’t tell my doctor I smoke before surgery?

Smoking before surgery puts you at a higher risk for postoperative heart attacks, blood clots, pneumonia and even death. Hence, it is important to be open and honest with your surgeon. 

How do you get nicotine out of your system before surgery?

Stop smoking or consuming any products containing nicotine for at least three to six weeks prior to the surgery. 

When can you resume smoking after surgery?

It depends on the instructions given by your surgeon. In most cases, patients are able to resume smoking in about 3 to 6 weeks after the surgery. 

Can I vape before surgery?

No, you cannot vape before the surgery. 

Can I smoke e-cigarettes before surgery?

No, you shouldn’t smoke e-cigarettes before the surgery. The surgeon won’t allow any smoking alternatives prior to the surgery. 

Next Steps

Always Do Your Research

  • Enquire to find out more about your surgery
  • Please read our website to learn more about your intended procedure

Do you need a Medical Referral to see Dr Turner?

  • A GP Referral is required to Consult with Dr Turner (under new AHPRA Regulations)
  • Please obtain a referral from your GP or Specialist if you want a consultation for an MBS item number surgery.
  • Please note that your Medicare Rebates will NOT be claimable without a valid recent Medical Referral

Making The Most Of Your Consultation

  • Please arrive slightly early for your in-person consultation
  • You are welcome to bring a friend or relative to help consider the information and discuss your options
  • Please be aware you may need to undress for a physical exam so wear simple clothes
  • Ensure you also take a lot of notes during the consultation and thoroughly examine all the documents provided

Want more information before scheduling your consultation?

How to Book Your Consultation

  • You can book your initial consultation by paying the $350 cosmetic consultation fee in advance – when you make your appointment


  • To find out more information about surgery you can book a FREE 15-minute phone conversation with our Friendly Patient Care team via Calendly- Book Consultant 1 or Book Consultant 2

Contact us or call on  1300 437 758  to arrange your surgeon consultation in Sydney.

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