Plenty of research has been done on the damaging effects of smoking, so we understand this connection pretty well. Smoking clearly damages cell membranes and neural viability in the areas of the brain that manage balance, coordination, and both fine and gross motor skill. It also thins the cortex, where processes including language, memory, and perception occur.
Quitting now is important for your overall health, and it can help your brain as well. However, a certain amount of damage is already done. Researchers have found that smoking cessation can restore some of the cortex’s lost thickness, but even heavy ex-smokers who haven’t puffed for more than 25 years have a thinner cortex than those who never smoked.