how to prevent coughing while smoking weed

How to Not Cough While Smoking

Smoker’s cough is a nasty side effect of smoking. Here’s what you can do.В

For some, smoking — or attempting to — induces a violent coughing attack, called smoker’s cough.

When a person inhales smoke — marijuana, tobacco, or even secondhand — the carcinogenic compounds build up in the lung’s cilia, the little hair-like structures lining the walls of the lungs. When cilia are irritated, they alert the body to shake it out with some hacking. Coughing, after all, is the most effective way the human body knows how to expel toxins from its lungs.

That doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

According to a 2016 study published in the journal Primary Care Respiratory Medicine, which reviewed 19 research articles about the long-term effects of marijuana and tobacco smoking, smoking is bad news for a person’s respiratory system. Most of the studies confirmed that consistent smoke inhalation, no matter the source, can cause cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to name a few.

“Inhaling any burnt plant material is not good for your lungs,” Coral Gartner, senior research fellow at The University of Queensland in Australia, told Inverse. “Cannabis smoke also contains some of the same carcinogens that are in tobacco smoke and so it is likely that regular cannabis smoking will increase your risk of developing lung, mouth or throat cancer.”

The first sign that you might be at risk of developing any of these diseases is smoker’s cough. This nasty symptom often occurs in the morning after lungs have had a whole night to build up sputum, which begins to happen when those little cilia hairs get so weighed down that they can’t defend the lungs against regular mucus build-up — and infection. So, when a heavy smoker wakes from their pillow in the morning, all of that sputum comes rushing out in a fit of coughing.

If this doesn’t make you want to drop that blunt now, there are some tricks to prevent smoker’s cough until you do.

Try Vaporizing

In her 2015 paper published by the Society for the Study of Addiction, Gartner explains that with marijuana regulations becoming increasingly lax, people will likely be smoking more of it. So, cleaner methods should be considered.

Gartner suggests that vaporizers may be a cleaner alternative to smoking marijuana. Vaporizers work differently than traditional blunts, bongs, and bowls. They burn the material at a lower temperature, resulting in a less cough-provoking gas or vapor. This is easier on the lungs because it doesn’t require combustion, which means fewer toxins entering the lungs.

“The evidence on the relative harms of vaping cannabis compared to smoking is still developing,” Gartner said. “Vaping is likely to be less harmful as some studies show lower exposures associated risks with vaping than with smoking cannabis and cannabis smokers who switch to vaping report reduction in side effects and improved health. There may be differences in risk depending on the quality of the vaporizer (e.g. the operating temperature). Still, more research is needed on this topic to help cannabis users make informed choices.”

Cough Drops

In a 2006 outline from the British Thoracic Society Cough Guideline Group, they discuss how menthol — the primary ingredient in throat lozenges — does a remarkable job soothing a scratchy throat. You could also rub a little on your chest and the “menthol by inhalation suppresses the cough reflex,” she said.

Other common household ingredients that can help soothe the throat are honey, cayenne pepper, and mint.

Use more pillows

Another simple way of reducing a nasty cough is sleeping with your head elevated. When your head is lifted at night, mucus from the sinuses doesn’t settle in your airways. This causes build up.

Drink more water

Smoke inhalation dehydrates your body, which exacerbates a chronic cough. By drinking more water, you’ll be counteracting the effects that constant smoking can have on the body. Hydration also helps fight off infection, allowing your body to heal faster. It can also ease a hangover, keep your cells fresh, and make your throat a little less parched. It’s not a complete antidote to smoker’s cough, but plain old water is a first step in that direction.

Smoker’s cough is a nasty side effect of smoking. Here’s what you can do.

Why Does Weed Make You Cough?

If you’ve experienced a coughing fit after smoking cannabis, you’re not alone. It’s a common, natural response to smoke inhalation.

Sometimes, though, coughing can occur even when you’re not smoking. This is more likely to happen if you regularly smoke cannabis.

To learn why smoking cannabis can make you cough, read on. We’ll also explore how smoking cannabis might affect lung health, along with the risk of lung cancer.

Your throat and lungs are lined with sensory nerves. They work to detect irritating substances, like smoke, in your airways.

If you inhale an irritant, the nerves send signals throughout your respiratory tract. This produces a cough reflex, which helps you get rid of the irritating substance. The goal is to protect your respiratory tract, and ultimately, your lungs.

This is what happens when you smoke cannabis. The smoke irritates your airways, causing your nerves to trigger a cough reflex. It’s a normal reaction to inhaling any kind of smoke.

Research suggests that coughing related to cannabis smoking is usually due to short-term effects, rather than long-term damage. Let’s take a look at the research.


According to a 2013 review, smoking cannabis causes tiny injuries to the large airways, or bronchi. Your bronchi are the passages that connect your trachea (windpipe) to your lungs.

This increases your risk for chronic bronchitis, or inflamed bronchi, which causes frequent coughing. Chronic bronchitis typically goes away when you stop regularly smoking.

Defense against infection

Habitual smoking also decreases cilia in the airways. Cilia are small hairs that filter out particles and germs. And though habitual smoking reduces your lungs’ defense against infection, it isn’t associated with long-term damage, according to the 2013 review.

Long-term lung function

A 2012 study specifically examined the link between smoking cannabis and long-term lung function over a 20-year period. The researchers found that occasional smoking wasn’t linked to adverse lung function.

Though they speculated that heavy smoking can cause lasting damage, they weren’t able to make a solid conclusion. The study lacked enough participants who heavily smoked cannabis.

It’s worth noting that smoking cannabis is associated with lasting lung damage if you also smoke tobacco. In a 2016 study , people who smoked cannabis and tobacco were more likely to have impaired lung function than those who only smoked tobacco.

Despite these findings, scientists are still learning how smoking cannabis affects lung health over time. More long-term studies are necessary.

According to a 2020 study , cannabis smoke contains 110 compounds with potentially toxic properties. Sixty-nine of these compounds are also found in tobacco smoke. As a result, many people wonder if smoking cannabis can cause lung cancer.

The research is mixed. A 2015 meta-analysis found a weak link between long-term cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk. An older 2006 study also found no association between long-term smoking and lung cancer.

However, a 2013 study , which spanned over 40 years, found that frequently smoking cannabis doubles the risk of lung cancer. The association persisted after the researchers adjusted their data for tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and respiratory disease.

Similarly, an older 2008 study found a connection between cannabis smoking and lung cancer after adjusting for cigarette smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that it’s difficult to confirm a solid link. That’s because cannabis use often occurs alongside other behaviors that increase lung cancer risk, including cigarette smoking.

Therefore, more studies are needed involving people who smoke cannabis and not cigarettes.

It’s also possible for lung cancer to cause coughing. In this case, the coughing will be persistent or get worse over time. Other common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • coughing blood
  • chest pain
  • hoarseness
  • poor appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • fatigue
  • new wheezing
  • shortness of breath

Keep in mind that coughing has many potential causes. If you’re concerned about your coughing, visit your doctor.

As mentioned earlier, regularly smoking cannabis can lead to chronic bronchitis. Bronchitis is considered chronic if you have coughing and mucus for at least 3 months for 2 consecutive years.

Since chronic bronchitis causes persistent coughing, you’ll likely cough even when you’re not smoking. The cough might come and go, and it might get worse on some days. You may also have wheezing.

If you have chronic bronchitis due to smoking cannabis, quitting will decrease your symptoms.

Smoke can produce a cough reflex, which is your body’s way of getting rid of irritants. Researchers are still studying the long-term effects of smoking cannabis.