Why Smoking Cannabis Cause You Coughing

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"It’s a common, natural response to smoke inhalation."

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.

Why does it happen?

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.

Chronic cough

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.

How to prevent coughing

According to people who smoke cannabis, there are several ways to minimize coughing after smoking. You can:

  • Take smaller doses. Smaller “hits,” or breaths, of cannabis will reduce the amount of smoke that enters your airways at once.
  • Inhale deeply. This will prevent smoke from getting stuck in your throat, which can cause coughing.
  • Inhale and exhale softly. Avoid forcefully inhaling and exhaling. Even as you inhale deeply, do so gently.
  • Drink water. It’s recommended to drink water before, during, and after smoking. This may help minimize coughing by easing irritation in your throat.

Want to avoid any and all coughing? Consider eating cannabis and avoiding smoking altogether.

How to soothe your throat

If you’ve already been coughing and your throat is sore, here’s what you can do to relieve it:

  • Gargle salt water. A saltwater gargle is ideal for discomfort and pain in the throat. To make it, mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 4 to 8 ounces of warm water.
  • Sip cold water. Drinking fluids will decrease dryness in your throat. Cold water is especially soothing.
  • Drink warm liquids. You can also drink warm fluids, like broth or caffeine-free tea, to relieve throat soreness.
  • Eat hard candy. Sucking on hard candy can increase saliva production and ease coughing.
  • Eat cold foods. Consuming ice pops or ice cream may help.
  • Use a humidifier. Humidifiers are ideal for reducing dry air, which may worsen your symptoms.
  • Take a break. Limit smoking cannabis until your throat feels better.


When you inhale cannabis smoke, the sensory nerves in your airways produce a cough reflex. This is your body’s way of protecting against irritating substances. It’s a normal response that occurs when you inhale any kind of smoke.

Scientists are still learning how cannabis smoke affects the lungs. Currently, research has failed to find a solid link between smoking cannabis and long-term lung damage. It’s unclear whether it increases the risk of lung cancer.

Still, it’s possible to develop chronic bronchitis due to smoking cannabis. This causes chronic coughing, phlegm, and wheezing. In most cases, these symptoms will go away if you quit smoking cannabis.

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