how to stop coughing when smoking weed

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.

How to stop coughing so hard when you smoke weed

The first thing a new weed smoker can try to silence those embarrassing coughing fits is to just take smaller hits.

Inhaling the smoke deeply also allows you to gain the maximum buzz benefits from your weed smoking endeavours. Photo by / Photo: ctgledhill24 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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    Article content

    There is nothing that makes cannabis users look more like a novice than when they cough after every single hit. Their faces turn beet red, their eyes start watering as though they had just watched Toy Story 3 and the hacking sounds coming from their gyrating bodies tell everyone in the room they can’t hold their weed.

    In a lot of ways, coughing incessantly after smoking marijuana is tantamount to when someone scrunches up their face down at the local bar after taking a shot of Tequila. Everyone can always tell a lightweight by these physical reactions and, let’s face it, no one wants to be considered an amateur in a time when smoking grass is becoming so popular.

    How to stop coughing so hard when you smoke weed Back to video

    If you are reading this, chances are you sound as though you are choking on a chicken bone every time you smoke weed. Fortunately, there are a few things a person can do to help cough less and join the ranks of the professionals. Pay close attention here, kids, your reputation is on the line.


    Article content continued

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    What does cannabis smoke do to the lungs?

    The first thing a new weed smoker can try to silence those embarrassing coughing fits is to just take smaller hits. Sure, it’s a natural instinct to jump in there and start chiefing away like Cheech and Chong, but that’s where most beginners go terribly wrong. The virgin lungs need some finessing, a little wining and dining before they are anywhere ready for this sort of abuse.

    Smoking weed isn’t a competition. Never be afraid to take a smaller hit than everyone else, if that’s what needs to happen to prevent one of your lungs from ending up on the living room floor.

    A true professional understands his or her limits.

    Another pro-toker move that helps keep coughing to a minimum is to just inhale deeply after taking a hit. One of the most common rookie mistakes is taking a hit and hesitating to suck the smoke down into the lungs right away. This can sometimes cause the smoke to get trapped in the throat, and that’s when the body goes haywire in its perceived fight for survival.

    The best move is to buy cannabis products from a licensed dispensary, one that is subject to testing and other regulations. / Photo: Getty Images

    What’s more, inhaling the smoke deeply also allows you to gain the maximum buzz benefits from your weed smoking endeavours.

    Well, would you look at that? You’re already well on your way to stepping up your weed smoking game.

    There is also something to be said about buying higher-quality cannabis. Some of the stuff sold on the black market could contain dangerous pesticides and other chemicals that make even the smallest hits entirely too harsh. And nobody wants to smoke grass that has been tainted by poisons, anyway.

    The first thing a new weed smoker can try to silence those embarrassing coughing fits is to just take smaller hits.