Why Does Vaping Make Me Cough? Causes of Vaper's Cough

Vaper’s cough is a common phenomenon, especially among new vapers. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate it. Let’s explore some causes and solutions.

It’s not uncommon to find yourself with a persistent cough or a sore throat if you’ve quit smoking cigarettes and switched to vaping. Many beginners develop vaper’s cough when they first start vaping.

There are a few reasons why you might be coughing from vaping, though luckily, your symptoms are most likely benign.

In this article, we’ll be discussing some of the common causes of vaping cough and some steps you can take to alleviate the irritation to get your vaping journey back on track.

What is Vaper’s Cough?
A cough is simply how your body reacts to an irritant in your airway. Vaper’s cough is a common physical reaction among new and experienced vapers alike, though how long you’ve been vaping can be an indicator of the cause.

It’s important to note that you’re more likely to develop vaper’s cough when you first start vaping as your body is adjusting to the difference and you’re still learning the correct inhale technique.

While vaping is getting closer and closer to replicating a realistic smoking sensation, the two are still wildly different. It’s important not to be immediately discouraged if your first experience with a vaping device causes you to cough. We’ve all been there.

If you’re an experienced vaper and you develop vapers cough, your issue may be related to your setup or E-Liquids.

Why Do Vapes Make Me Cough More Than Smoking Cigarettes?
Your respiratory system is lined with cilia: tiny hairs whose job it is to remove dust and mucous when breathing. They do this by moving in a rhythm to push mucous out of your trachea so you either expel or swallow it.

Tobacco smoke really damages your cilia, paralyzing and even destroying some of them, which plays a huge role in the development of lung disease and lung cancer in smokers. Yikes.

If you’ve been smoking cigarettes for a long time, you’ve likely damaged your cilia to the point that they can no longer work effectively in removing debris from your respiratory tract.

The good news is that your cilia start to grow back when you quit smoking cigarettes, which helps you clear your airways and breathe better. The downside is that as these hairs become active again—perhaps for the first time in years if you were a heavy smoker—you’re likely to experience coughing, dry mouth, and a sore throat: the hallmarks of another condition called “smoker’s cough” or “smoker’s flu.”

If you substitute vaping for smoking, you’re likely to experience a vaping cough for a couple of weeks as your body adjusts. Read on for more on why vaping may make you cough more than smoking does.

Coughing When Vaping: Causes
It’s not uncommon to develop vaper’s cough, especially when quitting smoking or changing up your device, settings, or E-Liquids. Let’s dive into the various reasons you might experience vapers cough.

You’ve Just Quit Smoking
As we mentioned, smoking damages the cilia in your throat. Once you stop smoking and the cilia start to grow back—which can take anywhere from a month to a full year for long-term smokers—these tiny hairs become active again and may make you more prone to throat irritation.

This is entirely normal.

Even if you quit smoking without the help of e-cigarettes, you’re still likely to experience smoker’s cough. Now, toss in a brand new substance—E-Liquid vapour—which you haven’t adjusted to yet, and your poor little cilia will be understandably overwhelmed.

Vaping is by far the most effective smoking cessation aid in history, but switching from smoking to vaping e-cigarettes can be a tough transition as you learn the proper inhalation technique and you’re getting over the symptoms of quitting smoking.

Rest assured that this is common and normal for new vapers quitting traditional cigarettes.

On a personal note, it happened to me—I smoked Marlboro Reds for a decade, and when I switched to vaping, I had a pretty rough, obnoxious, rattling cough for about 2 weeks. Depending on how long and how much you smoked, this can last up to a month as your cilia regrow.

Vaping Technique
New vapers cough when they first pick up an e-cigarette. This is completely normal when you first try vaping.

As much as vaping does a great job of satisfying nicotine cravings, it’s still not quite the same as smoking a cigarette. Smoking and vaping require different techniques for inhaling, as they’re fundamentally different substances.

For instance, you might be able to talk with cigarette smoke in your lungs, but if you try to do the same with vapour, you’ll either choke or wind up sounding like Darth Vader.

It’s difficult to teach someone how to inhale vapour. Instead, you’ll grow accustomed to it the more you vape.

You should adjust to vaping technique within a week or two as you learn the correct way to inhale. If you’re still experiencing issues after this window, your vaper’s cough might be caused by something else.

Nicotine Type
The type of nicotine you use plays a huge role in the “throat hit” of your vape. Throat hit can be satisfying or irritating depending on the level, which is determined by the type of nicotine in your vape juice, among other factors.

For instance, many smokers who tried vaping before the advent of nicotine salts would complain that vaping made them cough endlessly at higher nicotine levels. This is because before nicotine salts came about, the only type of nicotine available in e-cigarettes was freebase nicotine.

Freebase nicotine E-Liquid tends to be harsher on the throat the higher the nicotine strength is. And because new vapers generally need at least a 10mg-20mg nicotine strength to satisfy their cravings, freebase E-Liquids are usually not the best choice for this reason.

Conversely, nicotine salts—found in disposable vapes and 10ml nic salt E-Liquid here in the UK—provide a smooth and satisfying throat hit no matter the nicotine strength. This means that you can vape a 20mg nicotine strength, and it’ll feel the same on your throat as a 10mg e-juice.

If you tried vaping a while ago but it made you cough, or if you’re using freebase nicotine and experience vaper’s cough, you may want to consider trying nic salts instead to see if it helps.

Propylene Glycol (PG)
Propylene glycol (PG) is one of the 2 main E-Liquid ingredients that make up the base mixture in every vape juice. The other main ingredient is vegetable glycerine (VG).

Propylene glycol is associated with replicating the satisfying throat hit of a tobacco cigarette, though it tends to be harsher on the throat.

While prevalence is unknown, a small portion of the population is sensitive or allergic to PG. Allergies to PG are far more rare; propylene glycol is found in a vast number of cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, and even cigarettes, and an allergy is more likely to manifest with skin symptoms rather than a cough.

However, if vaping makes you cough and you’ve considered everything else on this list, you may be sensitive to PG. A PG sensitivity can manifest as a sore throat, a cough, a dry mouth, gum problems, and more.

There are specialty PG-Free E-Liquids made entirely with vegetable glycerin for vapers with an allergy or sensitivity to PG, though they work differently compared to traditional E-Liquids and require a specific type of vape kit to use them.

If you’re a regular vaper and you find that a new E-Liquid is making you cough, you may be reacting to a specific flavouring used in the E-Liquid.

E-Liquids are flavoured using only food-grade flavourings, and like all vape products in the UK, the ingredients list is regulated and cannot contain any of MHRA’s banned ingredients.

Still, it’s possible that you may be sensitive to one or more flavourings included in the E-Liquid. Some people report issues with specific flavourings, while others report being unable to vape entire flavour profiles, like citrus or desserts.

Unfortunately, solving this issue will mean some trial and error. You may need to try different flavours to find out what works for you and causes the least irritation.

Tip: If you’re using an E-Liquid that has an added cooling flavour, try one without. Similarly, if you’re vaping an E-Liquid that doesn’t have a cooling sensation, it’s worth trying one with “ice” or menthol to see if it soothes your cough.

Using the Wrong Set Up
If you’re new to vaping, you might just buy the biggest, coolest-looking vape mod you can find and call it a day. Sadly, if that vape kit isn’t suited to your particular vaping style, you might experience some unpleasant side effects—like a cough.

If you’re new to vaping and you normally smoke cigarettes, it’s best to start out with an MTL or mouth-to-lung inhalation style. A sub-ohm device—like a mod with a vape tank—offering a DTL (direct-to-lung) vaping style will likely provide too much vapour for what you need.

You can read more about the different vaping styles in our guide: What is MTL and DTL Vaping?

Instead, look for pod kits or vape pens that are compatible with high-PG E-Liquid like nic salts. These vaping devices will offer a more enjoyable vaping experience catered to helping you satisfy your nicotine cravings and staying off of cigarettes.

How to Stop a Vaping Cough
Now, you can hopefully answer, “why does vaping make me cough?” The next question is, of course, what can you do to stop it?

Sometimes, the answer is simply: time. You may just need to allow your body a couple of weeks to adjust to vaping, especially if you’re a new vaper.

But if you’re a regular, established vaper and you experience a new cough, you may want to consider what’s changed in your set up: your wattage, airflow, vape juice, nicotine type, and strength can all play a part. If something has changed, this may be the cause.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can stop that pesky vaper’s cough.

Home Cough Remedies
Simple at-home cough remedies might be enough to soothe any slight irritation caused by vaper’s cough as your body adjusts to vaping. This might mean:

·Drinking plenty of water. Water will soothe your airways and lubricate your throat.
·Drinking herbal tea. Unlike black teas, which may dry out your throat, certain herbal teas—including ginger tea, licorice root tea, green tea, marshmallow root tea, and peppermint tea—can help ease your cough and reduce inflammation. Add some honey for an even better cough suppressant.
·Trying cough drops or lozenges. These may help calm any irritation in your throat.
·Inhaling steam from a shower or humidifier. This classic cough remedy is favoured for a reason: it helps relieve mild dehydration in the airways.

If these home remedies aren’t helping and you continue to experience a persistent vaper’s cough after a period of two weeks, you should consult your healthcare provider.

Restrict Your Airflow
If your vaping device offers adjustable airflow, try restricting the airflow (or, tightening your draw). This will reduce the amount of vapour you’re inhaling, which may help alleviate your cough.

Try a Lower Wattage
Much like with airflow, if your e-cigarette offers adjustable or variable wattage, you can try lowering your power output. This will create smaller clouds, thus reducing the amount of vapour you’re inhaling.

For this, you’ll need to ensure that you’re still using the correct wattage for your coils or pods. For more information on vape coils, check out our coil guide.

Don’t Chain Vape
Chain vaping isn’t a good idea if you’ve developed a cough.

Many vapers will vape consistently—called chain vaping—if they’re not getting enough nicotine from their vape. This can dry out your throat and promote coughing if you vape too frequently.

Consider increasing your nicotine levels so you feel satisfied for longer and can take bigger breaks between puffs if you find yourself constantly itching for your vape.

Avoid Coffee, Alcohol & Black Tea
Coffee, alcohol, and black tea may contribute to a dry throat, which will likely only worsen the severity of your cough. Try to limit these where possible. Instead, you can opt for an herbal tea with honey for a soothing drink.

Consider a PG Sensitivity
If you’ve considered all other factors and you’ve tried all of the above steps to alleviate your cough but you’re still experiencing symptoms, you may have an allergy or sensitivity to propylene glycol.

If you think you may be sensitive to PG, it’s worth trying a PG-Free E-Liquid to see if it solves your coughing problem. We have a 100% VG E-Liquids guide for those considering going PG-free.

Be warned, though: 100% VG E-Liquids require special vape kits to work properly. Check out our article on the best vape kits for 100% VG E-Liquids for more information on what to look for when switching to PG-free vapes.

Hopefully now you should be better equipped to answer the question: “why does vaping make me cough?” You should also be armed with some solutions.

We get a lot of messages from customers who have issues with vaper’s cough. And as much as we like to tout the health benefits of vaping to smokers, there is a percentage of people who will cough when they first start their vaping journey. This is completely normal, and your body likely just needs time to adjust to using an e-cigarette.

However, if you experience a persistent cough that lasts more than 2 weeks and none of the above suggestions help with your issue, you should consult a healthcare professional. You issue may be completely unrelated to vaping altogether.