Smoker’s Cough: Why It Happens and How to Stop It

So you have a smoker’s cough? We feel you. Many of us deal or have dealt with it in the past and we understand how much it sucks.

We’re going to go into the what smoker’s cough is, why you get it, provide you with some more information on smoker’s cough, then finally tell you how to STOP smoker’s cough.

What is Smoker’s Cough?

The infamous smoker’s cough isn’t like what happens when you have a chest cold. It means that you’ll have a persistent cough all day long that just doesn’t ever go away. This isn’t the kind of cough where a cough drop or cough suppressing medicine can give you relief!  Early on, particularly if you’re not a heavy smoker, the cough associated with smoking will be dry and won’t produce any goop when you cough. But in later stages of smoker’s cough or if you smoke more heavily, the cough will be “wet” and will bring up phlegm every time.  The phlegm can be any color, from clear to yellow or green. It’s also worst when you wake up in the morning.

Why Does Smoker’s Cough Happen?

Your lungs have little hair-like structures called cilia. Normally these cilia help to move toxins through your lungs to protect them, but smoking paralyzes the cilia and makes them unable to do their job. This makes the toxins just settle into your lungs, which causes an inflamed reaction and your body has to work to try to get the toxins out of your respiratory system. Coughing is the way your lungs try to get rid of all the toxins from smoke.

Negative Consequences of Smoker’s Cough

worse smokers coughA smoker’s cough not only sounds unpleasant to listen to, it is also uncomfortable to experience.  In addition to a cough itself being painful, the frequent deep coughing can cause a lot of chest pain as well.

However, even if you have become accustomed to the frequent coughing, others around you can be disturbed by it. This can have a negative impact on your social life as well as on how you’re perceived at work.  Because you’re used to having a frequent cough, it can also make it difficult for you to differentiate when you’re actually showing signs of a more serious smoking-related disease.

When Smoker’s Cough Means Something Worse

By itself, the classic smoker’s cough only indicates that your lungs are irritated. However, that irritation does put you at risk of developing other infections because bacteria and viruses can take hold more easily when your lungs aren’t healthy.

Bronchitis is one of the most common problems that can affect long-term smokers.  The bronchial tubes get swollen and your body produces more mucus, which can create a thick lining inside your lungs and make it difficult for enough air to get through. In addition, that layer of mucus can be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause serious enough infections to take hold that only antibiotics would get rid of them.

If you get to a point where you’re coughing up blood, frequently losing your voice or wheezing, it could be a sign of more serious damage to your lungs. You need to be in regular contact with your doctor about any changes in the frequency or intensity of your cough, as well as about other symptoms you may be experiencing.

How to Stop Smoker’s Cough

Having a smoker’s cough is actually a normal thing. It’s a sign that your body is trying to deal with what you’re doing to it and trying to heal itself. Our bodies always try to repair themselves, no matter what we do to them. You shouldn’t try to suppress a cough with cough medications because it has a very important purpose.

Although quitting smoking is the only way you can stop a smoker’s cough, but there are 6 quick ways you can help your body heal more effectively, relieve some of the irritation, and temporarily stop smoker’s cough. Some of the treatments you can do to feel a little better include the following:

  1. Drink enough water: Doctors and health experts always tell you to drink more water to help you manage all sorts of health conditions, from allergies to trying to lose weight. It turns out that drinking six to eight glasses of water a day is helpful in relieving smoker’s cough too because it thins out the mucus in your lungs and throat. Gargling with warm salt water can provide some comfort to an irritated throat.

  2. Just add honey: Adding a little honey to your tea or just consuming a teaspoon full of it plain can really soothe your throat – and it tastes good, too.

  3. Suck on throat lozenges:  Traditional cough drops may reduce some of the irritation that leads to coughing, but any hard lozenge you need to suck on will have the same benefits. Vitamin C lozenges can provide the same relief to your throat but have the added bonus of vitamins that can boost your immune system: If you want one some Vitamin C lozenges you can check some out here or by clicking the picture on the right. (Bonus: these are cheap AND healthy…plus they taste so good!).

  4. Eucalyptus vapor in your room: Whether you steam eucalyptus or mint leaves over boiling water or put a humidifier in your room with a eucalyptus-based liquid like Vicks, these minty vapors can naturally help you breathe better for a while.

  5. Sleep with your head slightly elevated: Prop up your head on a couple pillows while you sleep to minimize the mucus drainage into your throat that leads to coughing. Some of us have used these and find they’re VERY helpful. Clears you out so you feel much better the next day too. The one to the right works particularly well.

  6. Eat healthily and exercise: These steps are an essential part of every healthy lifestyle. Just because you smoke doesn’t mean you have to give up on the rest of your health.

    All in all, it’s very important to get away from the smokes if you want to stop smoker’s cough. We found the best way to start this step is by using e-cigs. No kidding – thousands of Quit Smoking Community readers have stopped smoker’s cough using e-cigarettes.


    • I’m with you on that Rick….as of late the coughing is so volatile that I throw up any liquids or foods that I have consumed….the pressure in the head builds up where I think I may bust an artery, hence stoke! Very scary!!!

  1. i smoke 3 or 4 a day and brand are black , goldflack it’s more risky or less tell me now i am sick and have cold and cough .it’s sign of lung cancer ?

  2. I am a heavy smoker hardly ever cough but tonight for some reason I can not stop coughing. It does not hurt. Just can not stop coughing.

  3. Landed here after having an irritated throat and coughing all day long, just after quitting smoking as cold-turkey.
    So, if the symptoms don’t disappear, should i see my GP? (anyway she would be happy to hear that i quit smoking).

  4. I have been a heavy smoker for a long time and would only get a cough from certain brands of cigarettes. I started smoking medical cannabis last year and now have a horrible wet cough when I smoke or sometimes during the day, I always cough up clear mucus and I have problems getting air. Ive resorted to an inhaler at times and it does bother me at night and in the mornings.. I’ve been searching the internet to figure out if I should be worried for asthma or something worse. Thanks for this article and more info to mull over.

  5. I am working on quitting by way of patches. When I initially started I had this constant cough with a lot of phlegm. It was so bad that I had to drink and or suck on cough drops all day or I would get sick. So, I am now about a little over a month in and the constant cough is not as bad but it is still there with the phlegm. I would like to know roughly, when will the coughing stop?

  6. If you are still coughing after you quit cigarettes, then your body is just trying to get all that cigarette smoke out of your lungs. When it does, you will stop coughing. One thing that stops the caughing is coke. also, coffee should help.

  7. I quit smoking 4 years ago. When I quit, I coughed up phlegm for 2 months or more. My lungs were thanking me by working overtime clearing out 25+ years of poison. You can’t imagine the crap that came out of me when I coughed. Best thing I ever did even though it was terrifying at the time. Good luck. Quit as soon as you can and don’t let the cigs control you any longer.

  8. I smoked for 20 years and was up to three packs a day when I quit.
    It wasn’t easy and I didn’t do it the first time I tried. After trying twice and failing I contacted the American Lung Assoc. and joined a Stop smoking group. We met weekly for 8 weeks. this was paramount in my success. The simple things… like little red stickers to put on your calendar for each day you quit , to putting old cigarettes in a jar with water and smelling it. YuK!! The most fun was to put the money aside that I used to spend on cigarettes and I called mine Mad Money to spend on anything I wanted Yes!! It’s been 32 years now, cough left after 5 weeks. Good Luck and stop now , it does get easier.

  9. This cough is worrying me that I’ve permanently damaged my lungs.
    Been wanting to quit smoking but putting it off.
    It has to be done.

  10. So I’ve been coughing up this bloody mucus early in the mornings and I don’t know if I should go see a doctor for it. I know I need to quit. But those nicotine gums aren’t doing any help…

  11. I’ve smoked for 40 years. I want desperately to quit. I can’t use meds due to interaction with another I take.
    I’ve had some success in the past with hypnosis, but only recently came to this area, so need to find a resource.
    I’ve only in the past year started having any cough, per se, but it’s pretty bad. I appreciate the support I’m hearing on this forum.

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