Why Do I Cough When I Vape?

The first time Tim tried vaping, he coughed uncontrollably for a minute or two. It was a first painful experience. It was the first hiccup he experienced while transitioning to vaping. Tim has been a smoker for 11 years. The first experience with vaping almost made him give up.

It turns-out Tim is not the only one to have experienced the painful cough. When smokers get a vape pen, they try to reproduce the same action on a cigarette. Through mid-vape, they splutter.

Today, we'll discuss vape cough – as it has come to be known. But first, let's understand what vape cough is. 


Vape Cough: What is it? 

Coughing is just unpleasant for anyone. When the body is removing toxins away from the respiratory tract, you will cough. 

A vape cough is different though, the first time you puff from a vape, you'll most likely cough. If you vaped and coughed after that, you should know it is normal, and you are not alone. In fact, in a recent survey done on 600 vapers, 57% admitted to having coughed the first time.

Although the figure reduces from 57% - 7% within ten weeks, you should note it is a temporary reaction, and it will go away.       

Vape Cough: Should You Be Worried?

If you have a vape cough, there is nothing to be worried. It is a sign your body needs time to adapt to vapour. It clearly shows you have a healthy body. The lungs detect vapour as a foreign substance.

The numbers show that vape cough is a temporary effect. 93% of all those who had vape cough saw it go away. As your vaping experience gets better, the coughing will vanish.

Ways to Stop Coughing when vaping

Coughing is a common issue (some would argue the major issue) when you’re just starting to vape. There are many different reasons you can cough when vaping but the main one is dehydration. 

Drink some water before.

Mouth-to-lung or direct drow?

Which technique is better? Well, it can depend on what you are used to aswell as how you feel about the e-cigarette. Some people find the mouth-to-lung draw more comfortable than a direct draw. The reasoning behind this is that it mimics what most smokers are used to when smoking a cigarette – it’s not alien to them. So if you are trying out vaping for the first time and want something familiar, mouth to lung could be the way forward.


Just wait a bit

A lot of people who’ve switched to vaping from smoking have issues with coughing while making the transition. Many don’t need to, and it is something that can be remedied in most cases.

This is because the cilia in the throat begin to regrow when initially inhaling vapor. The vapor itself does not cause inflammation, but smoking can cause this. In a sense, smokers who switch to vaping are in a temporary stage of switching one type of lung irritation for another.


So, what is the cause of vape cough?



Vape Cough: What Causes It?   

vaping vape cough


There are many different reasons why you have a vape cough. The root cause could be your biology as a smoker, the chemical composition of the e-juice, a faulty vape pen, or the nicotine content.

To understand, we will discuss in details the primary causes of vape cough below:

  • The Chemicals in Vape Juice 

Propylene Glycol or PG is the most common compound in vape juice. The mixture is used in e-liquid as an additive. When heated PG produces vapor that odorless, colorless, and tastes sweet. 

According to some people, PG is an irritant additive. People have admitted being sensitive to PG. In some rare cases, some vapers are allergic to propylene glycol. The allergic reaction is very mild, though it will irritate your respiratory tract.   

  • The High nicotine levels

The primary reason why vapers cough is the intake of high nicotine levels. Smokers are not used to inhaling this much nicotine at once. 

First-time vapers inhale a whole lot of air with pure nicotine. The changes in nicotine levels cause a throat hit differently from a cigarette. The high nicotine will cause a slight burn on the throat and lungs. 

The throat hit will cause throat irritation leading to coughing. Although this is a natural response and your throat needs to get used to such high levels. The same will happen if an experienced vaper vapes zero-nicotine content. The throat hit will be different.

  • The Regrowth of Cilia

Cilia are tiny hair-like projections on the surface of the respiratory tract. Their primary function is to protect the lungs from foreign materials. They trap any particles and redirects it away from the lungs.

When you have been smoking for a long time,  smoke destroys your cilia. The moment you stop smoking, these cilia grow back. And once you start vaping, you will experience vape cough. Coughing is a sign of cilia regrowth.

  • Technique Used to Vape   

The vaping community consists of people who quit smoking or are trying to. What they perceive is, smoking is like vaping. It is entirely wrong. Smoking and vaping are two different activities. 

To smoke, you have to inhale cigarette smoke through the mouth and into the lungs. You cannot do this to vaping. To vape, you inhale the vapour, hold it in the mouth then inhale into the lungs. 

This technique has proven to stop vape cough as your body adjusts to vaping.

  • Body Dehydration 

Vape pen e-liquid is primarily Propylene glycol (PG) and Vegetable glycerin (VG). These additives attract water particles to form clouds of vapor. Clouds of vapor is what you see when you exhale.

If you are dehydrated, your throat will be dry. The PG and VG additives will lack water particles to form a vapor. They will irritate the throat, and the discomfort leads to coughing.  

  • Wattage Setting of Your Vape Pen

If you are starting your vaping journey, begin vaping on a lower wattage. At high watts level, your vape pen will be using more power. And with a single puff, you will be inhaling a lot of vape juice vapor, which is hot. 

You may be impressed with the clouds of vapor, but this comes with a price. Both of these factors contribute to coughing.

  • Your Airflow Setting

Your airflow setting is one of the causes of vape cough. Your airflow needs to balance with e-liquid vapor. Based on your preference and tolerance level, you need to balance between the two.  A low airflow setting leads to a high concentration level of e-juice and hot vapor. 

It will cause throat irritation leading to coughing. If the airflow is set to be high, you will inhale more vapor than expected. As the vapor rushes into the lungs, you will cough.

Now that you know what causes vape cough lets elaborate on how to prevent it.


Vape Cough: How to Prevent It?

prevent vaping cough vaporizer

In some cases, smokers who try to switch to vaping, never succeed to do it at the end. Vape cough is the first impression of vaping. Some smokers who tried vaping their friend's vape pen coughed their lungs out. 

It's tough to switch from something smooth to something harsh. Do not let vape cough stop you from making the switch to vaping. Here are suggestions to ease with the coughing.

Ways to Stop Coughing when vaping

  • Change to A Tolerable PG/VG Ratio  

Earlier, we saw that some vapers are sensitive to PG. if this is you, you can opt for a vape juice that is less of PG and more of VG (vegetable glycerin). VG is smoother than PG. 

In high powered vape pens, vapers need to use vape juice with high VG content. Vapers have realized that high VG content prevents coughing. There's a small group of vapers who use 100% VG vape juice. Although, such e-liquids are harsh on vape pen atomizers.

 As a new vaper, you should try e-liquids of different PG/CG ratios until you hit your tolerance level. 

  • Vape Different Nicotine Levels 

We've already seen vaping delivers more nicotine than a cigarette. To make a smooth and swift transition, you need to vape nicotine at the same level as your cigarette. 

You should temporarily vape lower nicotine content levels if you are vaping and still coughing.

The throat hit needs to reduce to stop coughing. But once you figure the tolerable level of nicotine. You can increase from that level.

  • Stay Hydrated- Drink Lots of Water 

Since PG and VG use lots of water to form clouds of vapour, vaping for long sessions will leave your throat dry. By drinking lots of water, PG and VG will be smooth on the throat. And coughing will eventually stop.

  • Lower Wattage on Your Vaporizer 

Since some vape pen does not allow you to change the wattage, you just need to get one with a high-resistance coil. A high-resistance coil allows less power to pass through. Thus, it produces less vapor and cooler vapor.

Or you can try different atomizer heads to figure out one which fits you.

  • Change the Airflow Settings 

To have a pleasant experience with vaping, you need to balance the airflow and the e-liquid vapour. For beginners, you need to start vaping with the airflow setting set not so high. 

To check the airflow setting, check how open the airflow slot is. To change the settings, open for more space or close for less space. 

At this level, you need to inhale swiftly. You do not want to inhale a lot more vapor. If the balance between e-liquid vapor and airflow agrees with you, the coughing will cease.

  • Wait It Out

There is a period where your cilia have to regrow back. The respiratory tract has to eliminate tar. In such a scenario, e-liquid vapor will cause a tickling sensation on the throat. 

To adjust to these changes, you need to take baby hits in vaping. As much as its tempting, you should not puff cloud after cloud. In most cases, the second puff will deliver a dry hit. 

A dry hit consists of heated air and burnt cotton. Puff this is extremely painful, and you will end coughing uncontrollably. To adjust with the changes, take small puffs and in a spread-out session.

  • Change Your Coil

After a period, your coil wears of and functions sub-optimal. The coil consists of a wick made out of cotton. The wick soaks the juice, and it's heated to release vapor. 

After a while, the cotton will start to be burnt instead of heating. Using such a vaporizer will emit vapor contaminated with carbon. To figure out when you should change the coil, if the taste of your juice changes, considers changing it.


Our Take 

Vaping has health benefits than smoking cigarettes. Once you make the switch, your body will be thankful for the switch. 

Even though vape cough makes the transition hard and painful, you should not give up. 93% of those who developed the vape cough report it was subsiding. The coughing and throat irritation will stop in a week or two. 

Follow the above guideline, and you will have an excellent and beautiful experience.    

Remember, take it easy and take it slow.