Cannabis Science

Why Does Weed Make You Cough?

man smoking weed

How many times have people given you the side-eye this year from coughing? You might have just ignored them or quickly told them that it was due to smoking and definitely not COVID-19. Just like having red eyes, smoking is one of the side effects of smoking weed. Why does weed make you cough? Here’s what we know. 

Photo: Unsplash

Why Does Weed Make You Cough?

To put it simply, weed makes you cough because the smoke is irritating your lungs and other parts of your respiratory system. When you smoke weed, your airways get irritated and coughing is your body’s way of getting rid of the irritant. 

Coughing isn’t unique to weed smoke, it’s common for any type of smoke inhalation. 

Weed can also cause chronic coughing due to lung damage.

According to the American Lung Association, marijuana smoke injures the lungs which would explain the coughing. This type of smoke damages the cell linings of the big airways.

As a result, the American Lung Association says, “smoking marijuana leads to symptoms such as chronic cough, phlegm production, wheeze, and acute bronchitis.”

In addition to that, chronic coughing can be a symptom of something even more sinister. Healthline says, there’s also a chance that weed can cause lung cancer which may lead to chronic coughing that gets worse over time. 

How Not to Cough When Smoking Weed

If you’re prone to coughing while smoking weed you probably experience uncomfortable side effects like a sore throat. There are several methods you can employ to reduce your risk of coughing. Healthline says you can:

  • Change the way you inhale and exhale smoke – It’s recommended that you inhale softly and deeply. When you inhale deeply, smoke shouldn’t get stuck in your throat so you probably won’t cough.
  • Opt for a smaller hit – Healthline says a taking a smaller dose will lessen the amount of smoke in your airways thus reduce your likelihood of coughing.
  • Keep your throat hydrated Having a glass of water before you smoke as well as during smoking can help reduce coughing. 

As Healthline points out, there are other ways to use cannabis that won’t make you cough. The most popular way is to have an edible instead. 

How to Soothe Your Throat After Smoking Weed

Having an irritated throat is the worst! Here are some ways you can soothe your throat after smoking weed:

  • Drink some tea – Warm liquids are especially soothing for sore throats. If you’re not into tea, you can have a bowl of soup.
  • Take a cough drop – Cough drops are great to reduce coughing and soothing sore throats. Just make sure to follow the package instruction or you may end up with some unwanted side effects.
  • Gargle warm salt water – Gargling salt water is an effective and cheap way to calm a sore throat, at least for a little while. Wondering how much salt to add? Healthline says, “mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 4 to 8 ounces of warm water”.
  • Get a bottle of sore throat spray Sore throat spray is designed to make your throat feel better so it’s worth trying. 

What are the Dangers of Smoking Marijuana?    

All smoke is dangerous. Therefore, marijuana smoke is no different. According to the American Lung Association, “Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.”

In this section, we’ll just be looking at the possible side effects of the smoke itself. 

Lung Cancer

As we mentioned before, marijuana smoke has similar cancer-causing chemicals to cigarette smoke. The American Lung Association also said, “Marijuana smokers tend to inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers.” Doing this results in “a greater exposure per breath to tar.”

All that means that smoking marijuana leads to lung cancer right? The answer isn’t so black and white. 

There are conflicting studies about whether or not marijuana causes lung cancer.

For example, one study said that marijuana may increase the risk of lung cancer.  While another study says there is “little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers”. The study went on to say that we still shouldn’t rule out the possibility of adverse side effects for heavy users. 

So the link between lung cancer and smoking marijuana is inconclusive


There is a much clearer link between smoking weed and bronchitis. The American Lung Association says that marijuana smoke causes both chronic and acute bronchitis. This study also says that weed is linked to symptoms of chronic bronchitis. 

Acute bronchitis usually goes away within two weeks. However, chronic bronchitis develops over time and never goes away. However, Healthline says that bronchitis usually goes away when you stop smoking on a regular basis. 

Bronchitis symptoms include difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing. 


So, why does weed make you cough? To put it simply, smoke irritates your airways and that results in coughing. Coughing is your body’s way of getting rid of the irritant. Marijuana can also result in chronic cough and bronchitis too. If the smoke from weed is decreasing your quality of life then try using weed in other ways. Finally, there are many ways you can soothe your throat after using weed. However, fi you’re experiencing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, you should talk to a medical professional.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].