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Why Does Vape Make Me Cough?

Dr. Saira Zulfiqar, PharmD

Written by: Saira Zulfiqar

Updated on April 6, 2024

A man is coughing while vaping

What Causes Vaping Cough and How to Prevent It?

A common experience among vapers: coughing after vaping, known as the “Vaping Cough.” This occurs frequently among newcomers to vaping or those who vape frequently. The reasons behind this phenomenon are multifaceted, involving factors such as the ingredients in vape juice, the heating process, and individual differences in respiratory sensitivity.

Unlike smoking cigarettes, where inhalation is straightforward, vaping requires more nuanced techniques to avoid throat and airway irritation. Many vapers report throat irritation and dry mouth, which can lead to coughing. Understanding why these symptoms occur when vaping can help minimize coughing and enhance the vaping experience. Some common mistakes beginners make that can lead to coughing include:

  • Inhaling too deeply: Drawing vapor into the mouth too forcefully can cause an overwhelming sensation, leading to coughing.
  • Inhaling too quickly: Coughing can result from inhaling vapor before it has had a chance to cool, particularly for individuals with sensitive respiratory systems.

Causes of Vaping-Related Coughing

Vape Juice Composition

The ingredients in vape juice play a significant role in causing coughing. Typically, vape juice contains:

  • Propylene Glycol (PG)
  • Vegetable Glycerin (VG)
  • Flavorings
  • Nicotine

Propylene glycol (PG) is a common base in vape juice, known for efficient vaporization and flavor delivery. However, some individuals may experience throat irritation or itching due to sensitivity to PG.

Similarly, high concentrations of vegetable glycerin (VG) can lead to throat irritation and dry mouth, especially in those with respiratory sensitivity, as VG produces denser vapor clouds.

Certain flavorings and additives in vape liquid may also contribute to throat irritation, dryness, or allergic reactions.

Nicotine Content

The level of nicotine in vape juice affects throat sensation. Higher nicotine concentrations, particularly in freebase form, can be harsher on the throat and induce coughing, especially for deep inhalers or those sensitive to nicotine.

Nicotine salts, formulated for smoother delivery, offer a gentler vaping experience and reduce the likelihood of coughing, making them preferable for individuals prone to coughing.

Vaping Technique

The method of inhaling vapor can influence coughing:

  • Inhaling too deeply or rapidly can overwhelm the respiratory system, leading to coughing.
  • Exhaling too forcefully or quickly may aggravate throat discomfort and coughing, particularly for beginners or those with respiratory issues.

Vapor Temperature

The temperature of the vapor can exacerbate throat irritation and dry mouth. Hotter vapor at higher temperatures may induce coughing and breathing difficulties. Adjusting voltage or airflow settings can help regulate vapor temperature and minimize throat irritation.


Inadequate hydration, either from insufficient water intake or excessive vaping, can worsen dry mouth and throat irritation, leading to increased coughing. Drinking plenty of water can alleviate dry mouth and reduce coughing during vaping sessions.

Transition from Smoking to Vaping

Individuals transitioning from smoking to vaping may experience coughing as their bodies adjust to a new nicotine delivery system and the absence of harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke. This temporary coughing, often referred to as the “smoker’s cough,” signifies the body’s healing process as it clears accumulated toxins from the respiratory system.

Psychological and Behavioral Factors

Cravings for nicotine and the sensation of inhaling smoke-like vapor may prompt increased vaping frequency, contributing to coughing, especially for inexperienced vapers or those using high-nicotine vape juice.

Vaping Device Characteristics

The design, power level, airflow settings, coil type, and mouthpiece design of vaping devices influence vaping experience and coughing likelihood:

  • High-powered devices may produce harsher vapor, while devices with lower wattage are gentler on the throat.
  • Adjustable airflow settings allow users to customize airflow levels for smoother inhalation.
  • Coil type and diameter impact vapor production and heat dissipation, affecting throat sensation.
  • Mouthpiece design influences vapor delivery and comfort during vaping.

Nicotine Strength

Choosing the appropriate nicotine strength in vape juice is essential for minimizing coughing. Higher nicotine concentrations may irritate the throat, whereas lower concentrations or nicotine salts offer a smoother experience with reduced coughing.

By understanding these factors and making informed choices, vapers can enjoy a comfortable and satisfying vaping experience while minimizing coughing.

How to Overcome the Vaping Cough?

The vaping technique is a crucial element of the vaping adventure, and by mastering it, you will determine if vaping will make you cough or not.

Breathe Deeply

Try to vape the vape juice without coughing by breathing deeply and lightly. Breathing exercises using gentle inhalation, avoiding chain vaping, and staying hydrated are the other factors that can improve your experience with vaping. Grasping the causes of vaping irritation enables people to solve the problem and prevents coughing. Through trying out new vape juice mixes, adjusting vaping techniques, and paying attention to one’s respiratory requirements, every vaper can get a more exciting and cough-free vaping experience.

Start Small

Start by taking measured, steady draws from the vaping device and allow the vapor to enter your mouth in small amounts. When your mouth is full of vapor, inhale slowly and evenly. This setup delivers the vapor to your airways at a slightly lower temperature, which decreases the likelihood of irritation and coughing.

Know the Vaping Device

Another thing that must be taken into account is the type of the vaping device. Different devices like vape pens, mods, and pod systems offer various ways of adjusting airflow and vapor production. A vape pen is nothing short of a magic wand, a tool that leads to the world of vaping. Initially, beginners will discover that vaping devices with adjustable airflow settings will grant them more control in vaping, which will, in turn, help them reduce their chances of coughing.

Additionally, coil type and wattage settings may also affect the vaping experience. The coils with higher resistance levels and lower wattage settings will produce less vape and could be a better choice for people likely to cough. Vapers can do trial and error with different coil types and change the setting of wattage to find the sweet spot.

Use Coil and the Wattage Settings

The type of coil and wattage settings can also determine the way one vapes. Coils with higher resistance levels and lower wattage settings produce less vapor, and it may be most appropriate for those who are prone to coughing. Trying different coil types or wattage settings can help the vaper find the right setting that produces enough vapor without irritating the throat.

The skill of air intake is one of the most important for eliminating coughing while vaping. Vapers who take slow, deliberate draws from the vaping device and let the vapor cool before inhalation can also reduce the risk of irritating their throat and airways. The users can also consider experimenting with different vaping devices, coils, and vape juice types, which will be satisfying for their vaping and cough-free experience.

Be Patient & Try Different Techniques

To limit to the minimum coughing while shifting from smoking to vaping, you must approach the process with some patience and understanding. By providing vaping with gradually decreasing nicotine content, individuals can smoothly go off nicotine and lower the risk of coughing associated with the high nicotine concentrations.

Moreover, correctly inhaling and trying varied vaping techniques and vape juice recipes will help the users discover what works for them. The decision to quit smoking and start vaping would be an important step in the direction of better health and wellness.

When nasal discharge occurs during the transition period, it is usually temporary and indicates that the body is in the process of recovering and adjusting to being smoke-free. Patience, perseverance, and the right support can help individuals move beyond coughing and relish the advantages of vaping over other smoking habit substitutes.

Watch out for Nicotine Strength

Nicotine content influences the whole experience of vaping and affects the degree of coughing. Normally, vaping juice includes freebase nicotine, which is the pure and strongest nicotine and may be harsh on the throat, especially when taken in its high concentrations.

This can eventually result in coughing, especially for those who are irritated by nicotine or who inhale heavily. Liquid nicotine, which is free of base, is the most typical form of nicotine used in vape juice. It is formed by removing protons from nicotine and getting the alkaline solution in the end.

On the flip side, freebase nicotine is much more hazardous to one’s throat and can lead to coughing spells, especially at higher concentrations. Over the past few years, nicotine salts have become available as an alternative to classic freebase nicotine.

  • Nicotine salts consist of benzoic acid, which decreases the pH level of the nicotine solution. This produces a less harsh throat hit for nicotine at higher concentrations compared to freebase nicotine.
  • Nicotine salts prove to be very helpful in the case of those people who are either nicotine sensitive or keep getting a cough when vaping conventional freebase nicotine liquids. The gentle throat hit of nicotine salts is smoother, which makes them more comfortable to inhale with less irritation and coughing. Whether the vaper opts for freebase nicotine or nicotine salts will depend on his or her personal preferences as well as the way of vaping.
  • Some vapers may prefer the fast and intense nicotine hit from a solution of freebase nicotine, whereas, for others, it might be the smooth throat sensation of nicotine salts that appeals to them.

Another important factor in vaping using nicotine salts is the choice of device and the type of coil that is being used.

  • Nicotine salts are mostly recommended with low-power devices that employ high-resistance coils like pod systems or mouth-to-lung devices.
  • Such e-cigarettes provide lower vape and produce a much bolder nicotine effect.

Carefully Choose the Vape Juice

To avoid vaping cough, you should pay more attention to the composition of vape juice, vaping technique, and individual respiratory receptiveness. Selecting a vape juice with the right PG to VG ratio as well as the nicotine level can aid in the prevention of throat irritation and coughing.

The process of experimenting with different vape juice flavors and vaping devices can help people personalize their vaping experience and cater to their preferences and needs, reducing coughing and increasing the delight of vaping.

Know Your Respiratory System

Variability of respiratory sensitivity is also among the factors that induce vaping cough. Some people may be more prone to coughing because of existing respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies. Moreover, conditions like thirst and dry throat could contribute to coughing when vaping.

Dr. Saira Zulfiqar, PharmD
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