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Understanding Smoker's Cough
By the Quitter's Circle Staff
April 03, 2018

Understanding Smoker's Cough

If you are a smoker, you may notice the frustrating side effect of smoker’s cough. It’s loud, it’s intrusive, and at this point, you may be wondering “when will it go away?!”

If your cough is indeed a “smoker’s cough,” caused by the irritants in smoke, it could go away after you stop smoking. So if you’re really looking to rid yourself of that pesky cough – the best thing you can do for it is quit.

However, your cough might not just be annoying; it could also be a warning sign for something more serious. If you’re worried about a cough that has persisted or is getting worse, recognize that this might be a sign that it’s time to see your doctor. For smokers, a cough can be more than just a cough – your body may be telling you something.

Occasional Coughing is Normal…

It’s important to understand that occasional coughing is a normal, healthy function of your body. Let’s break it down:

Your throat and lungs normally produce a small amount of mucus to keep the airway moist and to protect against irritants and germs you may breathe in.

Occasional coughing is an important reflex that helps protect your airway and lungs against irritants.

Coughing is associated with the common cold and clearing your throat and airway of germs, mucus, and dust.

…But Chronic Cough Is Not

However, if a cough lasts more than 8 weeks, it becomes known as a “chronic cough.” Smoking causes a direct inhalation of cigarette toxins and is a major risk factor for a chronic cough.

Chronic coughing can be an indication of something serious.

For smokers, it can be a symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or lung cancer. If a cough is accompanied by other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing up colored or bloody mucus, it may be a sign of a more serious condition.

What You Can Do About Your Chronic Cough

If your cough has become persistent and won’t go away, it is time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. Not only will they be able to provide a diagnosis such as COPD or lung cancer but they will also be able to talk to you about quitting smoking. If your cough is due to smoking, quitting smoking can help control or even eliminate your cough. Check out these questions about coughing from the American Lung Association to address with your doctor.

When you quit smoking, your cough will not go away immediately.

When one smokes, the movement of tiny hair-like structures in your respiratory tract called cilia is slowed. After quitting, the cilia start recovering. As the cilia recover, they will better clear mucus and phlegm from your lungs, which can cause coughing that can take 1 to 9 months to decrease.

Some people may also notice that they cough more than usual when they initially quit smoking. In this case, coughing is a good thing – it means the cilia in your lungs are re-growing and regaining function.

Just think: soon enough, smoking, and its accompanying cough, may be a thing of the past!