How to Not Cough When Smoking Weed

How to not cough when smoking weed
By Anthony Pellegrino Published May 3rd

Fact-checked by Alexandra Arnett, MS

Despite how enjoyable, relaxing, and beneficial cannabis may be for many people, coughing is a standard response to smoking it. Coughing isn't pleasant, causing plenty of new cannabis users to wonder how to not cough when smoking weed.

The act of inhaling cannabis smoke can lead to a fit of coughing. If you’ve experienced it, you know it can be more than just an annoyance. It can be downright painful and, in some cases, even harmful.

Here’s the million-dollar question: Is there a secret path to a cough-free cannabis experience? Can you truly indulge in the pleasure of cannabis without that pesky cough?

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Why Do People Cough?

Coughing is more than just a reflex; it’s your body’s way of protecting your respiratory tract, specifically by preventing harmful or foreign bodies/objects from entering your system. This natural defense mechanism not only prevents the inhalation of debris but also acts as a broom, sweeping away excessive bronchial secretions to keep your airways clear.1

Coughing can stem from various factors, each with its own underlying cause. Respiratory infections, such as colds and flu, lead to coughing as the body combats invading viruses and excess mucus. Allergies induce coughing when the airways react to allergens like pollen or pet dander. Inhaling irritants, like smoke or pollutants, also causes coughing, aiding in their removal.

What is it About Smoking Weed That Makes People Cough?

Why does smoking weed make people cough?

Whether burning wood, tobacco, or cannabis, the result is the release of toxins, irritants, and carcinogens from the combustion process. This revelation comes from studies by the American Lung Association, showing that marijuana smoke contains many of the same harmful compounds as tobacco smoke. These substances irritate the cell linings of your respiratory tract, leading to symptoms like chronic cough, phlegm production, wheezing, and even acute bronchitis.

Ultimately, the cough reflex is triggered by various stimuli acting on specialized receptors called transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. Recent research has indicated that some of the compounds found in marijuana can activate these TRP channels, leading to a cough response.

Specifically, activating the TRPA1 ion channel has been associated with coughing induced by respiratory irritants in smoke.2 This is significant because many chemicals known to activate TRPA1 are commonly found in different types of smoke, including those from burning vegetation, diesel exhaust, and cigarettes.

Other researchers have also found there are several cannabinoids, such as CBD and THCV, that can activate these TRP channels, which naturally cause us to cough.  While you seek the highs and delights of cannabis, your body’s cough response might be an unintended and potentially unavoidable side effect.3

How to Smoke Weed Without Coughing

Is there any way to avoid coughing? You don't need to let a cough ruin your cannabis experience. You can enjoy cannabis without an intrusive cough.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is like arming yourself with a cough-fighting shield.4 Sip on water before, during, and after your session. It helps soothe your throat and reduces the irritation caused by smoke.

Hydration actively supports your body's natural mechanisms. Water helps to thin mucus and clear out any irritants that may accumulate in your throat or airways.

Take It Slow

Be sure to approach your cannabis consumption with a mindful and deliberate pace. This can have a profound impact on your overall experience, particularly when it comes to avoiding coughing and irritation.

Much like savoring a delectable meal, taking your time to enjoy your cannabis can lead to a more enjoyable and comfortable session. A slow and steady measured approach to inhalation can help you steer clear of the uncomfortable coughing fits that can arise from hasty consumption.

Practice controlled and gentle inhalation. Imagine drawing the smoke in as if you were sipping through a straw rather than taking swift and forceful breaths.

Inhale, Exhale and Relax

Inhalation techniques matter. Don’t hold your breath for too long – research indicates that breath-holding doesn’t necessarily enhance the cannabis experience.5 Instead, try taking gentle, controlled hits and allow yourself to exhale smoothly.

Try Using Bongs

The bong is a smoking device known for its water filtration system. Bongs can significantly cool down the smoke and filter out some irritants. In fact, studies suggest that water filtration can effectively remove components from marijuana smoke that are known to be toxic while letting the THC pass through. Consider trying out this gentler method for a smoother, less cough-prone experience.

How to Stop Coughing When Smoking Weed

How to stop coughing when smoking weed?

We’ve all been there - you’re in the middle of a smoke session, and the coughing suddenly takes center stage. It may be time to find a better way to smoke, or maybe you just want to soothe your irritated throat.

The Pause and Breathe Technique

Coughing fits can sometimes catch you off guard during a cannabis session. If this happens, it's important to take a purposeful pause and engage in deliberate breathing to calm your respiratory system and soothe the urge to cough.

Taking a moment to pause can make all the difference. As soon as you feel the urge to cough, consciously bring your attention to your breath. Begin by inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose, allowing your diaphragm to expand fully. This deep breathing technique encourages relaxation and helps counteract the involuntary spasms that cause coughing.

Drink Some Water

Sipping on warm water or herbal tea can help soothe your throat and suppress the reflex of coughing.

Hydration plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of your respiratory system. Ensuring you're well-hydrated before and during your cannabis session can contribute to a smoother experience. 

Sipping water or tea can also create a pause in your session, giving your throat a moment to recover and helping you pace your consumption. 

Choose the Right Method

Selecting the most suitable smoking method can significantly influence your cannabis experience, especially if your goal is to minimize coughing and irritation. Weigh your options and opt for methods that offer smoother hits, ensuring a more gentle experience. 

Water pipes and vaporizers are two popular alternatives for delivering milder and less harsh smoke.

Honey to the Rescue

If your throat is feeling irritated, few remedies are as time-tested and effective as honey. This natural sweetener offers both a delightful flavor and possesses remarkable soothing properties that can be especially beneficial during or after a cannabis session.

Honey's healing properties stem from its composition, which includes antioxidants, antibacterial compounds, and anti-inflammatory agents.6 These components work harmoniously to coat and soothe the throat, reducing irritation and the urge to cough.

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Alternatives to Smoking

If you’ve had your share of coughing episodes and you’re ready to explore alternatives to traditional smoking, there are many methods for you to try. 


Vaping might be your ideal choice for consuming cannabis if you’re looking for a cough-less experience. Vaping involves heating cannabis at lower temperatures, producing vapor instead of smoke. This significantly reduces the irritation to your throat and lungs, resulting in a smoother, more enjoyable experience.

Cannabis vaporizers come in many different forms. Some are designed for vape cartridges, which are filled with cannabis oil.

However, if you’re big on flower, you can use dry herb vaporizers, which are designed to heat cannabis without combustion, preserving its flavor and active compounds while minimizing irritation. This method can provide a similar experience to smoking, hopefully minus the coughing.


If you’re looking for a path that avoids the respiratory system altogether, edibles are a great alternative. From gummies to baked treats, these delectable delights offer a unique, long-lasting, and entirely cough-free high.

Still, edibles differ substantially from smoked cannabis. Of course, the consumption experience is different, but cannabis is also processed differently in your body when eaten rather than smoked. Interestingly, THC breaks down into a significantly more potent metabolite, 11-hydroxy-THC, when processed by the liver.7

Tinctures and Oils

Finally, for the discreet connoisseur, tinctures and oils provide a controlled and precise cannabis experience. A few drops under the tongue, and your experience will be smooth, cough-free, and tailored to your preferences.

Their discreet nature allows for private consumption, suiting situations where smoking isn’t viable. Fortunately, it also avoids respiratory irritation and coughing, often associated with traditional methods.

Tinctures and oils offer tailored effects through various cannabinoid ratios, catering to individual preferences such as relaxation, pain relief, or creativity enhancement.

The rapid onset of effects further sets them apart, as these products are absorbed under the tongue, providing quicker results compared to edibles.


  1. Andrani F, Aiello M, Bertorelli G, Crisafulli E, Chetta A. Cough, a vital reflex. mechanisms, determinants and measurements. Acta Biomed. 2019;89(4):477-480. Published 2019 Jan 15. doi:10.23750/abm.v89i4.6182 ↩︎
  2. Grace MS, Dubuis E, Birrell MA, Belvisi MG. Pre-clinical studies in cough research: Role of Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels. Pulmonary pharmacology & therapeutics. 2013;26(5):498-507. doi: ↩︎
  3. Muller C, Morales P, Reggio PH. Cannabinoid Ligands Targeting TRP Channels. Frontiers in molecular neuroscience. 2019;11. doi: ↩︎
  4. Chamberlain S, Garrod R, Birring SS. Cough suppression therapy: Does it work? Pulmonary pharmacology & therapeutics. 2013;26(5):524-527. doi: ↩︎
  5. Zacny JP, Chait LD. Breathhold duration and response to marijuana smoke. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1989;33(2):481-484. doi:10.1016/0091-3057(89)90534-0 ↩︎
  6. Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research. Pharmacognosy Res. 2017;9(2):121-127. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.204647 ↩︎
  7. Barrus DG, Capogrossi KL, Cates SC, et al. Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles. Methods Rep RTI Press. 2016;2016:10.3768/rtipress.2016.op.0035.1611. doi:10.3768/rtipress.2016.op.0035.1611 ↩︎

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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