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Why Does Marijuana Make You Cough? [What to Know]

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

With the rise in cannabis smokers, many are intrigued by the evident coughing fits after smoking weed. This post dives into the intricate relation between cannabis use and its effects on the respiratory system, revealing insights that marijuana smokers need to be privy to for ensuring lung health.

Table of Contents:

The Anatomy of the Respiratory System and Its Relation to Cannabis Smoke

The respiratory system, a complex network of organs, works diligently to supply oxygen to the body while expelling carbon dioxide. The structure and functions of this system are central to our discussion about the effects of cannabis smoking and how it might lead to health concerns like chronic cough, shortness of breath, and respiratory symptoms in marijuana users.

marijuana patient lady having a coughing fits

Bronchial Tubes and Cannabis Smoke The bronchial tubes are essential passages that transport air to and from the lungs. When cannabis smokers inhale hot smoke, excessive heat can irritate these tubes. This irritation is further compounded by plant material and residual pesticides in cannabis, potentially leading to increased mucus production and, consequently, a persistent smoker’s cough.

Lung Capacity and Cannabis Lungs possess tiny air sacs known as alveoli, responsible for the exchange of gases. Cannabis smoke, especially when inhaled deeply, reaches these sacs, potentially impacting the long-term lung function. Prolonged exposure to any smoke, including that of cannabis, can reduce lung capacity, leading to shortness of breath and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in severe cases.

Sensory Nerves and the Cough Reflex Sensory nerves within the respiratory tract play a vital role in detecting and responding to irritating substances. When cannabis smokers inhale, these nerves are activated by the chemical components of marijuana, causing the cough reflex. This protective mechanism is designed to expel harmful particles and ensure lung health.

Comparing Cannabis Smoke to Cigarette Smoke It's crucial to recognize that while both cannabis and cigarettes introduce smoke to the lungs, they aren't identical. Studies have indicated that tobacco smokers often face higher risks of diseases such as lung cancer compared to marijuana smokers. Still, the risks associated with cannabis smoke, including potential respiratory problems and reduced lung function, shouldn't be underestimated. The Annals of Internal Medicine provides a detailed look into studies comparing the two.

Potential Protective Measures For those concerned about the effects of cannabis smoking on their respiratory health, there are several protective measures to consider. Using vaporizers can help as they produce a cooler vapor instead of hot smoke. Hydrating with warm water during a smoke session can soothe the throat. Also, opting for cannabis products free from pesticides and harmful additives can reduce the risk of irritation. For those considering medical marijuana, understanding how to apply for a medical marijuana card can provide a pathway to obtaining products from reliable sources.

Tweet-Worthy Message: "Understanding the intricate relationship between the respiratory system and cannabis smoke is pivotal for informed health choices. Breathe easy and choose wisely. 🍃 #RespiratoryHealth #CannabisConcerns #ARCannabisClin1" Tweet This!

Key Takeaway: While the respiratory system is built to handle a variety of environmental factors, prolonged and frequent exposure to cannabis smoke can have repercussions. Awareness of these effects and making informed choices is essential for those opting to use marijuana, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes.

Chemical Components of Marijuana and Their Effects on the Throat

When discussing the impact of cannabis smoking on the human body, one must not overlook the effects on the throat. The inhalation of marijuana smoke exposes the throat to various chemical components, some of which can cause irritation or other symptoms. As such, understanding these components and their potential impact is vital for both casual cannabis users and those using it for therapeutic purposes.

a woman holding her throat as she is coughing from medical marijuana side effects

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): This primary psychoactive compound in cannabis interacts with the brain to produce the “high” associated with marijuana. While it's known for its cerebral effects, THC can also lead to coughing fits and throat irritation, especially when consumed in large amounts.

Cannabidiol (CBD): Another major component, CBD, doesn’t produce the psychoactive effects that THC does. While it offers numerous therapeutic benefits, its impact on the throat remains largely neutral. However, the way it interacts with other components can influence one's smoking experience.

Tar: Much like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains tar. This sticky residue can coat the throat, leading to cough reflex and potential chronic cough. Over time, frequent marijuana smokers might experience increased sputum production and respiratory symptoms.

Terpenes: These aromatic compounds give cannabis its distinct aroma. Some terpenes can cause shortness of breath or irritate the sensitive tissues in the throat, especially when consumed in high concentrations.

Residual Pesticides: Unfortunately, not all cannabis flower is cultivated under organic or clean conditions. When pesticides are used in growing cannabis plants, they can remain on the plant material. Inhaling these residual pesticides can exacerbate throat irritation, leading to coughing fits and potential long-term lung function concerns.

The act of burning plant material, regardless of its type, creates a host of byproducts. Some of these, like hot smoke, can cause direct physical irritation. Chronic bronchitis has been noted in habitual smokers of marijuana, linking the irritating substances in marijuana smoke to some respiratory symptoms.

It's essential to approach cannabis smoking with knowledge and awareness. For those concerned about the impact of these chemicals on lung health and other aspects, consulting with health professionals or considering other consumption methods might be beneficial. For instance, medical marijuana can be consumed in other forms that don't involve smoking.

Key Takeaway: The chemical components in marijuana can have varying effects on the throat. While some are neutral, others, especially when consumed in large quantities or over extended time, can cause irritation and other symptoms. Making informed decisions about consumption can mitigate potential adverse effects.

Tweet-Worthy Message: "Inhaling marijuana smoke exposes our throats to a myriad of chemical components. Knowing their impact is key for a smoother smoking experience. 🍃 #ThroatCare #CannabisChemicals #ARCannabisClin1" Tweet This!

For those looking to understand how marijuana might affect their personal health conditions or seeking a more detailed screening, consider checking out the medical screening offered by ARCannabisClinic. Additionally, readers might find this external article from the University of California, San Francisco informative, delving deeper into the specific impacts of smoked substances on respiratory health.

The Role of Temperature in Cannabis Smoke and its Impact on the Airways

Temperature plays a pivotal role in determining the impact of cannabis smoke on our airways. When cannabis is burned or vaporized, the heat causes chemical changes, releasing active compounds such as THC and CBD. Yet, the temperature can also influence the composition and harshness of the smoke, affecting the airways differently than expected.

burning and smoking marijuana bud on a table

Burning versus Vaporization: Traditionally, cannabis has been consumed by burning, resulting in smoke. This combustion method exposes the user to high temperatures, with flames often reaching around 800°C to 900°C. At these temperatures, cannabinoids are activated, but harmful byproducts like tar, carcinogens, and hot particulate matter are also produced. These byproducts can cause significant irritation and potential long-term damage to the airways.

Vaporization, a more modern approach to cannabis consumption, heats cannabis to temperatures between 160°C to 230°C. This range is optimal for releasing cannabinoids without leading to combustion, thus avoiding many harmful byproducts associated with burning. Vaporizers provide a smoother and cooler vapor, reducing the immediate and long-term impact on the airways.

Impact on the Airways: Hot smoke from the combustion of cannabis tends to cause immediate irritation to the throat and lungs. This irritation manifests as coughing, a dry or sore throat, and in some cases, can exacerbate bronchial conditions. Cooler vapor, on the other hand, has shown to cause less irritation and is often preferred by medical marijuana patients, especially those who use marijuana therapy for conditions like chronic pain or multiple sclerosis.

Filtration and Cooling Systems: Some smoking devices, such as water pipes or bongs, attempt to cool the smoke by filtering it through water. While this can somewhat alleviate the harshness, it doesn't entirely eliminate the harmful byproducts produced by combustion.

Key Takeaway: The temperature at which cannabis is consumed has a direct impact on the health and comfort of the airways. While burning cannabis can release harmful irritants, vaporizing offers a cooler and potentially healthier alternative, with fewer risks associated with combustion.

Tweet-Worthy Message: "Did you know? The temperature of your cannabis smoke can influence your airway health. Cooler vapor reduces risks and provides a smoother experience. 🍃#CannabisTemperature #AirwayHealth #ARCannabisClin1" Tweet This!

For those interested in diving deeper into the science of cannabis and its effects, the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics provides comprehensive studies and research. And for those considering switching to vaporization or looking for more information on optimal cannabis use, the how-to-get-a-marijuana-card page from ARCannabisClinic might prove beneficial.

The Influence of Smoking Techniques and Devices on the Cough Reflex

Cannabis consumption, like any form of inhalation, can activate the cough reflex, which serves as a protective mechanism for the airways. However, the extent to which one might cough can be influenced significantly by the techniques and devices used during smoking or vaporization.

Traditional Smoking versus Vaporization: Burning cannabis in joints or pipes often produces hotter smoke filled with particulates and combustion byproducts. These elements can irritate the throat and lungs, leading to the cough reflex being triggered more frequently. On the other hand, vaporization heats cannabis just enough to release cannabinoids without actually burning it. The resulting vapor is cooler and generally less irritating, often leading to a reduced coughing incidence.

Water Filtration: Bongs and water pipes aim to cool down the smoke by passing it through water before inhalation. The water acts as a filter, trapping some of the heavier particulates and potential irritants. While this can make the experience smoother, it doesn't entirely prevent coughing, especially if the smoke is still very hot or the draw is particularly deep.

Inhalation Technique: Deep inhalation or holding the smoke/vapor in the lungs for extended periods can lead to increased coughing. This is because the prolonged exposure can cause more irritation, prompting the body's natural response to expel irritants. Shorter, more controlled puffs can mitigate some of the coughing associated with cannabis consumption.

Device Maintenance: A clean device often leads to a smoother experience. Resin buildup and leftover ash can add additional particulates to the smoke or vapor, increasing the chance of coughing. Regular cleaning and maintenance of smoking or vaporizing devices can, therefore, play a role in managing the cough reflex.

Tweet-Worthy Message: "The way you consume cannabis can influence how often you cough. From vaping to water filtration, choose wisely for a smoother experience. 🍃#CoughFreeCannabis #SmoothInhale #ARCannabisClin1" Tweet This!

For those seeking a deeper understanding of the physiological impacts of cannabis smoking, the Lung Health Institute offers a comprehensive overview. And if you're considering a transition to vaping or need guidance on the best consumption methods tailored to your needs, the marijuana therapy page at ARCannabisClinic is a valuable resource.

Key Takeaway: The cough reflex during cannabis consumption isn't solely dependent on the cannabis itself but is significantly influenced by the techniques and devices used. Proper device maintenance, careful inhalation techniques, and the consideration of vaporization can all contribute to a smoother, less cough-prone experience.

Short-Term and Long-Term Health Implications of Cannabis-Induced Coughing

Cannabis, a plant with numerous therapeutic applications from pain relief to easing anxiety, is consumed by many across the world. Yet, one of the notable side effects of its consumption, especially when smoked, is coughing. While coughing might seem benign, it is crucial to understand the short-term and long-term health implications of such a reaction.

medical marijuana patient coughing into his first

Short-Term Implications:

  1. Irritation: Inhalation of cannabis smoke can cause immediate irritation to the throat and lungs. This can lead to dryness, scratchiness, and discomfort.

  2. Bronchial Spasms: Similar to the reaction some experience with tobacco smoke, cannabis can induce bronchial spasms, leading to coughing fits.

  3. Decreased Lung Function: Continuous bouts of coughing post-consumption might temporarily reduce lung function, making activities like exercise more challenging.

Long-Term Implications:

  1. Chronic Bronchitis Symptoms: Consistent cannabis smoking can lead to symptoms akin to chronic bronchitis, including mucus production and persistent coughing.

  2. Lung Health Concerns: Continuous exposure to cannabis smoke might pose risks similar to tobacco. These include the development of conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

  3. Potential for Respiratory Infections: A compromised respiratory system might become more susceptible to infections, leading to conditions like pneumonia.

It is pertinent to note that many of these implications arise primarily from the act of smoking. Alternative consumption methods, like edibles or tinctures, might bypass many of these respiratory concerns. For a comprehensive understanding of cannabis consumption methods and their effects, the marijuana therapy section at ARCannabisClinic offers deep insights.

However, the health implications of cannabis are not limited to respiratory concerns. The University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute provides a holistic view of the potential side effects associated with prolonged cannabis usage.

Tweet-Worthy Message: "While cannabis offers therapeutic benefits, it's essential to understand the implications of cannabis-induced coughing. Knowing helps in making informed decisions. 🌿#CannabisHealth #InformedChoices #ARCannabisClin1" Tweet This!

Key Takeaway: Cannabis-induced coughing, especially from smoking, can lead to both immediate discomfort and potential long-term respiratory issues. While cannabis has numerous health benefits, it's paramount to be aware of consumption methods and their associated health implications. Making informed decisions about usage can significantly mitigate potential health risks.


Q: Why do marijuana smokers often experience chronic cough? A: Smoking weed introduces various compounds to the respiratory tract that can irritate sensitive tissues, leading to chronic cough and other respiratory symptoms in marijuana users.

Q: Does cannabis smoking increase the risk of lung cancer? A: Studies have shown mixed results, but prolonged exposure to any kind of smoke, including cannabis smoke, can pose potential cancer risks.

Q: What role does temperature play in cannabis-induced coughing? A: Excessive heat from hot smoke can irritate the bronchial tubes, prompting coughing fits. Cooler smoke or vapor may reduce this irritation.

Q: How do the chemical components of marijuana affect the throat? A: Components such as residual pesticides and plant material can be irritating substances, leading to chronic bronchitis symptoms and coughing fits in cannabis users.

Q: Are coughing fits common among first-time marijuana users? A: Yes, first-time users often experience cough reflex due to the unfamiliar irritants and the hot smoke in the respiratory tract.

Q: What are the long-term lung function implications of cannabis smoking? A: Prolonged cannabis smoking can affect pulmonary function, potentially leading to conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and reduced lung capacity.

Q: Is there a link between cannabis smokers and shortness of breath? A: Cannabis users can experience shortness of breath due to the irritating effects of smoke on the respiratory system and the body's natural response to these irritants.

Q: How does marijuana smoke compare with cigarette smoke in terms of lung health? A: Both can introduce irritating substances to the lungs. However, tobacco smokers often face higher risks of diseases like lung cancer compared to marijuana smokers.

Q: Can smoking techniques influence the cough reflex? A: Absolutely. Using devices that cool the smoke, like water pipes, or taking a deep breath between inhalations can influence the intensity of the cough reflex in cannabis smokers.

Q: Does cannabis smoking lead to increased sputum production? A: Yes, cannabis smoking can stimulate mucus production, leading to increased sputum in marijuana users.

Q: How does smoking weed impact heart rate and blood pressure? A: Smoking weed can temporarily elevate heart rate and blood pressure, which may also contribute to shortness of breath in some cannabis users.

Q: Is smoker’s cough different for cannabis users than for tobacco smokers? A: While there are similarities, marijuana cough might be more associated with hot smoke and specific plant material irritants than the typical smoker’s cough from tobacco.

Q: Can young adults face different respiratory symptoms from cannabis smoking? A: Young adults might be more susceptible to certain respiratory symptoms due to their developing lungs, but symptoms generally align with those seen in older cannabis smokers.

Q: Does water pipe usage reduce the coughing effect while smoking weed? A: Water pipes can cool down the smoke, which might reduce some of the irritating effects and subsequently the act of coughing.

Q: How can marijuana smokers ensure better lung health? A: Regular check-ups, avoiding mixing tobacco with marijuana, and opting for vaporizers over direct smoking can help marijuana smokers maintain better lung health.

Q: What's the role of sensory nerves in cannabis-induced coughing? A: Sensory nerves in the respiratory tract detect irritating substances from cannabis smoke, triggering the cough reflex as a protective mechanism.

Q: Is there a link between marijuana smoking and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? A: While there's evidence of respiratory symptoms in cannabis users, a direct link between marijuana smoking and chronic obstructive lung disease is still being researched.

Q: Can marijuana smoking affect pulmonary function in the long run? A: Prolonged and heavy marijuana smoking might impact long-term lung function, leading to respiratory problems in habitual smokers of marijuana.

Q: Are there any protective measures to reduce cannabis cough for regular marijuana smokers? A: Using vaporizers, ensuring the cannabis flower is free from pesticides, and hydrating with warm water during a smoke session can help reduce the cannabis cough.

Q: Do health professionals see an increased risk in respiratory problems among heavy smokers of marijuana? A: Health professionals have noted respiratory symptoms like chronic cough and bronchitis among heavy cannabis smokers, emphasizing the need for regular medical evaluations.


As cannabis users increasingly seek knowledge about the effects of cannabis smoking on their respiratory health, it's imperative to consult health professionals with a deep understanding of the field. ARCannabisClinic is a trusted name, operating as a national network of marijuana doctors that aids patients in procuring legal access to medical marijuana in their state. Going a step further, they provide a specialized MMJ Therapy Visit, where patients engage in a one-on-one consultation with a cannabis expert. This session equips them with a tailored medical marijuana treatment plan, encompassing strains, ratios, and precise dosing instructions. For those facing conditions like PTSD and anxiety, ARCannabisClinic remains at the forefront, pioneering full diagnostic evaluations that might unveil other potential qualifying conditions. Find more about their PTSD and Anxiety screening services to ensure comprehensive care.

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