Vaper’s Cough is often an issue for new vapers, but even experienced vapers can experience it from time to time. Whether it’s a true intolerance to an ingredient in your vape or just a rookie cough, there are steps you can take to minimise the problem and get back to vaping as usual.
What is Vaper’s Cough?
We know that coughing is your body’s way of responding to something which irritates your throat or airways.
It’s not uncommon for people to cough the first time they try to vape. Much of this is down to poor technique. Oftentimes, the cough will persist as the person adjusts to the vape, but the symptoms should wane as they get used to vaping and learn the best technique for themselves.
You shouldn’t be put off if you’ve just picked up your first vape and are experiencing a cough. But if you’ve been vaping for well over a month and continue to experience a cough when you vape, it’s likely Vaper’s Cough.
There are several causes of Vaper’s Cough, ranging from negligible settings on your vape to larger issues like an intolerance to one of your vape’s ingredients. Still, even with a more extreme cause like an intolerance, there are steps you can take to minimise your Vaper’s Cough and get back to vaping as usual.
Let’s break down some of the potential causes of your Vaper’s Cough and give you solutions to help you breathe easier.
Top 5 Reasons Why Vaping Makes You Cough
So, why does vaping make you cough? Work your way down this list, and if anything jumps out at you, give the solution a try. It could be down to something as small as your device’s settings.
#1: Damaged Cilia
Smoking damages more than just your lungs. We’ve all seen the infographics.
Even once we stop smoking, the complications can persist. This is one of the primary reasons vapers tend to cough when they first make the switch: damaged cilia from smoking.
Think of cilia as tiny hairs along your respiratory tract. Their job is essentially to remove dust and mucus. When these hairs become irritated, they make you cough, which is designed to help you bring up whatever is causing the hairs to become irritated.
When you smoke cigarettes, these tiny hairs become damaged and suppressed over time, which causes less productive coughing among smokers. It’s why most new smokers tend to cough and splutter compared to seasoned smokers—the new smokers haven’t damaged their cilia yet.
Now, when you quit smoking, these cilia start to grow back and become active again, which can be unpleasant—but it means that your respiratory tract is regaining functioning.
As the cilia become active again, they begin to clear up the mucus in your airways and force them out via—you guessed it—coughing. This is colloquially known as a “Quitter’s Cough” or “Smoker’s Flu,” which can last several weeks.
Now, when you quit smoking by switching to vaping, your cilia will be in the process of growing back, and they may become irritated by the vapour you’re inhaling.
This is a common issue faced by new vapers—but the problem shouldn’t persist longer than a few weeks. If it does, your Vaper’s Cough may have another cause.
#2: Propylene Glycol Intolerance
E-Liquids are made of a base mixture with varying ratios of two main ingredients: Vegetable Glycerine (VG) and Propylene Glycol (PG). PG is sharper on the throat and is used to replicate the feeling of smoking, while also being an excellent flavour and nicotine carrier.
A minority of vapers present with a PG intolerance, though the incidence is currently unknown. It’s thought that up to 10% of new vapers will experience a short-lived intolerance to PG, which will wane over time as you become used to vaping. Still, there are a number of vapers who simply cannot vape E-Liquids with PG even after some time has passed, as these PG-intolerant vapers experience coughing, skin irritation, nausea, and other symptoms.
If this sounds like you, your Vaper’s Cough could actually be a PG intolerance.
If you’re considering whether your cough is being caused by a PG intolerance, there are a few ranges of 100% VG vape juices available here in the UK designed specifically for vapers with a PG intolerance, allergy, or sensitivity. It’s important to note, though, that these E-Liquids must be vaped in a higher-powered sub-ohm device.
One UK vape store, Vape Green, carries the UK’s largest selection of 100% VG E-Liquids. They’re definitely worth checking out if you suspect you have a PG intolerance.
#3: Airflow & Wattage
When I first started as a content writer, I would often cough while vaping at my desk.
I, of course, chalked it up to the previously-mentioned Smoker’s Flu. But the cough persisted for weeks, then months, even as I’d moved from one kit to another and had bounced through different E-Liquids and nicotine strengths. I realised then that it couldn’t be the smoking anymore, much to my chagrin.
One of my co-workers would hear me coughing and instantly tell me, “open your airflow!” And when I finally relented, the cough dissipated. Sure, I love a tight draw, a warm vape, and a really concentrated stream of vapour, but I learned that this simply wasn’t what my throat wanted. My co-worker was right: opening my airflow really helped.
If you find yourself uncomfortable or coughing a lot while you vape, see if your vape offers adjustable wattage and/or airflow settings. If so, you should try to open the airflow valve wider and inhale the vapour deeper into your lungs. If this doesn’t help, try also lowering your device’s wattage or power settings for a smoother, less concentrated vape.
This should help ease your Vaper’s Cough if you’ve been using a device with a really tight draw or high power.
#4: E-Liquid Type
There is, of course, something to be said about using the wrong type of E-Liquid for your specific device, as each device requires a certain type of juice to function properly. Using the wrong type for your kit can absolutely cause an unpleasant vape experience, which can lead to coughing. However, this point is made under the assumption that you’re using the correct type of E-Liquid for your kit.
Particularly in the case of low-powered devices like pod systems and vape pens, the type of E-Liquid you’re using can cause you to cough moreso than others.
For these lower-powered devices, there are typically two types of E-Liquid available to use: “freebase” 50/50 E-Liquids and nicotine salts. The difference between the two comes down to the formulation of the nicotine used to make the juice.
Freebase juices use the same type of nicotine found in the tobacco leaf, while nicotine salts have a slightly altered pH, allowing for a quicker nicotine delivery and a smoother throat hit at higher strengths. Still, some people fare better with one type than the other.
I, personally, tend to have a harder time with nic salts when I have a cough compared to freebase liquids, while other people I know struggle more with freebase liquids, particularly when they’re a higher nicotine strength.
So, if you’re using one of these two types of E-Liquid in a pod kit or starter vape kit, you may want to consider trying the other type to see if it helps you cough less.
#5: Using the Wrong Setup
Are you an MTL or a DTL vaper? The answer to this is crucial when considering which type of vape to buy, as using the wrong type of kit for your vaping style can lead to Vaper’s Cough.
To answer this, you’ll need to consider the following: do you draw the vapour into your mouth first, then inhale (MTL) like you would with a cigarette, or do you tend to inhale directly into your lungs (DTL), as you would with a shisha or water pipe?
If you’re an MTL vaper, you should be using a low-powered device like many of the cheap vape kits on the market nowadays. These types of kits are best paired with high-PG juices like salt nicotine or freebase 50/50 E-Liquids. And because these devices are designed to replicate the feeling of a cigarette, the compatible E-Liquids for these kits allow for a higher nicotine content.
If you’re a DTL vaper, you’ll need a sub-ohm vape kit—otherwise, you’ll likely experience a lot of coughing if you do a direct-to-lung inhale on an MTL device. A DTL vaper should be using a lower nicotine strength in their juice—between 0mg and 6mg—because higher nicotine strengths tend to cause coughing and unpleasant throat hits in a sub-ohm device.
Depending on your vaping style, you’ll need to ensure you’re using the right type of kit—otherwise, you’ll likely experience some unpleasant side effects like Vaper’s Cough that simply won’t go away.
When you first get into vaping, it can be difficult to navigate all of the different types of kits and their accompanying juices. Some new vapers opt for the cheapest kit option, when they really need a sub-ohm vape mod. Others opt for the pricier kits, thinking expensive means better—when in reality, a simple, cheap vape pen will get the job done.
It’s not unusual for new vapers to end up buying a kit that’s simply unsuitable for their vaping style. If you’re experiencing Vaper’s Cough, you should ensure you have the right type of kit to suit your vaping style and needs.
Conclusion: Vaper’s Cough Begone!
So, you should now understand some of the causes of Vaper’s Cough, as well as the solutions to each cause. Some require you to just wait it out, as is the case with damaged cilia from smoking, while others may require you to swap for a different E-Liquid type or choose a different vape device altogether.
Usually, Vaper’s Cough will resolve itself in time, either as you adjust to the vape or after making changes to your device or E-Liquid regimen.
However, if your Vaper’s Cough is accompanied by chest pain or tightness or difficulty breathing, you should stop vaping immediately and contact a medical professional for advice.