(There are affiliate links in this review, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click & make any purchases. Please see Disclaimer for more details.)
One of the questions I am commonly asked by people who want to vape, but haven’t started yet, or have only just dipped their toes in the water, is this:
“Why does vaping make me cough?”
I have heard this same question from ‘veteran’ vapers as much as I have newbies/smokers, and one of the biggest reasons why someone doesn’t start vaping (or so they tell me) is because the vape makes them cough.
“I don’t use it anymore; it tickles my throat and makes me cough.”
“I did use the vape pen for a while, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it. I coughed up a lung every time. and I don’t get that from a cigarette.”
“It doesn’t feel the same so I just went back to smoking. The ecig was making me splutter.”
Hey, I relate. I’ve been there. The first cigalike I tried made me cough up a lung so hard, I almost disregarded vaping completely, and how different would my life have been then? Well, perhaps not that different, but you never know. I wouldn’t have a somewhat neglected vape website. Or a seriously neglected YouTube channel. (I’m working on it!)
When I first dabbled in sub-ohm vaping, I couldn’t get the hang of it at all. I thought it was horrendous. Nah, I’ll stick to mouth-to-lung vaping, thanks. I don’t like feeling as if my lungs are coming out through my throat every time I fancy a taste of Key Lime Pie.
Even now, like, just yesterday, I cough when I vape. I have the airflow open too much/too little, put the wrong juice in with the wrong coil, don’t like a juice or device at all … There are plenty o’ reasons why vaping makes me cough, and I would imagine a few of them might apply to you, too.
Why Does Vaping Make Me Cough, Then?
I’ll try and put the reasons in some sort of order because there are quite a few of them. Let’s start with the basics:
Vaping is different from smoking.
Of course it’s different; you’re not physically picking up a cigarette, sticking it in your mouth, setting fire to it, and then breathing all sorts of chemicals and toxins that are found in much higher amounts than what would be in your average [safe/reputable/properly used] ecig or vaporiser.
See how I covered my own ass there?
I KNOW CERTAIN CHEMICALS AND TOXINS ARE ALSO FOUND IN ELIQUID/WITH VAPING, BUT THEY’RE TINY AMOUNTS WHEN COMPARED TO SMOKING, OKAY? I DON’T NEED YOUR STATS AND FIGURES; I’VE ALREADY DONE MY OWN RESEARCH. PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
And yes, I meant every goddamn capital letter.
Device: Vapour2 PRO Series 3X
I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of a duck’s butt … You’re here because you’ve heard or read that vaping is safer than smoking, right? It is. When you vape properly, with reliable and reputable vaporisers, in the way they were intended to be used, with the right kind of eliquid, taking care of your batteries at the same time, vaping is safer than smoking.
At least you can’t set fire to yourself in a drunken stupor.
No, of course I haven’t done that …
Vaping is different from smoking. It’s almost the same, but it’s not EXACTLY the same. I’d like to bet that you coughed when you picked up your first cigarette, right? I know I did. I got a head rush and didn’t feel that pleasant if I remember rightly, yet, still, I smoked for 15 or so years before I finally found some smarts and gave vaping a try. I’d already tried and failed with every possible other method, including Champix, so I really didn’t have anything to lose.
You’re [probably] going to cough a bit when you start vaping, just as you probably started coughing a bit when you first started smoking. You persisted enough to actually become a full-blown smoker, so why not persist enough to find out whether or not you could be a full-blown vaper?
*Beards, vape tricks, underwear vape shots and vape review channel/website optional.
Oh, and just for the record, if the coughing wasn’t quite bad enough, you might get a bit of a sore throat and some dry mouth when you make the switch, too. Yeah, I know. It sucks, right? Not half as much as going nicotine cold turkey though. Have you ever tried it?
Eliquid contains propylene glycol … a bit of an irritant.
*Unless you get eliquid that DOESN’T contain PG, such as VSAVI 100% VG range.
Oooooft, I know. We’re getting into scary science territory here, but I’m not going to get too scientific on you, don’t worry. (I’m definitely not a scientist.)
The FDA says that PG (propylene glycol) is safe. It’s in so much stuff that you come into contact with every day, without you even realising it. It’s in some food items, quite a few types of medication, beauty products and cosmetics … Lots o’ stuff. We swallow it, smear it all over ourselves, and even wear it for the majority of the day sometimes.
PG is also safe to be inhaled. Ish. Some people may have allergies to propylene glycol, which will, obviously, cause an allergic reaction when vaped. Symptoms of a PG allergy can be very vague and relatively unproblematic, to begin with — a sore throat and dry mouth, perhaps a little bit of inflammation, but can get more serious. Severe allergies could see the vaper experiencing a stomach upset, a skin rash, painful and irritated eyes, closing of the airways, painful joints and muscles, and a whole bunch more.
Eliquid: FlavourArt Fuji
If you think you are experiencing an allergic reaction to PG in your eliquid, reading this isn’t going to help you. Grab your phone and give your doctor/111/999 a call. Pretty please.
Even if you don’t have a PG allergy, your body can still react to a sudden burst of inhaled PG. You must remember that you are going from cigarette smoking, which doesn’t contain quite the PG count you’ll find in vape liquid, to something that contains lots of PG in some cases. It is a natural irritant and is well-known to cause a cough, some dry mouth, a bit of a sore throat, that kind of thing.
That sounds baaaaaaad I know, but life does get better. Your body gets used to you NOT smoking and suddenly vaping stuff with PG in it. It’s almost like your body becomes ‘immune’ to the effects that PG usually has. (Not a sciencey fact, just an assumption on my part.) If you persist with vaping [cough, like you did with smoking, cough], your body will get used to the change and the coughing will happen less and less. Smoker’s cough tends to get a lot worse over time. Vaper’s cough gets better until it’s not even a cough at all.
I’m not lying to you. I’m vaping right now. No coughs. My first vape experience, however … Cough central!
You and that particular vape device/combo are just not compatible.
There are loads of vape devices/tanks/box mods that I’m definitely not compatible with. Trying to find the perfect vape device or tank/box mod combo is a bit like trying to find your soulmate — you gotta kiss a sh*t ton of frogs before you find that one that eventually turns into your Prince or Princess Charming.
Well, you might need to kiss a lot of vape mouthpieces before you finally find something you like.
What device are you using? Perhaps it’s not the right device for you and the kind of vaping you’re trying to achieve if it’s making you cough, or you’re using the wrong components, such as coils?
If you’re trying to stop smoking and want something that will mimic the feel and hit of smoking, using a sub-ohm device probably won’t work for you to begin with. If you’re not used to the way that you use a sub-ohm device — direct to the lungs, rather than into the mouth and then down into the lungs in two stages — it can very easily make you cough.
I coughed with my sub-ohm vape for a while, a few days at least. Yes, it was really annoying, but it’s just like anything in life — after a couple of days doing the same thing, you’ll eventually get the hang of it.
The way I look at it is very simple … possibly a bit too simple:
If you want to make big clouds and play around with loads of lovely flavours, you’ll probably want a sub-ohm device + sub-ohm coil + sub-ohm (high-VG) eliquid. You must be prepared for a slightly different method of vaping than how you would usually smoke, though.
My favourite sub-ohm devices right now are:
Links are to my reviews.
My favourite sub-ohm eliquids right now are:
Read more sub-ohm eliquid reviews here.
If you want something that will closely mimic smoking, making it easier for you to quit or cut down, you’ll be on the hunt for a mouth-to-lung device + MTL coil + MTL eliquid.
My favourite mouth-to-lung devices right now are:
- Jac Vapour VIM (pod-style vape, refillable tank, also works as sub-ohm)
- Aspire Gusto Mini (pod-style vape, prefilled pods, also works as sub-ohm)
- Jac Vapour Series-S17 [vape pen]
My favourite mouth-to-lung eliquids right now are:
- Jac Vapour Originals British Blend (tobacco) [Buy here]
- Drake’s Eliquid Kentucky (tobacco, Naturally Extracted Tobacco)
- Sugar Pie Vapes Hazelnut Cookie 50/50 Eliquid [Buy here]
This is not a definitive guide. There are exceptions to the rule. There always will be. You can MTL and sub-ohm vape with a few devices without changing the coil. The Aspire PockeX is a good example of that, as is the Aspire Gusto Mini.
With devices such as the Jac Vapour Series-S22 or VIM, you can both MTL or sub-ohm vape again, but only when you put the appropriate coil in, and then add the appropriate eliquid.
The Aspire Cleito EXO tank is a great one for sub-ohm vaping, but you can kiss goodbye to any dreams of MTL vaping. I also wouldn’t exactly say that it was the best tank for sub-ohm newbies. It’s a bit fiddly, definitely temperamental, and doesn’t deliver much in the way of vapour. For flavour, on the other hand, it’s an absolute delight.
If you want an MTL device and end up buying yourself a sub-ohm device, you are NOT going to be ready for it. Know and understand what you’re buying, and if you’re in any doubt, ask. You can ask me, the friendly chaps in your local vape store, the #vapefam on Twitter … There are plenty of people who can point you in the right direction.
You’re not using the right eliquid.
Okay, this can be taken two ways — you’re not using the right kind of eliquid for the device/coil, or you’re not using the right kind of eliquid for you. Again, this comes down to what kind of vaping you’d like to try — MTL or sub-ohm. (See the not definitive, overly simple guide above.)
If you try to MTL with a sub-ohm liquid, it’ll probably make you cough.
If you attempt to sub-ohm vape with MTL liquid, it’ll probably make you cough.
Eliquid: KOI Castella
Vaping with high-PG eliquid — a known irritant — is likely to induce coughing, but you can buy 100% VG eliquid. I have a box of 100% VG eliquids here, from VSAVI/V2 Vapour2, that I’m currently working my way through and reviewing. I’ll let you know what I think.
What strength is your eliquid? Those with higher nicotine levels are probably going to make you cough a lot more than those with a lower level. Again, you’ll get used to the higher levels, but a 12mg eliquid might not have the same coughing effect if you try it again in a 6mg. I once vaped 12mg MTL eliquid all the time, but I’m more of a 6mg girl now. The last time I tried a 12mg MTL eliquid, I coughed for the first 20 minutes or so. A 6mg eliquid, same flavour and brand, was much easier on my lungs and didn’t make me cough.
I rarely sub-ohm vape eliquid that’s stronger than 3mg. Anything above that literally blows my socks off. A 6mg sub-ohm juice is almost guaranteed to make me cough for a while, if not the entire way through the tank, although it does depend on the juice. Some are smoother than others.
You may need to experiment with a few different eliquids to find the right ‘type(s)’ for you. I regularly use both MTL and sub-ohm juice and devices, but there are a few favourites.
Some eliquid flavours just do it …
There are a few flavours that just make me cough. Every time. All the time. I don’t know why it is, or what it is about certain flavours that make it happen, but it happens almost every time. Anything menthol seems to really grab me by the back of the throat and make me cough. I have the hardest time with menthol-based or mixed eliquids, and also eliquids that contain koolada. If you don’t like the stuff either, you should check out this link. All the non-koolada eliquids are waiting for you in there.
Certain lime-based eliquids also make me cough sometimes, but I think that’s because they’re really ‘dry’, like dry wines. Overly perfume-flavoured eliquids do it to me too. Some I get used to after a while, the coughing eventually subsiding, but a few of them just make me cough or splutter all the time. I can’t explain it. There’s no reason for it. I don’t understand it.
In reality, there are LOADS of reasons why vaping might make you cough. That cough will subside, however, just like it did when you originally started smoking. And whether you read/pay attention to the scare stories in the media or not, we all know that vaping is better for you than smoking is. Sometimes you just gotta weigh up the pros and cons — coughing for a little while and not picking up a cigarette ever again, or giving up vaping because it made you cough and going back to smoking … which also makes you cough. (And gets worse over time.)
Did you cough when you first started vaping? What helped you, or was it sheer persistence? Share your stories and experiences in the comments below.
Further reading & resources:
- The Importance of Priming Your Coil
- What is NET – Naturally Extracted Tobacco?
- What is “Vaper’s Tongue”?
- 8 Tricks to Stop Your Vape Tank Leaking
*Prices & information correct at time of writing.
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