There are several reasons that vaping might make you cough. Vaping technique is usually the number one cause of coughing when you vape. You have to vape like a vaper, not a smoker. You e-liquid strength could be another.

We’ve all been there, making the switch from smoking to vaping and then embarrassingly spluttering mid-vape. While vaping comes with a wealth of benefits if switching from smoking, it is still no stranger to the occasional and literal hiccup, especially when you’re a first-time vaper. But what happens when we cough or hiccup? How common is coughing and hiccupping while smoking and while vaping? And what is it that causes this? We look into the science behind it.

Related: How to Choose Your First E-Cig Kit [Infographic]


According to the NHS, ‘A cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus and irritants such as dust or smoke’. A cough can be classified as ‘dry’ where it doesn’t produce any phlegm, or ‘chesty’ where you attempt to clear your airways of phlegm. While coughing is often a result of a respiratory tract infection, for example a cold or laryngitis, smoking can also be a cause.

Coughing while smoking

A smoker’s cough often develops in long-term smokers and is persistent, which means it’s likely to last longer than a couple of weeks. It’s often found to be worse in the mornings and then improve slightly during the day. This cough is usually caused by the inhaled smoke weakening the cells in your airways, which allows toxins to enter the lungs. The consequential coughing is  your body trying to clear the toxins from your lungs.

It’s difficult to differentiate a standard smoker’s cough from something more serious, for example, lung cancer or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is basically a narrowing of the lungs. But if you notice blood in your mucus,a  hoarse voice, or a shortness of breath, it’s best to go see your GP.

Coughing while vaping

Coughing while vaping is also not an uncommon phenomenon. According to a survey of 600 vapers, around 57% of them admitted to coughing the first time they used an e-cig. However, after acclimatising for roughly ten weeks, 92% of vapers no longer had a problem with coughing. 1% no longer had a problem with coughing after just one week, and 7% still found they were coughing. This is a little more reassuring than smoker’s cough, which only seems to worsen over time.

But what causes the coughing while vaping in the first place? A likely reason behind this is the synthetic organic compound Propylene Glycol which is a primary ingredient in the majority of e-liquids.

Discussing PG, Canada Vapes states ‘Most e-liquid contains at least 80% and as much as 92% propylene glycol. This is the ingredient that produces the smoke-like vapour when the e-cigarette is exhaled’. A side effect of propylene glycol is a sore throat, and this can contribute to coughing. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified PG as an additive that is safe, and it is often used in cosmetics, medicines and food products.

An snippet from our cigarettes vs e-cigarettes infographic

See more: Cigarettes VS E-Cigarettes: How They Work [Infographic]

Another contributing factor to vaper’s cough could be the level of nicotine in the e-liquid. It’s often found that a higher strength nicotine is more likely to lead to coughing. On top of the ingredients used in e-cigs, another common reason for coughing is simply the technique employed. According to, many smokers adopt a method where they inhale the smoke directly into their lungs. But with vaping, it’s recommended to use the mouth to lungs method, where you draw the vapour into your mouth, hold it and inhale if required. Applying a direct to lung inhalation to vaping is likely to cause coughing. This is because tobacco smoke contains anaesthetics designed to reduce throat irritation, whereas vapour does not.

What is the solution?

Seeing as coughing reduces from 57% to 7% after ten weeks, the primary and obvious solution is simply to keep vaping until your body is used to it. Also if PG and nicotine are contributors, you could try experimenting with the amount of PG or nicotine in your e-cigs. Most e-liquids contain Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerine. You may find a higher percentage of Vegetable Glycerine and lower percentage of nicotine is kinder on your throat. On top of that, it might be beneficial to experiment with your vaping technique until you find one that works for you

Related: How to Apply Wine tasting Techniques to Vaping


When it comes to hiccups, the NHS states ‘Hiccups occur when the diaphragm suddenly and involuntarily contracts (tightens), resulting in a hiccup sound being produced at the top of the windpipe’. Hiccups, aka ‘singultus’ can also be caused by smoking. While there isn’t much research into why, theories for this include inhaling too deeply, or the sudden change in temperatures if you go outdoors to smoke.

Hiccupping while vaping

Although it’s not as common as coughing, hiccupping while vaping is also not unheard of. While there is significantly less research on the topic of hiccupping while vaping, there is one main recurring suggestion as to why this happens.

If you experience hiccups mid-vape, this is again likely due to the level of nicotine in the e-cig. This phenomenon has even coined the popular term ‘niccups’ and has been found with other nicotine packed products, such as nicotine gum. There isn’t a lot of science behind why nicotine leads to hiccups. However it’s most often found when consuming high levels of nicotine, or inhaling too much nicotine in one drag.

An image showing nicotine gum

What is the solution?

The obvious solution to avoiding vaping niccups, is to refrain from too heavy vaping sessions and reduce the amount of nicotine in your e-liquids. At Totally Wicked, we offer a variety of e-liquids with a range of nicotine strengths. They range from 0mg/ml (zero nicotine) to 36mg/ml (3.6% nicotine).

Related: Is There Still A Place For Super High Nicotine Strengths?

Also, make sure you are not ingesting any drops of e-liquid from your cartridge as this consumption of nicotine is also very likely to lead to the occasional hiccup. If you find this is the case, your best bet would be to purchase a new e-cig.

Smoking Vs Vaping

Although coughing and hiccuping is possible with both smoking and vaping, the effects of vaper’s cough and vaper’s hiccups are generally less harmful than for smokers. If you do decide to make the switch, states that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than tobacco. They are also significantly less addictive as you are able to adjust your nicotine levels to your choosing. Finally, with the three ingredients e-cigarettes contain, you don’t have to worry about the 4000 chemicals you’d find in just one cigarette.

Read more here: No Smoking Day – How Vaping Helps You Quit Smoking

Do you find you’ve been coughing and hiccupping while vaping? Let us know your way of overcoming this!