About coughing after quitting smoking

Updated August 08, 2017

Coughing after quitting smoking is a normal part of the quitting process. Unfortunately, the cough can lead to a sore throat and may be inconvenient to you. Despite this, coughing after you quit smoking is healthy and serves as a sign of lung recovery.

Coughing and Cilia

The coughing you experience after you stop smoking is a result of the cilia being repaired. Cilia are the small, hair-like objects in your respiratory system (from your nose to your lungs) that are responsible for filtering out dust and other impurities. If you are a regular smoker, most of the cilia dies and is unable to grow back because of the constant cigarette smoke. However, once you quit smoking, your cilia are able to begin growing back. This causes irritation, which in turn causes your cough. You can tell how fast your body is repairing itself by how hard you are coughing. The faster the cilia regrows, the heavier your cough will be.


People who have smoked for at least 1 month and then quit smoking cold turkey will likely cough up mucus. Coughing up mucus after you quit smoking is considered normal. This process occurs because your lungs are working hard to expel all of the tar, toxins and carcinogenic materials that have been suppressed in your lungs. The mucus typically has a dark yellow or brown colour, but if you notice bleeding, you should consult a doctor.

Sore Throat

A sore throat is often accompanied by intense coughing and is to be expected. To ease the pain in your throat, take a few throat lozenges, eat cold foods and avoid foods and drinks that would irritate your throat further (for example, spicy food or harsh alcohol).

How Long Will My Cough Last?

On average, people experience coughing for 2 to 3 weeks after they quit smoking. The duration of this depends mostly on how long it takes for the cilia to re-emerge. If you experience a strong cough for more than 1 month, a visit to the doctor is recommended.

Coughing is Normal

All this coughing and hacking up mucus may cause you to worry, but this is one situation where coughing is actually a good sign. In fact, you should be more worried if you are not coughing after you quit smoking.

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About the Author

Wendy Rose Gould is a professional journalist who has contributed to "Glamour" magazine and the Huffington Post, among other publications. After internships at the "Indianapolis Business Journal," "Kiwanis International" and "NUVO Newsweekly," she earned BA degrees in journalism and philosophy from Franklin College in 2008. Gould specializes in lifestyle topics.