I don’t think there is a person living in the world who can honestly claim they have never coughed after toking on cannabis. It seems to be part of the experience for some folks. But why does it happen? How can you minimize it? And is this a sign that it’s harmful?
A landmark 2006 UCLA study conducted by Donald Tashkin, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years, found no connection between cannabis use and lung cancer, even with heavy use.
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“We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” Taskin said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”
Another UCLA study, this one from 2013, concludes that “regular smoking of marijuana by itself causes visible and microscopic injury to the large airways that is consistently associated with an increased likelihood of symptoms of chronic bronchitis that subside after cessation of use.”
What the science tells us at this point is that, yes, many cannabis consumers will cough after a session. And lung irritation will be a side effect for some. But once you quit — or take a hiatus from the herb — your long-term lung function should not be affected.
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Lungs are highly adaptive organs. More experienced tokers appear to be able to “train” their lungs to hold the smoke better than beginners. For some of us lucky ones, the dreaded toker’s cough is not an issue. But if you suffer from this malady, here are some ways to improve the experience:
Wait, don’t stop reading! I mean give the bong or pipe a rest and eat your cannabis. Edible marijuana is an option if you just can’t handle the coughing jags. It will take longer to feel the effect and it will stay in your system longer, but your lungs will be happier.
Take Smaller Hits
When you cough, your lungs are telling you to back off. Your lungs can only take so much smoke at one time. If you feel your lung capacity is smaller, than simply take mini-puffs. Don’t worry: You will still get your dose of THC. It will just be a slower, milder and more enjoyable experience.
Don’t Hold The Smoke
I see this a lot. Some smokers feel that holding the smoke in your lungs for long periods of time will get you more high. Wrong. All you are doing is damaging your lungs. The tars present in the combusted plant matter absorb at a slower rate than cannabinoids, so all you are doing is allowing the tar to irritate your lungs.
If smoking is too harsh on your lungs, give vaporization a try. Vaporizers do not combust the plant material, instead gently warming it to temperature that creates water vapor. It’s a lot easier on your lungs. There are some people who also suffer from bouts of coughing using vaporizers. Once again, try smaller tokes.