What Are the Symptoms of Smoker's Cough?


Smoker's cough can be a bothersome ailment that many smokers often face. It occurs when a persistent, often early-morning, cough is present in those who have been smoking regularly and heavily for a long period of time. There are clear symptoms--and potential dangers--of smoker's cough, along with ways to treat this annoying problem.

How It Occurs

Smoker's cough occurs due to the damage of the cilia, small fibers inside the trachea and bronchial tubes, which are responsible for aiding in the excretion of phlegm that occurs in the respiratory system. As the cilia are damaged, and more toxins are introduced to the system through cigarettes, phlegm begins to build up. While some cilia can repair themselves at night, in the morning a smoker must cough excessively to excrete that built-up phlegm, since cilia is damaged. Eventually, over time, cilia can be destroyed by cigarette smoke, which can lead to greater lung and respiratory problems in the smoker.

AM Coughs

The most tell-tale sign of smoker’s cough is a morning coughing fit. This is due to the surplus of mucus and toxins built up in the system overnight, and the cilia's inability to properly remove them as it is normally supposed to do. Thus, a chronic smoker will usually wake up having to hack and cough up these excess irritants.

Cough Producing Phlegm

Along with the morning cough, another sign of severe smoker’s cough is a productive cough that results in excretion of mucus and phlegm. While this is present in the morning cough in some cases, with very heavy smokers, this productive cough can occur throughout the day. Often times the mucus will appear dark in color due to the toxins found in cigarette smoke.

Rattle and Rasp

Another possible sign that a person may have smoker's cough is a rattling in their throat when he speaks or laughs. This is due to the excess phlegm present in the throat, which can affect his vocal chords and the sound of his voice, giving it a rattle or even a raspy sound.


The main danger of smoker’s cough is that it could lead to other serious health issues. The first issue is a possible respiratory infection, which you may just write off as smoker’s cough. As a result, prolonged smoker’s cough can lead to or be a sign of either a bad infection, or worse, lung cancer. If you have what you suspect to be a smoker's cough, and continue to smoke, see your doctor who can let you know the severity of your cough and if it’s treatable.


The best treatment for a smoker’s cough is to quit smoking, and while this can be hard, it is the only truly effective treatment to rid you of that persistent early-morning wake-up call. In a lot of cases, people complain of coughing more after they quit smoking; this is just their respiratory system adjusting to the new environment, and usually passes.

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