Smokers have a constant cough called a smoker’s cough, because the toxins in cigarettes impair the cilia, which are hair-like cells found in the airways responsible for trapping and expelling toxins toward the mouth, explains Lynne Eldridge for About.com. The toxins inflame the lungs and thus cause coughing.
Coughing is the body’s way of eliminating foreign substances in the lungs, says Eldridge. Damaged cilia typically recover at night when the toxins in cigarettes are gone, but the body requires them to remove the build-up of toxins in the lungs. This leads to persistent coughing, especially in the morning.
A smoker’s cough usually occurs in people who have been smoking for long periods already, states Eldridge. Smokers experience constant coughing for more than two weeks. Short-term smokers may notice a dry cough at first, but they eventually develop a cough with phlegm.
It is crucial for people with a persistent cough to seek medical help if they experience pain while coughing or notice a worsening cough, as it could indicate a lung cancer or other severe lung condition, notes Eldridge. Some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for include hoarseness, blood while coughing, wheezing and breathing difficulty. Unexpected loss of weight and pain in the lungs, shoulders or back are also possible symptoms of a serious condition.