What’s with that tickly cough?

Some people feel the only way to ease that cough is to have a cigarette. Wrong!

So what causes the tickle, the cough, the hacking, or wheezing?

When a smoker quits, all the gunk, tar, and toxins that accumulate in their lungs begins to be discharged from the body. The human body is a quite extraordinary machine and never stops trying to help us survive.

What sort of debris?

Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, including at least 70 that are known to cause cancer. chemicals are referred to as carcinogens. Some of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke include:

  • Nicotine
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Ammonia
  • Radioactive elements, such as polonium-210
  • Benzene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)


In short, ‘Motile’ (or moving) cilia are found in the lungs, respiratory tract. These cilia have a rhythmic waving or beating motion. They work, for instance, to keep the airways clear of mucus and dirt, allowing us to breathe easily and without irritation. Very soon after quitting smoking the cilia free themselves from the gloop (the human body is an amazing thing), resume that beating/wave motion, start to do their job again…cleaning out the gunk from the lungs and respiratory tract. The process can last a few days or even weeks — but it’s a brilliant thing. It really is.

  • you’ve had a cough for more than 3 weeks (persistent cough)
  • your cough is very bad or quickly gets worse — for example, you have a hacking cough or cannot stop coughing
  • you feel very unwell
  • you have chest pain
  • you’re losing weight for no reason
  • the side of your neck feels swollen and painful (swollen glands)
  • you find it hard to breathe
  • you have a weakened immune system — for example, because of chemotherapy or diabetes



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John C. Dicey

John C. Dicey

Former 80-a-day smoker who was freed by Allen Carr. Now Global CEO & Senior Therapist at Allen Carr’s Easyway (since 1998) & co-author of Allen Carr books.