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Will Smoking Trigger a Headache?


Updated June 10, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Will Smoking Trigger a Headache?

Smoking can cause a wide variety of health issues, and headaches seem to be one of them. Studies suggest that smokers may be twice as likely to develop headaches as non-smokers, especially in adolescence. Migraines and cluster headaches especially seem to be more frequent in smokers. In addition, smoking a higher number of cigarettes seems to cause migraines more frequently.

The likely reasons? Nicotine in tobacco products causes blood vessels to constrict, possibly leading to migraines. Smoking may also directly stimulate nerves in the back of the throat, leading to head pain.

Finding ways to quit smoking can be an effective strategy for preventing headaches, as well as improving your overall health.

If you've been thinking about quitting, visit the Quit Smoking site on About.com for strategies and help.


Hannerz J. “Symptoms and diseases and smoking habits in female episodic cluster headache and migraine patients.” Cephalalgia. 1997 Jun;17(4):499-500.

Lopez-Mesonoro L, et al. “Smoking as a precipitating factor for migraine: a survey in medical students.” The Journal of Headache and Pain, Volume 10, Number 2 / April, 2009, pp. 101-103.

Waldie K, et al. “Associations Between Frequent Headaches, Persistent Smoking, and Attempts to Quit.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. Volume 48 Issue 4, pp. 545-552.

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