Smoking in the professional voice user

Smoking in the professional voice user

“One day I promised to God that if he would give me my voice back I would never smoke again. I got three octaves back after quitting” Mariah Carey
I don’t want to sound preachy….but I see too many clients who smoke, particularly professional voice users. It is highly complex why we do all sorts of things that may not be ok for our body. Most of us have our vices. Recent studies claim that smoking is harder to give up than heroin. It is truly an addiction for some, and only a distraction for others. However if one was an athlete who wanted to participate in the Olympics, one would work really hard to curb a food addiction, minimise alcohol intake, increase physical activity and remove anything that would impede performance.

Strategies such as these don’t always seem to equate with the song world. Do they need to? If it aint broke….Someone like Tom Waits might not have had his trademark voice without a certain amount of cigarettes and whisky. A husky, smoky voice can be perceived as a positive, but at what cost to the performer’s long term vocal health?

I see many singers, actors and performers who smoke (and not only the cigarette variety). The smoke  is harmful to the vocal cords drying them out and causing inflammation and redness. Marijuana is said to be seven times hotter than cigarette smoke and can burn the vocal cords. Some performers like the raspy sound it gives them. They don’t want to lose their edge and what made them popular in the first place. I see it as discomfort and more likely a long term problem.

How is it that one could be smoking and saying that they are looking after their voice? They are more likely to be prone to developing soreness and possible voice injuries especially if they have intensive performances and gigs. Some say “I get so many bouts of laryngitis every year”. Is it really that? Or a combination of a few big nights out and the drying effects of the smoking? All too often we are blind to our own vices and the damaging effects it may have upon our bodies. I know of Speech Pathologists who refuse to work with those that do smoke.

Sometimes in life we are required to answer the question (that many perceive as dull) of which we want more: smoking or singing….A healthy life and professional performance career? I read yesterday that giving up smoking before 40 years old has dramatic benfits. So it is never too late to start.

Or in the words of Julia Cameron “How old will you be when you have finished it?
As old as you would have been if you had never started it”.