Is “Smoker’s Voice” Real?
Get the facts about what smoking tobacco and marijuana does to your voice, why and if it’s reversible.
You notice your voice has gotten raspier — maybe even a touch deeper. Is “smoker’s voice” really a thing?
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Smoke from tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars, has hundreds of chemicals in it. Dr. Hrelec says those chemicals can irritate your vocal cords. “Every time you inhale smoke, the smoke is going right past the vocal cords to get to your lungs. The vocal cords are the gateway to the lungs,” she says. “Any chemical that you inhale can lead to irritation, sore throat and increased mucus and cough.”
Smoking tobacco products can also affect your singing voice for the same reasons. “People often notice changes to their singing voice first,” says Dr. Hrelec. “This is because we stretch our vocal cords when we are singing in high pitches. This allows the swelling along the vocal cords to be more noticeable.”
Dr. Hrelec says smoking can also cause:
Dr. Hrelec adds that if you smoke and notice voice changes that last for more than three weeks, seek care from a laryngologist (voice box specialist) or ENT. “They can look at the vocal cords with a scope in the office to ensure that no cancers are forming.”
When it comes to smoking marijuana, Dr. Hrelec says the jury’s still out on voice changes. “I haven’t seen as many cases of polypoid corditis in those who smoke only marijuana. There isn’t enough research looking at these voice changes. People who smoke marijuana may also smoke cigarettes. So which one is causing the vocal cord effects? Or maybe both are? It’s hard to say without more evidence and research.”
Dr. Hrelec says we’re still learning about vaping’s effects on the vocal cords as well. “Vaping is not well regulated. We don’t know a lot of the chemicals that are in these products and how they affect vocal cords.”
Sounding like yourself again goes hand in hand with quitting smoking. “We usually see dramatic changes in just a few weeks,” notes Dr. Hrelec. “But it may take months for vocal cord and larynx (voice box) irritation to get better.”
You can take steps to speed up the healing process:
To become part of the smoke-free crowd, Dr. Hrelec has a few tips to make quitting easier: