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I was reading this text about "How Is Smoking Bad For Singers" and it says:

While you may feel that smoking helps with performance anxiety, it may damage your vocal cords irrevocably.

And then it does not explain how exactly it damages the vocal cords irrevocably?

It explains about the bad effect on lungs and why the body produces mucus. But nothing about the irrevocable damage.

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Generally things that can give you throat cancer is usually ill advised for singers. –  Neil Meyer Nov 2 '13 at 18:02
Death is certainly detrimental to the vocal cords. Nat King Cole was only 45 when he died of lung cancer. –  Fred Larson May 6 '14 at 16:48

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Smoking greatly increases the chance that you will develop vocal nodes, and that the quality of your voice will be permanently changed.

After years of singing, many singers, even those who do not smoke, suffer from permanent, tiny lesions or scar tissue that grow on the vocal cords. These are called vocal nodes, and they make the voice sound rough and weak. They also make singing or speaking painful, and at their worst, they may cause one to lose one's ability to speak or sing altogether for a time. Vocal nodes are the result of wearing out the vocal cords through prolonged straining of the voice by shouting or singing with poor technique. Large vocal nodes require surgery to remove, and vocal rehabilitative therapy for the person to learn to speak and sing properly again after having surgery.

In summary, if you do not smoke, you may develop vocal nodes anyway. But if you smoke, you are much more likely to encounter this serious problem.

Some people can smoke without visibly damaging or changing their voice. On the other hand, there are professional singers who intentionally cultivated the husky, raspy sound that is the result of smoking for years.

Tobacco is highly addictive and its effects on the sound of the voice will be unpredictable for someone starting to smoke. If you discover that smoking is changing the sound of your singing voice, and you do not like how the sound of your voice is changing, it may be difficult to overcome the addiction and stop smoking.

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  1. According to a post at the New York University Medical School answer center, smoking and exposure to smoke irritate and dry the tissues of the throat, particularly the vocal cords. This leads to improper vocal cord vibration and function. Smoking also may promote acid reflux, which can affect the vocal cords. Finally, smoking degrades lung function, which affects the voice by decreasing airflow through the vocal cords.

  2. Smokers are at risk of developing swelling of the area near the vocal cords which control your voice [..]

Via sharecare

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Well, Enrico Caruso, a really famous tenor, was a heavy smoker. He repeatedly suffered from vocal cord nodules, showed irregular breathing patterns when his lung activities were recorded and died from peritonitis at age 48.

It's hard to say what net effect the smoking (which was also part of his warmup ritual) might have had on his voice, but it was not likely contributing to his vocal and general health.

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