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I've recently been to a funk jam with a nice horn section.

I've later met them at the break, they were smoking cigarettes one after other, but still, they seemed to have incredible breathe.

I know for a fact that smoking lowers lungs capacity (among other things), but is there some method I'm not aware of, that allows long time playing with short breathe?

Note : I'm smoking and beginning trumpet…

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Stan Getz smoked his whole life. He died relatively young, of lung disease. Don't be short-sighted: quit as soon as you can. Plus smokers smell like old ashtrays. Not a good way to attract a mate. – Carl Witthoft Jan 8 '14 at 12:59
up vote 14 down vote accepted

Yes. They might be brash and full of bravado, but they will see the long term effects when they age. They will not be able to play for as long during their lifetime as they would if they were healthy.

Quite simply: Wind instruments need wind. Smoking inhibits your ability to create wind. Therefore, reduced wind production reduces tone production, stamina, and longevity.

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As the horn section you met has demonstrated - smoking and brass playing are not completely incompatible. People can play brass, and play well, despite smoking, at least for a period.

Smoking definitely damages your ability to breathe; it reduces lung capacity; it stiffens lung tissue; it narrows breathing passages; it causes excess mucus; it reduces blood supply to the muscles; it reduces the effectiveness of the immune system, allowing other things to attack the pulmonary system.

But playing a wind instrument, by exercising the lungs and the corresponding muscles, temporarily counteracts some of those effects. A young smoker who plays brass regularly may well have stronger lungs than a non-smoker who does no exercise.

However, smoking will catch up with you eventually. As a smoker gets older, the damage to the lungs increases. It's entirely realistic that a smoking brass player would reach a point perhaps in their late 60s where they hadn't the puff to play any more -- which is a pretty miserable fate for someone who loves to play music.

That's assuming that you don't die of a different smoking-related illness before your lungs go -- throat cancer, stroke, heart disease. But those are not topics for a music Q&A site.

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It's not just the smokers themselves that smell of cigarettes. I lent my soprano cornet to a dep player who was a smoker and the instrument was in a revolting state when I got it back. It stank, and I had to wash it inside and out several times and polish it hard to get it back to its original state. It was horrible.

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