Singers and E-cigarettes


A question comes up frequently from some of my students and fellow singers about e-cigarettes or "vaping". The question is this: "Do you think smoking with an e-cigarette or vaping will harm my voice?" 
Since I'm not an ENT I decided to do a little research, and low and behold an article about this very subject came up in Voice Council Magazine just this week. Funny how that works!!

Before you read the article, I will tell you that in my personal experience, smoking anything will alter the physiology of the vocal folds. But don't take my word for it. Read this very interesting article by Kristie Knickerbocker, a speech-language pathologist from Fort Worth, TX.

Here is the article:

Marijuana, E-Cigarettes and Vocal Health

Marijuana, E-Cigarettes and Vocal HealthCould it be true that smoking marijuana and vapor cigarettes will not damage the vocal folds? Speech Language Pathologist Kristie Reece Knickerbocker investigates…

I like science. I find a certain solace in knowing that a randomized control trial was completed in order to prove that I’m not just making you hum through a straw for fun.

On the other hand, not everything can be explained or rationalized. Some very important moments in my life, especially in my speech-language pathology career, cannot be measured and explained scientifically.

So, over the next few weeks I am going to look at some common beliefs about the voice, search for scientific answers and be open to the unknown – you might be surprised by some of the things that are unearthed…

Myth: Smoking marijuana and vaping is not damaging to the vocal folds like cigarettes are.

Reinke’s Edema, tissue damage in the form of gelatinous goo just below the top layer of the vocal folds, commonly occurs from smoking. A study discusses the effects of cigarette smoke on the delicate tissues of the vocal folds.

Even the vocal folds of rats changed after passive inhalation of smoke. So that sets you straight… right?

Not quite. A student told me that an alarmingly high number of voice performance students at her school claimed smoking marijuana and vapor cigarettes will not damage the vocal folds.

Although there are not yet any published studies specifically about the effects of vaping on the vocal cords, a study found that electronic cigarettes contain less carcinogenic ingredients than their tobacco counterparts, however less does not mean none.

E-cigarettes contain less carcinogenic ingredients than their tobacco counterparts, however less does not mean none

There is also concern that propylene glycol, an ingredient in some vapors, irritates the respiratory tract. (PG is just a fancy word for stage smoke.)

Despite more than 1,000 studies on electronic cigarettes, conclusions cannot be made on their safety or danger because of contradictions and inconsistencies in methodology. Get it together people…

I think people are learning this and deciding ECs are safe to smoke because of the lack of evidence.

Perhaps they are fishing for an excuse. Perhaps they are avid consumers of research.

In my clinical opinion, you are still inhaling something that is manufactured and exposing your most delicate tissues to foreign materials that may or may not be toxic.

An article in the Guardian states that those who smoke ECs think the water vapor is safe, they brush off the PG as an irritant, and smoke them anyway.

As for the marijuana, aside from altering perception and most likely performance, it is heated just like cigarette smoke and any smoke will irritate your tissue.

Bottom Line: Smoke can change the composition of your fragile vocal fold tissues. If you don’t inhale foreign material, your vocal folds will likely maintain their health.

Kristie Knickerbocker

Kristie Knickerbocker, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist in Fort Worth, Texas. She provides voice, swallowing and speech therapy in her own private practice, a tempo Voice Center, LLC. She also lectures on the singing voice to area choirs and students. She belongs to ASHA’s Special Interest Group 3-Voice and Voice Disorders. She keeps a blog on her website

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This article is adapted from Kristie’s blog which first appeared on The American Speech Language Hearing Association site



Fort Worth, Dallas & Surrounding Areas: Voice Care. Voice Therapy, Speech Therapy and Swallowing Therapy (Dysphagia Therapy) a tempo Voice Center provides speech and voice therapy needs to any client. Services include...



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