How Vaping and Smoking Affect Vocal Cords

By now, we are all aware of the negative effects smoking has on our bodies. Organs that are affected the most by nicotine are the respiratory organs, especially the lungs and throat. However, we should not overlook the effect nicotine has on the heart, nerves, and stomach.

Vocal cords are also severely affected by tobacco and even vaping. In this case, we have to talk about how vocal cord nodules look, vocal cords irritation, and improper vocal cord vibration. All of them are from the harmful actions of the fumes. Moreover, all of these issues can have serious negative effects on one’s ability to use their voice properly.

So, let’s find out how smoking affects vocal cords.


Smoking and Vocal Cord Nodules

Vocal cord nodules are one of the most common negative consequences of smoking. They are caused by vocal abuse (singing), along with irritation such as cigarette smoke. Needless to say, these nodules can severely affect one’s vocal abilities. The good news is that the nodules are benign in nature. But, they can still cause serious problems to one’s voice.

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How do Vocal Cord Nodules Appear?

First, vocal abuse and cigarette smoke can cause vocal cords to swell. If one continues to use their voice improperly and keeps smoking, the swellings turn into a blister. Finally, without proper treatment, blisters harden and become nodules.

Some of the most common symptoms caused by nodules are:

  • Scratchy voice
  • Rough voice
  • Breathiness
  • Pain from ear to ear
  • Neck pain
  • Lump in the throat
  • Decreased singing range
  • Throat pain
  • Vocal fatigue

If a person refuses to quit smoking and continues to abuse their voice, nodules can last a lifetime. No doubt, the best therapy is vocal training and abstinence from cigarettes.

Some of the most common complications of untreated vocal cords nodules are:

  • Permanent hoarseness
  • Scars
  • Pain
  • Vocal range decrease

If treated in time, nodules do not mean the end of a career for a vocal artist. Additionally, they don’t mean permanent damage for the rest of us. Furthermore, in most cases, nodules do not require surgical intervention.

Vocal Cord Irritation

Cigarette smoke and e-cig vapor can cause severe vocal cord irritation by drying out the mucous. As a result, this causes swelling of the vocal cords which prevents them from working properly. This makes one’s voice sounds raspy. Irritation of the vocal cords can cause improper vibrations. Consequently, it has a negative impact on one’s ability to speak or sing. In addition, smoking can also cause acid reflux that may affect the vocal cords and trigger irritation.

Mucus Production

Due to vocal cord irritation, the body tries to compensate by producing more mucus. Therefore, this can be very uncomfortable for individuals who rely on their voice for work. It can include anchors, public speakers, professors, and singers. Excessive mucus production can have a negative impact on the quality of one’s voice. In fact, it can even impair mucus production in second-hand smokers. Moreover, overproduction of mucus can lead to chronic bronchitis.

Throat Cancer

One of the most severe consequences of smoking is throat cancer. In most cases, the removal of vocal cords is necessary, which leads to complete loss of voice function. Incidentally, people who do not smoke, but spend time with smokers can also get throat cancer. Individuals who combine cigarettes and alcohol are even at a greater risk of throat cancer.

Throat cancer symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • A cough up blood
  • Unusual breathing sound
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Hoarseness that does not go away
  • Weight loss
  • Neck pain
  • Lumps in the throat

Still, if treated in time, throat cancer can be cured.


Laryngitis refers to the inflammation of the vocal cords that can even cause loss of ability to speak. When one is suffering from laryngitis, their vocal cords are swollen. As a result, it means that smoking can cause even greater damage. Smoking can also trigger chronic laryngitis.

Some of the most common laryngitis symptoms are:

  • Raspy voice
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Pain
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal voice
  • Runny nose
  • Swallowing problems

Effects of Vaping on Vocal Cords

The main question is: Is vaping less harmful for your vocal cords than smoking?

Even though the initial response to this question is Yes, the overall answer is not that simple. E-cigarettes contain less harmful ingredients than regular cigarettes. However, that does not mean they are 100% safe and without any side effects (learn more about the dangers of e-cigs). Depending on the quality and contents of different “vape juices”, even e-cigarettes can cause considerable damage to one’s vocal cords. In addition, it can impede an individual’s ability to use their voice properly.

How to Avoid Vocal Cord Damage?

The answer to this question is quite simple—stop smoking. However, bear in mind that after years of smoking, it’s unlikely that your vocal cords will completely repair themselves. Actually, what you can do is practice vocal rest occasionally.

The healing of the vocal cords requires a complete lifestyle change. Even so, quitting is not enough. First, you will have to eat healthy foods, sleep well, and visit a voice therapist. Then, to reduce inflammation, they recommend taking supplements like magnesium. In addition, one should gargle your throat with honey and cayenne pepper.

Other tips and tricks on how to recover your vocal cords after years of smoking:

  • Do not drink cold drinks
  • Drink ginger tea
  • Be careful with your voice. If you feel you are fully recovered, do not overuse it.
  • Rest your vocal cords
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Avoid gluten
Published: October 12, 2017 Updated: March 18, 2020

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Leave a comment

14 comments on “How Vaping and Smoking Affect Vocal Cords

  • Jane doe

    November 29, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    I am an alto. I don’t smoke cigarettes or do joints. But I have vaped a total of 6 or 7 times. My vocal range and voice general and rapidly decreased, I’m extremely bummed.

  • Valerie

    November 26, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    I have had approximately 11 laryngoscopies, stripping of the vocal cords, the most recent being 2 months ago and I still do not have my voice back; after previous surgeries, it takes 10 days to fully recover vocal use. 4 years ago, I quit smoking and began vaping, my ENT presented to me, today, that it may be the vaping which is causing the inability for my voice to return properly. I always smoked after my other surgeries, but this time only vaping. Does anyone have any experience with this or any advise, PLEASE?! I don’t want to go back to smoking after 4 years…. I provide speech therapy, as a Speech Therapist Asst. and this non-recovery is NOT good…. ANY help or advise, ANYONE could share would be GREATLY appreciated!!

  • Alice

    November 7, 2018 at 6:06 am

    Ive been vaping for 3 years. I noticed a change in my voice after i started sub ohming at higher watts. I stopped vaping while i was pregnant, and although my voice did improve a bit, it didnt fully recover. After i gave birth i craved smokes so took up vaping again, now my voice has worsened. I can scream, or yell loudly at all.
    Im on a waiting list to see an ears, nose and throat specialist,and in the mean time it’s been very frustrating. I wonder why this only seems to affect some vapers, while with others it can improve their vocals?

  • Tara

    November 1, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    I have been vaping for 5 years and never had a single problem. Quit smoking by starting vaping. All depends on juice quality I suppose and what kind of MOD you use.

  • Cathy Baber

    September 7, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    This is all a lot of info to process. I smoked cigarettes for many years and quit about three years ago and have been vaping. I used to have a performance quality voice but not anymore. I hear different people sing and I am better than many. I resent this and it’s my fault. I am not a narcisstic person. I just speak the truth. I didn’t get the support I needed.

    • Joy

      September 11, 2018 at 8:03 pm

      Hi Cathy, exactly the same thing happened to me after about 3 years vaping. Smoking previously wasn’t so dramatic! I continued vaping for months after I’d completely lost the ability to sing decently. I lost a lot of range, I felt like half my voice was missing and I had poor pitch control. Pretty awful sound. In the end, I couldn’t even vaguely follow a tune by myself just for fun, which was really sad for me 🙁

      I quit vaping 100% (& still no smoking) 6 months ago, and I have had a very gradual but full recovery. I noticed a little improvement around 3 months and I’m now, amazingly, almost completely cured. I’ve gained a lot of weight lol but I can address that later, I’m just so relieved to not have done permanent damage when my voice was so bad for so long!

      • Kissy

        December 8, 2018 at 8:49 pm

        Thank you for this post? you helped me out ALOT

  • Michelle mc donald

    August 21, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    Smokeing a joint never affected my voice but since lve had to vape my voice has gone all squeaky wish it would go away

    • Donna

      October 3, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      I smoked joints for years with no problem as a soprano, I vaped for 8 days and now I have trouble reaching a decent female tenor. It’s taken nearly 5 years to get a proper investigation because ‘vaping is better than smoking’.

  • Tina Harvey

    May 1, 2018 at 11:30 am

    I started vaping about two months ago . no nicotine . only hemp for pain and juice. I cant hardly talk any more . my throat hurts so bad . but it is always a little better in the morning .when i have not vaped over night. The pain goes from my throat . all the way down to my . lungs . …. I thing i need to find a better way .

    • Ryguy

      October 12, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      Hey bud that sounds a lot more serious than just vocal health in terms of singing. I would say, def, go see a doctor for this is an uncommon finding for this subject. Sounds more like a medical condition than vocal damage. Just want what’s best for you.

  • reeves

    December 4, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    i am doing a report on how vaping can affect your vocal cord and this website helped

    • Tom

      August 13, 2018 at 1:25 am

      Hey did you ever finish the report? Noticed a change in my vocal range since vaping 2 years ago.

  • Laura

    October 28, 2017 at 4:47 am

    I smoked a vape for five years. I now suffer from damage to vocal chords and have lumps in my throat…visible at bottom of neck.