Understanding the Risks of Vaping for Vocalists

Understanding the Risks of Vaping for Vocalists

Is it better than smoking? | How can it impact the voice? | What are my options?

As singers, maintaining optimal vocal health is crucial. At first glance, vaping might seem like a less harmful alternative to smoking. However, this isn’t the case. Let’s explore some facts on how vaping impacts the voice focusing on its impact on singers, specifically.

Quicker Damage than Smoking

Vaping has been shown to cause more harm than smoking. In as little as 6 months from the onset of vaping, the following effects have been reported:

  • Oral Health Deterioration: Changes in the composition of cells within the mouth, leading to gum disease and tooth decay
  • Inflammation & irritation of mouth & throat tissues
  • Dry Mouth, Throat and vocal folds from propylene glycol used in ‘E-juice’.
  • Respiratory Symptoms: coughing, throat irritation, and shortness of breath
  • Vocal Fatigue and changes in voice quality: from the above symptoms

What’s in Your Vape?

E-juice, used in vaping devices contains chemicals that may affect a singer’s voice. When the following substances are vaporised, they can have different effects compared to their liquid state:

  • Nicotine: Often higher in e-juice than cigarettes, dries and irritates vocal folds and vocal tract
  • Vegetable Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Aldehydes (Formaldehyde, Acetaldehyde) and Pyrazine Additives: are known to cause throat dryness and irritate tissues in the throat
  • Trace Metals (Nickel, Chromium, Cadmium, Tin): May impact lung function, crucial for vocal strength and breath control in singing.

Vaping’s Impact on the Larynx and Vocal Folds

The inhaled vapour from vaping passes through the larynx, causing changes that can impair a singer’s vocal fold function, such as:

  • Vocal fold swelling: reducing your range
  • Vocal fold dryness: reducing vocal fold flexibility and increasing the likelihood of straining
  • Irritated and inflamed vocal folds: causing a rough and/or hoarse vocal quality
  • Breathing difficulties: leading to a weaker voice and less dynamic singing
  • Altered resonance: due to swelling across the entire vocal tract

Long-term Effects on Voice and Singing

Prolonged exposure to vaping can lead to significant long-term conditions affecting a singer’s voice such as:

  • Risk of Vocal Cord Nodules, Polyps, and Cysts
  • Development of Reinke’s Edema: This condition, is characterised by chronic swelling of the vocal folds
  • Reduced Range and Voice Strain: Vaping over time may result in a narrower vocal range and increased strain on the voice, making it harder to reach high or low notes and maintain vocal quality.

Understanding these potential risks is essential for vocalists to make informed decisions about their health and careers.

But, I Really Like Vaping… Is There Anything I Can Do Instead?

Yes! Nebulising!

Nebulising 0.9% sterile saline is not only a great substitute for smoking/vaping but it is also beneficial for your voice by hydrating the vocal folds and making it easier for your vocal folds to vibrate.

However, some singers who have made the switch from vaping/smoking to nebulising report that it doesn’t quite match the same satisfaction level, due to the absence of a deep ‘suck-in’ motion. This said, you can still inhale the nebulised particles and exhale, creating a plume of the nebulised solution, offering a similar visual experience to smoking/vaping with added vocal health benefits.

A Reminder

No one is ‘bad’ for vaping or smoking

Smoking and vaping are behaviours often influenced by a range of complex factors, including social, psychological, and physical aspects.

Because of this, it is crucial, especially for singing teachers, to approach this topic with empathy and understanding rather than judgment.

Everyone’s journey with smoking or vaping is unique, and while it’s important to educate students on the potential impact on their vocal health, it’s also essential to respect their autonomy and choices.

Summary

Prolonged exposure to vaping can have significant long-term effects on a singer’s voice and overall vocal health. Chronic vaping is linked to the risk of developing vocal fold nodules, polyps, cysts and Reinke’s oedema which can lead to hoarseness, loss of vocal control and vocal fatigue.

Additionally, continuous vaping can lead to a reduced vocal range and increased voice strain, making it challenging to reach various pitches and maintain consistent vocal quality. These long-term impacts highlight the importance for singers to be aware of the potential risks associated with vaping, as it can significantly affect their vocal capabilities and endurance.

References

Christiani, D.C., et al. (2019). “Imaging of Lung Disease Associated with Vaping.”
Gonzalez, Julio (2004). “The Early Effects of Smoking on the Voice: A Comprehensive Study.”
Muscat, Joshua E., Liu, Hsiao-Pin, et al. (2012). “Nicotine Dependence, Timing of First Cigarette, and Risk of Larynx Cancer.”
Renne, R A (2008). “Inhalation Studies of Aerosolized Glycerol in Rats.”
Renne, Roger A., Gideon, Katherine M. (2006). “Larynx Response Patterns Post-Inhalation.”
Salturk, Ziya (2015). “Study on the Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems on the Larynx.”

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