Adele on giving up cigarettes: ‘I’m convinced that’s made my voice weaker’


Adele used to be a smoker. She recorded both 19 and 21 while she was a smoker. She spoke often about how much she loved to smoke, and even know that she’s a non-smoker, she’s said she still misses it. I always thought that her smoking habit was one of the big reasons why she needed such aggressive vocal cord treatment years ago. She apparently kicked the ciggies around the same time, especially during her pregnancy and after she gave birth. It’s pretty classic for ex-smokers: they know they quit smoking for all the right reasons, but they still miss it and think about it every day. But here’s something I’ve never heard: smoking makes someone a better singer? Er…what? That’s what Adele said in a new interview:

Despite releasing some of the most powerful ballads of recent times, Adele believes that giving up smoking has left her with a ‘weaker’ singing voice. The 28-year-old chart-topping singer quit her habit five years ago in a bid to improve her health – but she fears she has damaged her voice in the process.

‘The people with the best voices, they always smoke. I’ve given up smoking and I’m convinced that’s made my voice weaker,’ the Hello hitmaker told Canada’s etalk. And while her commanding vocals have been praised around the world, the 10-time Grammy winner has confessed to not being able to hit all the high notes that she once could. And working with chain-smoker Bruno Mars on her hit track All I Ask last year made her realise how much she missed smoking.

‘Bruno smokes like an old woman,’ she said. ‘My make-up artist will stink after having a fag. I had never noticed it before. But my fingers ain’t orange any more,’ the Tottenham-born star revealed as the one positive aspects of her decision to quit smoking.

As a move to protect her voice, Adele – mother of three-year-old son Angelo – has also given up her favourite food: pizza.

She told her fans at a recent show: ‘I can’t eat pizza anymore! How bad is that? Because it’s got cooked tomatoes on it which are bad for your throat and give you acid reflux. How bad is that, I can’t eat pizza.’

[From The Daily Mail]

Smoking will give you a deeper voice, and presumably a deeper/thicker-sounding singing voice, but will it make you a better or stronger singer? I doubt it. Besides, even if smoking gives you a better voice temporarily – like, in your 20s – you’ll pay for it later. All of the singers who still smoked into their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond have the worst voices. Also, I did not know that Bruno Mars is a chain-smoker.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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59 Responses to “Adele on giving up cigarettes: ‘I’m convinced that’s made my voice weaker’”

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  1. QueenB says:

    are the “best” singers really all smokers or was it just way more common not long ago?

    • Coconut scissors says:

      everybody smoked in the past

    • raincoaster says:

      Joni Mitchell always hated her soprano and she’s chainsmoked herself into an alto, but her voice was more beautiful before. Also, Adele is forgetting how many of those smokers from the old days died of it, either from lung/throat/tongue cancer or from heart disease.

  2. lilacflowers says:

    Not sure her doctors at Mass Eye & Ear would concur.

  3. Becky says:

    Well yes I would’ve thought so; a smokers lungs are less effective, and that has a lot to do with the power of the voice.

    Whitney Houston’s lungs were shot to bits at the end of her life, and it affected her singing voice.

    • k says:

      Same for Frank SInatra. his voice was very weak in his later years. Smoking and boozing.

      • Mmac51 says:

        Ooooh another one from that era, Polly Bergen cut her singing career way short by smoking. If you guys don’t recognize the name, she played Tony Soprano’s father’s mistress and she was GREAT! As an ex-smoker myself, I feel Adele, I really, really do.

  4. Kate says:

    She got some proper training after she needed vocal chord treatment years ago. Before that she was forcing herself to hit notes that aren’t in her wheelhouse because she didn’t know any better. She can’t hit the high notes anymore because she never really could, not without severely damaging her voice.

    Blaming quitting smoking is just a distraction from the fact she’s a more limited singer than her first two albums lead people to believe.

    • Neelyo says:

      Yeah I have a friend who’s a speech pathologist and she’s always going off on Adele and her poor vocal technique. She basically said the same thing.

    • G says:

      Yeah, her vocal technique probably damaged her voice more than the cigs. But she’s never going to come out and say “hey, techincally I am NOT the best singer.”
      She needs someone to tell her to stop screaming her notes. And we need to stop seeing these high, money-shot notes as indicative of someone’s talent. It isn’t necessarily if you can’t hit them without damage.

    • Jules says:

      Exactly. No serious singer smokes. I had an opera singer friend who would not speak if her throat was sore.

      • Ann says:

        Haha! Maria Callas was a smoker!

      • Jules says:

        Worked out well for her didn’t it?

      • Kubz says:

        Er, I beg to disagree… EVERY singer I knew at (a very fancy, top-tier) music school (think the equivalent of Juilliard) was a smoker. Which always confused me, but… they all smoked. And at the same time, they all wore scarves constantly, even on 90 degree days, to protect their throats!

  5. Margo S. says:

    I had no clue either about Bruno. I think if she notices a difference then there has to be some truth to it. She’d know. And it is true, so many incredible singers of the past were chainsmokers and hit these insane notes. Maybe has something to do with the smoke doing some straining to the vocal cords on top of you also practising. Thus allowing the singer to hit those higher notes more easily…?

  6. Onerous says:

    I quit smoking 15 years ago and I miss it every day. I’ve since acquired an autoimmune disease (yay) and, interestingly, smoking actually (scientifically) relieves symptoms and lessens the severity of the disease. Obviously not enough that it outweighs the risk, of course, but sometimes when I’m feeling very bad, I almost want to try it, because I’m so desperate to feel better. Why hasn’t anyone invented non cancer causing ciggies!?

    • k says:

      I had a friend who had a similar experience. I believe it’s the nicotine and not smoking per say that relieves the symptoms. So you don’t need to smoke, you may just need nicotine.

      • Onerous says:

        You’re right and I. Think there is a supplement that works, but it’s hard to get – Anatabine? I only think about actually smoking because I really miss it, lol!

    • Alexis says:

      Just curious…what autoimmune disease- POTS per chance? Agree, I want a non cancerous ciggie to make my health bs tolerable! Thx:))

  7. Casi says:

    Patty and Selma say, “Smoking doesn’t change your voice a bit!”

    In other news, water is wet. But I do think it’s good that she acknowledges that she quit and that it is a struggle.

  8. als says:

    Adele did not become famous for being Celine Dion and for excellent singing technique (although maybe she did have great technique, I am not an expert), she is known for her beautiful deep voice and her songs wouldn’t be the same without it. Who cares if she is a strong singer, whatever that means?
    What she says is right, smokers have great voices, a singer in my country has made it clear she does not want to quit cigarettes because they make her voice better. And it does sound great.

    However, I did not notice a change in Adele’s voice, at least not in her videos. Maybe live she sounds different.

    • idontknowyouyoudontknowme says:

      Its one thing that people might like the sound/allure of a raspier deeper tone, however producing sounds in a healthy way (so you can still be singing into your 70’s) is essential… I’d rather have a long career keeping the voice intact for 40+ years than “sound cool and deep” for max 7 and not be able to hit any notes anymore. Technical skills+ emotional delivery make someone a top notch singer.

      I personally do not think that smokers have great voices.. if anything their lung capacity is limited, they cannot hold notes that well, have limited ranges(so they are not as versatile).

      I love deeper voiced singers but would rather prefer to hear a healthily produced low note than a croaking one..

      • Vizia says:

        Britney also said (at some point in the past, no idea if she still smokes) that she likes the way smoking makes her sound.

    • G says:

      A lot of her fans care and cite her as a strong singer. I don’t care all that much personally, but her high notes do hurt my ears.

  9. JulieM says:

    No, smoking is not good for your voice. Among other things, it diminishes lung capacity. It also irritates the vocal chords. I really like Adele’s style but she sings with very poor technique. She weakens her voice by not resonating it properly in her head (nasal passages/soft palate). She sings in her throat; that is why she thinks her voice is weaker. And it is.

    • kai says:

      Didn’t she go to a performing arts school? I’d have thought you learn these things there.

      • lower-case deb says:

        i can’t remember where i read it now, but when her album was released she said/was written, she studied recording and music production at the school? because her initial dream was to become an A&R executive at a records company?

        and that the demo tape that her friend sent off to XL was actually one of the class assignment on how to record a song/produce a demo tape rather than a singing class?

        she cited singing as a hobby back then and the school didn’t teach her how to sing?

        is this right? i swear i heard this story somewhere.

      • Kubz says:

        Above in reply to another commenter, I noted that every singer I knew at a posh, very selective music school (university-level) smoked. So maybe that’s where Adele picked it up?

      • Lise says:

        Adele is apart of the prestigious Brit school alumni. Quite a few pop stars in the UK (and actors I think?) have gone there to sing, dance and act. However, I wouldn’t really agree that lots of talent comes from there!

  10. Jess says:

    I loved smoking, I quit years ago and still think about it daily, if I could go back in time I’d never start smoking! It’s such a hard habit to kick, but oh it’s so good too.

    I didn’t know Adele smoked before, but I don’t notice a difference in her voice!

    • Mari says:

      I can honestly say I loved smoking. It was very therapeutic and calming for me. Particularly after a bad day or an argument with the SO. I’ve since quit, but I still have dreams about smoking, and will wake up hoping I didn’t actually smoke one! I know for me all it would take is ONE, and I’d start again. I will say that my senses have improved a bit, I am back to running every day, and I smell delicious all the time! And for those who dog on smokers by calling them gross, disgusting, terrible people, would you say the same to someone who is obese? Or someone who’s an alcoholic? No, you wouldn’t. If you really feel the need to say anything, simply say, “Your life is worth more than cigs, I hope you are able to quit one day.” Unless, of course, they are the RUDE smokers who blow it all over your face or something, then you can dog ’em out 😉 Long-winded post, I know, must be my improved lung capacity. Kudos to Adele for quitting!

      • NeoCleo says:


        I totally get what you’re saying. I quit over 25 years ago but for at least the first ten years I kept getting strong but fleeting impulses to smoke, usually during stressful situations. I too had dreams about smoking as well that were so vivid. They will stop eventually.

  11. DesertReal says:

    There’s always white pizza! Don’t give up girl!

  12. TeamAwesome says:

    Smoking causes inflammation, inflammation causes vocal fold swelling, thicker folds sound deeper. If you are singing on perpetually inflamed and swollen vocal folds you end up with damage and surgery…..which she did.

    I fight the perception of vocal strength coming from your throat in my student voice lessons everyday. It is a struggle to get people to love and live in the voice they have, while working to improve it with healthy technique. They would rather use the old habits that abuse their body, but feel it gets them the sound they want.

    • HK9 says:

      You’re right. Love Adele’s voice but proper technique only helps you sing without injuring your vocal chords. As one who’s actually learned it, I don’t know why people resist it, as it only makes you a better singer.

      • ria says:

        Because some artists are lazy.

        They were maybe used to making what they want easy and having to relearn it proper and for good is a hard job and takes time and daily Training.

      • Vizia says:

        It takes a long time to retrain not only the mental aspect of old singing habits, but also strengthening your body physically (good technique has a lot to do with muscle strength and lung capacity) . I hated my voice for a year after I started working with a good vocal coach and started using proper technique. It changes, for the better, but it takes time.

    • pinetree13 says:

      Not to mention what a great thing for her young fans to here: “Hey kids, am I your favorite singer? I think smoking made my voice sound better!” yeesh.

  13. Michelina says:

    I smoked for 10 years and I’m incredibly fortunate that I don’t miss it. As a matter of fact, I’m disgusted by it. The smell gives me a headache now.

    Adele is probably right that her voice is “weaker” but probably only in the tone of it, not the actual power behind it. I’m sure she’s able to hold notes longer now that her lungs aren’t being filled with smoke every day. Singers have always used cigarettes to weather their voices and sounder smoother. For example, that gorgeous richness that people love about Nat King Cole’s voice was because he smoked like a chimney, and it also gave him lung cancer in his early 40’s. Glad to hear Adele quit.

  14. Jayna says:

    Depeche Mode’s lead singer, Dave Gahan, quit smoking after his cancer diagnosis in around 2009 while on tour. The next tour three or four years later was the best he had sounded live in a decade. I attribute that to giving up smoking. He was already fit and lean and ate healthy.

  15. Virgilia Coriolanus says:

    This is weird, because if you look in the archives, right around the time she had to stop smoking because of her vocal cord surgery, she says that her voice is better–it is clearer, etc–than it was before. And that she wasn’t going to quit smoking because life would be boring. Sounds like she wants to pick up another cigarette.

    • HeidiM says:

      Yeah sounds like addict talk to me too. And I’m an ex smoker myself. Id always find ways to justify the fall of the wagon that sounded totally plausible.

  16. Capepopsie says:

    Smoking never improves anything.

  17. kimbers says:

    We tell ourselves silly things after we quit smoking…the brain tries to justify the addiction. I loved smoking and even 4 years later miss it, but would never start again, bc cold turkey was so hardcore and finalizing.

  18. Lola Lola says:

    I just quit smoking 6 weeks ago and yes, I agree, I still miss it every day. I just remind myself how Lucille Ball sounded in the later years. That voice–yes I know, not a singer–but she sounded awful. Damn I wish the desire for a cig would go away cause I’m still white knuckling it.

  19. Emmy says:

    It does make you better. Medically, I don’t know how to explain it, but it improves your tone and everything is smoother. Just don’t smoke menthols.

  20. lucy says:

    Whiny-voiced Bruno Mars is a smoker?

  21. Robin says:

    Oh good grief. Smoking does NOT improve the voice, and cooked tomatoes do NOT damage the throat.

  22. Noor88 says:

    There is nothing worse than the stench of a smoker

  23. Vox says:

    Ha ha, when I was 16 I thought the same thing and it’s the reason I began smoking – all the singers I loved smoked and had amazing voices and so I thought smoking would add something to my voice. I think it did, and honestly my voice is a lot weaker now that I don’t smoke any more. I never thought it was weaker BECAUSE of not smoking but you never know. It does kind of make you sound huskier.

    I was never addicted to cigarettes, though, thankfully.

  24. Veronica says:

    Smoking will definitely give you that huskier undertone (the persistent irritation will thicken vocal cords and produce a lower octave sound), which is probably what she missess. She’d be paying for it later in life when some of that lung damage became permanent, though.

  25. Daisyduck says:

    I had vocal cord nodules removed (I think that’s what she had too) . Obviously your voice changes from when your vocal cords had nodes on them to them being touched and having things cut off of them! My voice changed dramatically! I used to have a deep husky voice, and now my voice is pretty normal. So maybe it’s just coincidental that she stopped smoking right after having the surgery (which you are advised to do).

  26. Jag says:

    It couldn’t possibly be the vocal cord treatment that she had or perhaps some other things in her life which are affecting her singing voice; it must be not smoking any longer. Give me a break.

    Also, I have never heard that tomatoes cause any harm to a singing voice. As for acid reflux, if that is a problem for her, then she needs to stop eating tomatoes in any form – not just pizza.

    I think she needs to see a competent medical professional because some of the things that she is saying aren’t making sense biologically.