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Handling Singers who Smoke

Greetings,
 
I'm sure others have been in this position, but here is the situation: I direct a 15-20 member non-auditioned adult choir at an ELCA church. Yesterday, one of my basses expressed a concern about being seated near 2 other basses who smoke regularly. He told me he has struggled off and on with breathing and being able to sing throughout his range, particularly the top few pitches. He said he doesn't know how else to approach the situation or what he could possibly say to these two basses. Both are good guys and have sung with us for several years.
 
He did try swapping seats with another bass, but it only improved things marginally and he felt guilty for sticking the next bass with the same problem. He is concerned that it might mean it would be better for either him or the other two to not sing with us.
 
Has anyone had these conversations with a choir? Or perhaps just with individual smokers? Certainly it isn't as simple as just asking the smokers to stop. I should mention that I have conducted this group for 3 years and have built some trust with the singers, many of whom have sung with the group for 20 years or longer. Also, for what it is worth, I am in my 30s while my singers range from 50s to 70s. We do have a bit of a generational gap.
 
Thank you so much for any advice!
Michael
on November 3, 2015 9:05am
Speak with the two smokers and let them know that clothes and even hair carry the odor of smoke. In a kindly and concerned way, tell them that other singers have said this is affecting ther ability to breathe. Mention that this is also affecting their ability to sing and possibly even their health. Let them know that you and others would appreciate it if they would not smoke prior to rehearsals or during breaks. You might also explain that the New York University Voice Center notes that smoking and exposure to smoke--even if you’re not the one who lights up the cigarette--can irritate and dry the tissues of the throat, in particular the vocal cords. Improper vocal cord vibration and function can result. According to NYU, smoking can also promote acid reflux, which affects the vocal cords, and smoking also degrades lung function leading to decreased airflow through the vocal cords.
 
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