Ever wondered which famous singers smoke cigarettes?
Despite the notion that singers should abstain from cigarette smoking, you might be surprised to learn that many of the most famous singers in history actually have a heavy history of smoking.
In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of smoking singers by illustrating some well-known examples, from current chart-toppers to opera legends:
Modern Pop & Rock Singers Who Smoke
With the enormous pressures of fame and a party-filled life, it’s not uncommon for chart-topping singers to adopt cigarette smoking as a vice.
Here are a few notable examples of modern pop & rock singers who smoke:
1. Lady Gaga
It almost isn’t fair to list Miss Gaga here, but her leap from forty cigarettes a day to zero cigarettes needs to be highlighted.
It shows what’s possible with a little willpower (or a lot of it), as she says that quitting was awfully brutal. Her full commentary can be viewed in this video:
2. Zayn Malik
Zayn has no trouble admitting that he smokes, even sharing that he smoked quite a bit in school.
He felt that it was a creative aid, helping him think outside the box and come up with different concepts.
Some fans are a bit uncomfortable with him crediting his creativity to nicotine, afraid that he might influence younger fans.
3. Katy Perry
Miss Perry’s story is an unfortunate example of how one cigarette is all it takes to lead to a deeply-ingrained habit.
She picked up smoking to help her deal with the stress of planning her wedding, meaning that fortunately she doesn’t have an extensive track record with the cigs.
But that brief stint with the cancer sticks was enough to get her hooked:
She’s reportedly smoking every chance she gets and fans and friends alike are concerned that she could be doing extensive damage to her vocal cords.
Fears are that she could be following in the footsteps of Whitney Houston, whose singing abilities were endangered by her chain-smoking.
It’s a vicious cycle for Katy since she’s always in the public eye, and so stress is a constant factor.
4. Miley Cyrus
The Great Daughter of Cyrus has had a cigarette in one hand and a joint in the other since some unspecified time in history that involved mouse ears…
…but she has proudly been able to put down the nicotine.
Her affection for pot, however, doesn’t seem to be fading anytime soon. She shares her thoughts on sobriety here on YouTube, talking to Joe Rogan:
5. Justin Bieber
The Beebs started smoking marijuana when he was 12 and it led him down a slippery slope of addiction, partially fuelled by his quick rise to fame and his unstable background.
A lot of the bad drug habits that he accumulated have been shed, but he seems to struggle with lighting up a cigarette (despite a new year’s resolution to quit).
He discusses some of these things here in this video:
6. Ariana Grande
The internet is really hush-hush about some things
(and Ariana Grande’s relationship with cigarettes is one of them).
Interrogating Google only reveals a few pictures of the pop princess taking a smoke break, along with fan pages done in a FAQ format that simply state that she’s a “regular smoker.”
Other than that, when she got started and how many she burns a day is classified information.
Beyoncé drew a lot of fire when she appeared in an advertisement showing her holding an upscale cigarette holder.
Ever since, fans have come across images of the singing starlet sneaking in a drag or two.
But the finer details, such as how long and how often the beauty lights one up, are not privy to the public.
8. Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey admitted to being a chain-smoker in an interview with Complex.
When asked about when she started smoking, she commented:
“Since I was 17. It’s crazy. That’s why I try to play mostly outdoor festivals. Because 45 minutes into the set, when you’ve still got 45 more minutes to go, you need to smoke.”
After falling into a habit of 25 cigarettes a day and several run-ins with conditions like laryngitis, legendary singer Adele made a strong effort to kick the smoking habit.
Her relationship with smoking has been on and off since, mostly due to her belief that quitting the smokes actually made her voice worse.
Fans think that her voice has sounded better, but her ears tell her otherwise.
In her moment of victory, though, she shared her thoughts in this interview from The BRIT Awards in 2011:
Classic Pop & Rock Singers Who Smoke (Or Smoked)
It’s no secret that some of the biggest names in pop & rock music throughout the 20th century were heavy smokers.
Here’s a few of our favorite examples:
1. John Lennon
John Lennon, like the rest of his bandmates, was a Marlboro man.
He smoked clear up until the day he was murdered. Shortly before that, he had switched to a heavy-duty French cigarillo brand called Gauloises.
He had made an attempt to quit in the 70s at the advice of his therapist, but he was unsuccessful.
2. Frank Sinatra
It’s a wonder that Frank’s voice held up the way it did.
When he drank, he smoked cigarettes and vice versa. In some cases, he was singing and smoking at the same time.
It was a habit that he ended up taking to his grave. He wasn’t shy about promoting cigarettes, like Chesterfields, as depicted in this advertisement that led into his show:
3. Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix came from an era of music where smoking was as standard as the guitar.
He, to put it succinctly, smoked like a chimney. It was a part of making his voice grittier and raspier.
Of course, he did it to unwind, often combining smoking and drinking when with friends.
4. Jim Morrison
Virtually every photograph of Jim Morrison still in existence shows him with a cigarette of some sort.
The exact number of cigarettes he smoked per day is hard to deduce, since he wasn’t above bumming cigarettes from fans in the front row during concerts.
Some say that he was partial to Marlboros, others say that he had a taste for the French cigarillo brand called Gauloises.
He was at least dedicated to burning through two packs a day by some counts.
5. Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan has been generous and open on his experience with addiction, including his rounds with cigarettes.
He had an extensive radio spot where he discussed what happens “when the tobacco plant collides with popular culture.”
In the program, he composed several songs that expressed frustration with what nicotine does to the body and mind.
He touted the plausible but inaccurate theory about the human body developing extra receptors in the brain that starved when there was an interruption in the intake of nicotine.
Here’s a great video of Dylan giving a press conference while puffing away on a seemingly ever-present cigarette:
6. Johnny Cash
In an era when singers smoked like chimneys and fans were perfectly okay with it, Johnny Cash picked up the habit of smoking cigarettes when he was only 12 years old.
It was a habit that he carried with him most of his career. When he was 56, he emerged from double bypass surgery in critical but stable condition.
Before he went under for the procedure, he made up his mind that he was going to put the smokes down for good.
He had already been through ditching other, stronger substances, so quitting smoking would be nothing unusual for him.
7. Keith Richards
The Rolling Stones legend quit smoking as recently as 2019.
He made the decision, among other reasons, to keep the Rolling Stones on the road for as long as possible. He confirmed that he hasn’t had a cigarette since October of that year.
He has echoed the sentiment made by many former smokers and doctors that quitting nicotine is harder than quitting heroin.
He commented that quitting heroin is hell, but it’s a short hell. Cigarettes and the monkey that asks for them are always there.
If he isn’t careful, he’ll pick one up and light it without even thinking about it.
8. Dave Mustaine
Throughout his life, Dave Mustaine has maintained the image of an angry, embittered, rebellious youth
(and he seems to be as immortal as his thirst for revenge against his former bandmates in Metallica).
After being a heavy smoker for many years, time came calling and left a reminder that bad habits spare nobody in 2019 when the Megadeth legend was diagnosed with throat cancer.
As a result, he had to cancel all concerts for the remainder of the year.
9. Lou Reed
Lou Reed could get through half a pack of cigarettes during a single interview.
More than once he’d interject over the smoke that he was trying to quit. Friends had said that they quit smoking 20 times with him.
Reed supposedly was successful in giving up the habit a short time before his death.
Opera Singers Who Smoked
Opera is widely regarded as one of the most challenging styles of music to sing.
However, as is the case with modern and classic singers, some of the biggest names in opera were hefty cigarette smokers.
Here are a few standout examples:
1. Tito Gobbi
Tito Gobbi, who clocked over 100 operatic roles by the time he retired in 1979, was reportedly a frequent smoker between and during performances.
It was, after all, the 1950’s when smoking was held in high regard in American culture.
Despite what we now know about the dangers of smoking, the habit didn’t seem to have any adverse effects on the opera singer’s health.
2. Maria Callas
Maria’s adult life was the polar opposite of her childhood.
She was downgraded as not being as beautiful, intelligent, talented, or womanly as her older sister.
Once she came into her own as an opera singer and grew into an icon, smoking naturally came with the territory. At one point, she was smoking all day while watching westerns.
It would be easy to think that it was smoking that took her life, but like the operas she performed in, she tragically died due to a broken heart after a tumultuous love life.
3. Enrico Caruso
If you listened to some of the final recordings made by Enrico Caruso in September of 1920, you’d never guess you were listening to the voice of a heavy smoker.
Caruso was hooked on strong Egyptian cigarettes, often enjoying them between acts in an opera.
His smoking habit may not have diminished the quality of his voice any, but it was a contributing factor to his death at the young age of 48.
The moments leading up to his death were not pretty, complete with throbbing pain in his side, coughing up blood into his handkerchief, and toughing through all of it just to complete a performance.
It was later concluded after many years that he had succumbed to COPD.
4. Luciano Pavarotti
Between his weight and his love of cigarettes, leaning more towards cigars, Pavarotti developed pancreatic cancer.
He beat it successfully once, but he ultimately succumbed at a later date.
5. Robert Merrill
Not only was “Bob” a smoker, but he was involved in more than one advertisement for cigarettes.
He claimed that these cigarettes in this ad were the most gentle on his voice. It shows how limited the understanding at the time was about the effects of smoking on a person’s health:
6. Patrice Munsel
“Princess Pat” was an accomplished American soprano.
She was also featured in what would be considered by the standards at the time to be a “sensual” cigarette advertisement for Camel cigarettes in 1952.
She was one of many singers who would say that the cigarette they were advertising either helped their singing or didn’t hinder it.
7. Adelina Patti
Adelina Patti was a very early opera singer, first singing in public as a child in 1851.
She was smoking like most of the other starlets of her era, and tobacco companies had just started using the images of robust throats like opera singers in order to market their wares.
Adelina’s image was also being used, but it appears her only real tie to tobacco companies was the cards that were inserted into packs in order to help a pack keep its shape.
Honorable Mention: Maurice Ravel
Although an opera composer rather than an opera singer, we can’t get away without mentioning the incredible tale of Maurice Ravel’s smoking habits:
Supposedly, Mr. Ravel would calculate the exact number of cigarettes he would need before going on tour in the United States and he’d pack them accordingly.
After two months of planning, Ravel made a four-month tour of North America in 1928, playing and conducting.
His fee was a guaranteed minimum of $10,000 and a constant supply of Gauloises cigarettes.
Some have joked that Ravel didn’t smoke when he was asleep. They are his constant companion in the surviving photographs of him.
Despite relying on their voice for their fame and fortune, there are plenty of eye-wateringly popular singers who smoke (or smoked) cigarettes.
While we certainly don’t advocate singers to smoke, we hope this article has provided a deep dive into not only which famous singers smoke, but also the reasons why they choose to smoke.
If you enjoyed this article, why not check out our list of singers who don’t use autotune next?