Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Does smoking cause more stuttering?

Marilyn Monroe, who had a stuttering problem (among her many other problems), enjoying a smoke break.

The question whether smoking results in more or less stuttering occasionally arises in stuttering web forums. As far as I know this has not yet been researched, but it's an interesting question. Anecdotally, some people who stutter say that it makes their speech worse, but others say it increases their fluency. How can this be explained?

Perhaps a good way to look at it is to start with the stress issue. It has been well DOCUMENTED that nicotine increases stress, even though many smokers say that they find smoking relaxing. Now the second question: does STRESS generally increase stuttering? Well, so many stutterers say that they stutter more when they are under stress that the answer must be an overwhelming YES (though there are exceptions - read this article: "Stuttering while relaxed?").

Logic therefore seems to indicate that smoking can indeed increase stuttering, because it can increase stress.

There will, however, be many exceptions, because smoking may PSYCHOLOGICALLY relax people even though it can PHYSIOLOGICALLY increase stress levels due to the nicotine. When a person goes for a smoke break, he leaves his stressful workplace, relaxes, has a chat and takes his mind off his problems. These are all relaxing factors, and they may counteract the physiologically stressful effect of the nicotine. So this is one more case where mental and physical factors can counteract each other (another example may be the effect of caffeine - in tea and coffee - on stress and stuttering - read THIS ARTICLE).

I hope that the above makes sense and that, if you stutter, it will help you in understanding the defect better. Smoking, unfortunately, is one of the many joys that should be avoided. Which reminds me of the famous movie actress who said: "Everything I like is either illegal, immoral or causes lockjaw!" 

If you are a smoker who stutters, kindly take part in the following poll - many thanks! 

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