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How does being a smoker affect your career as a massage therapist? This is a very delicate issue that affects clients and smokers alike.

It's important to not be judgmental. Everyone has their own path in life and no one is in a position to pass judgement on anyone unless you have walked that path. That being said, being a smoker or having clients that smoke presents challenges to a successful career. We will start with clients who smoke. There are two challenges.

The first is to understand how you can give the person the greatest benefit. Being able to support them in getting healthier is your primary responsibility. However, the only time you should address the issue of smoking with them is if they sincerely want your help in changing this aspect of their life, either by cutting down or eliminating smoking from their life. If they ask for this support, you need to proceed slowly and carefully and work to understand their needs, stresses and past experience.

The emphasis needs to be on helping them to get stronger so they can make change and learn how to make change. Based on the Law of Attraction (What you focus on you get more of) you will want to focus on how their life would be if they didn't smoke. If you focus on quitting smoking that can often lead to reinforcing the energy of smoking.

The second thing that you need to deal with is the residual smell that can fill your space. You need to have a good strategy for making sure the smell is completely cleared from your space, linens and clothing before you see your next client. For this reason you may need to schedule smokers for the end of the day so you can air out the space and have clean clothes. You may also want to invest in an ion and or ozone air cleaner to run during the night. No matter how you handle it, just understand that non-smokers and reformed smokers are usually very sensitive to the smell and can harm your professional practice.

The more challenging situation is if you are a smoker. Again, there is no judgement on you. That is your situation and this is about strategies to learn to minimize the impact it has on your professional practice, not to scold you for being a smoker. If you are a light smoker who is very careful about when you smoke in relation to your sessions, always being careful to wash your hair and having clean clothes that do not smell of smoke, is essential. One suggestion is that if there are smokers in your home, that you keep your session clothes at your office so you can change into them and put your everyday clothes outside of your office in your car or somewhere the odor will not get into your space.

If you are a more dedicated smoker who smokes between sessions, in your car and home and you cannot eliminate the odor from your clothes, you will probably find over time that the majority of your clients are also dedicated smokers. Sometimes this works particularly well for them because they are more comfortable going to a therapist that's a smoker so they don't feel judged or uncomfortable.

Of course, there are several considerations that you will need to take into account.

First, smokers tend to make up a small percentage of the population in this part of the world. This chart shows the percentage of smokers broken out be state. The rates vary from 13% in the New England states up to over 22% in several of the central and southern states. In New England and California, being a dedicated smoker means that you may be restricting your market significantly.

The other question is whether smokers are less likely to seek massage since they may be less dedicated to being healthy. My guess is that smokers may have a higher level of stress and are risk takers which may actually make them a more likely candidate for the benefits of massage. If that's the case, it could offset the clients that are harder to retain due to sensitivity to the smell of smoke.

Again, this is not judging anyone. It's just trying to share some ideas that may help you to be more successful. Whatever your path, know that being a massage therapist is about helping people to deal with life and be healthier.

By being a massage therapist you are making a significant difference for a lot of people. Thank you for doing this work and keep up the good work.


Kris Stecker

Spa Tech Institute, Schools of Massage, Polarity, Aesthetics and Cosmetology

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