Tony Howard’s deep voice belies more than 30 years of singing and performing in what is now called the Tony Howard Motown Show. What you won’t hear is what secondhand smoke has stolen from him, he said.
“The vocal cords are shot,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve sung in so many smoke-filled clubs, and I don’t smoke.”
Howard and other entertainers joined for a rally Tuesday for BreathEasy Augusta, a coalition pushing for Augusta to have a tougher smoking ordinance that will include bars and clubs.
A statewide law bans smoking in restaurants but allows it in bars and places that do not admit anyone younger than 18. The Augusta Commission defeated a more restrictive ordinance last year, but Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said he will introduce
another ordinance later this year.
The low-key rally brought out massage therapist Lisa Hill, whose mother died of bladder cancer related to smoking even though she had quit 20 years before.
“It still caught up with her,” Hill said.
She can understand how people of her mother’s generation smoked when it was glamorized in movies and the full effects weren’t known, but not now, she said.
“To see young people smoking today absolutely breaks my heart,” Hill said.
Even though the ordinance didn’t pass last year, Howard believes there is a good chance it will this time.
“Everybody I’ve talked to about it is jumping on board with it,” he said. “I think there’s a good possibility we can make Augusta 100 percent smoke-free.”
Howard now only performs at smoke-free clubs, which are becoming more common, he said. It helps, even if it is too late for him.
“I sing, but I don’t sing like I used to,” Howard said. “Folks are used to Tony Howard putting on a show, just singing 80 percent of the show. Now it’s down to where I’m only singing 10 percent of the show. I have to hire other entertainers to do most of the show.”
And he misses it “tremendously,” he said. “I dream about it. I dream about singing. It’s really, really rough.”