Buying an air purifier for cigarette smoke
It is no secret that tobacco use is one of the leading causes of early death, responsible for over 8 million deaths per year worldwide (according to the World Health Organization). Whilst the vast majority of those deaths are smokers themselves (7 million people), 1.2 million people die as a result of second-hand smoke1. Read on to learn more about how an indoor air purifier for cigarettes can protect you and your loved ones from cigarette smoke.
Effects of smoking on health
The dangers of tobacco use have been well-documented. Smoking leads to 7 out of 10 cases of lung cancer but is responsible for many other types of cancer including cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, oesophagus, liver, stomach, pancreas, bladder, bowel, and kidney. It can also lead to:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Vascular disease
- Respiratory disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Reduced fertility in men and women
- More difficulties recovering from surgery
- Aggravation of conditions like asthma and the common cold2
Cigarette smoke is even radioactive! Studies have found that cigarette smoke contains polonium-210 and lead-210, radioactive materials commonly used by tobacco farmers as fertiliser which remain on tobacco leaves after curing and processing. These materials can lead to cell and tissue damage3.
Cigarette smoke contains over 250 harmful chemicals. Non-smokers who breathe in cigarette smoke, especially indoors, also called second-hand smokers or passive smokers, are at risk of contracting the same diseases as smokers. In fact, sitting in the same room as a smoker is nearly as harmful as smoking a cigarette yourself. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to these effects, just like they are to the dangers of air pollution.
Once the smoke from a cigarette has cleared, what happens to it? As you might imagine, it does not simply disappear. A more recent term has been coined referring to the residue left behind long after a cigarette has been put out: third-hand smoking (also known as ‘residual smoking’). Particles found in secondary cigarette smoke can turn into residue that settles on indoor surfaces where they can remain for several months to upwards of a year. The residue is very difficult to remove, sometimes requiring people to replace furniture, rugs, and wallpaper as a result. These residues are the source of the lingering smell of cigarette smoke on clothes, in the car, or in the home of a smoker. Because they are very volatile, they can easily be resuspended in the air, where they can be inhaled and cause harm to your health yet again.
The benefits of an air purifier for cigarettes
Cigarette smoke particles usually measure between 0.3 to 0.5 µm; however, certain particles released by cigarette smoke – typically the most harmful ones – can measure as small as 0.1 µm. This includes NNK and HAP, two carcinogenic particles found in cigarette smoke. This is why installing an air purifier in a home with cigarette smoke can be invaluable.
Unfortunately, not all air purifiers filter ultrafine or nanoparticles. A HEPA-certified filter eliminates 99.97% of all airborne contaminants, including those generated by second-hand and third-hand smoking, down to a size of 0.01 µm. This includes fine, ultrafine, and nanoparticles (particulate matter or PM); germs (viruses and bacteria); chemical pollutants (volatile organic compounds or VOCs), and allergens (pollen, dust and dust mites, mould and mildew, and pet dander). Keep in mind that ‘HEPA-type’ filters are not guaranteed to filter the same way that a true HEPA filter does. Eoleaf’s devices all come equipped with medical-grade HEPA H13 filters.
Another benefit of installing an air purifier is combatting odours caused by cigarettes. Again, not all air purifiers can combat odours: only air purifiers that are equipped with activated carbon filters can help reduce the presence of unpleasant odours in your space. Activated carbon filters are particularly effective against odours but also serve as a depolluting technology especially in combatting organic volatile compounds (VOCs). Cigarette smoke contains VOCs, a type of chemical pollution also released by numerous everyday products that can lead to deleterious health effects. They are often responsible for causing the very recognisable odour in cigarette smoke.
Finally, installing an air purifier for cigarettes with a medical-grade HEPA filter can protect your children from second-hand and third-hand smoke exposure. As mentioned above, children are one of the most vulnerable groups of people to the dangers of cigarette smoke. Exposure to cigarette smoke for children can cause decreased lung function, ear infections, acute respiratory infection, lung cancer, and aggravation of asthma. The Journal of Public Health even found that cigarette smoke can impact children’s mental health, behaviour, and interpersonal skills: “Children exposed to continuous second-hand smoke scored higher on self-reported aggressive behaviour and teacher-rated antisocial behaviour”4.
How does an air purifier for cigarettes work?
As mentioned above, cigarette smoke particles typically measure between 0.5 µm all the way down to 0.1 µm. Only air purifiers equipped with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA)-certified filter are capable of removing particles of this size from your air. HEPA filters remove 99.97% of air pollutants down to a size of 0.01 µm.
However, an air purifier for cigarettes with just a HEPA filter is not necessarily sufficient when combatting cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke contains VOCs, some of which are too small to be captured by medical-grade HEPA filters (like those offered by Eoleaf). That said, it is important that your air purifier be equipped with other supplementary technologies that can work to eliminate these pollutants and toxic gases from your air. Some of the following filtration technologies may provide the extra support you need to remove cigarette smoke contaminants from your breathing air:
- Activated carbon filters: especially effective against VOCs and odours, activated carbon serves as an excellent filtration technology in both air and water. In conjunction with a HEPA filter, it can eliminate even the smallest VOCs from your air. One thing to keep in mind: the speed at which the air passes through the carbon filter is crucial to adsorb toxic fumes effectively. The slower contaminated air travels through the carbon, the better. This is called the ‘dwell time’: the longer the air dwells on its way through, the more odours, fumes, and gases are adsorbed into the carbon. The thicker the carbon, the longer the dwell time. Cigarettes smell: equip yourself with a device that protects you and removes that smell!
- Photocatalysis: to initiate the process of photocatalysis, you need ultraviolet (UV) light to interact with oxygen and water present in the air. This triggers the release of free radicals. These free radicals then react with air pollution particles present in your breathing air and degrade them. Photocatalysis is particularly effective against VOCs and chemical pollution.
- Ionisation: ionisation releases negative ions into the air. These negative ions bind with positively-charged air pollutants, causing them to either disintegrate completely or be weighed down to the ground where they no longer pose a danger of being breathed in. Negative ions are effective against fine particle pollution (particulate matter) and smoke. If there are particles released by cigarette smoke that are too small to be captured by a HEPA filter, negative ions serve as another line of defence.
How to choose an air purifier for cigarette smoke?
When choosing an air purifier for cigarettes, there are a few details to consider.
Firstly, be sure to purchase an air purifier for cigarettes that comes equipped with multiple filtration technologies for the best performance in eliminating cigarette smoke and associated odours. Ideally, your device should contain at least a HEPA filter that filters particles down to 0.01 µm and an activated carbon filter to fight the smell of cigarettes. Air purifiers made by Eoleaf come equipped with 8 different filtration technologies including a HEPA filter, an activated carbon filter, photocatalysis, ionisation, UV sterilisation, and more. This makes them ideal for removing cigarette smoke and its odours, including the smallest nanoparticles and VOCs, from your air!
Size of your space
Secondly, the size of your space is a consideration. Air purifiers must be properly sized for the dimensions of your room or space. You must choose an air purifier that is powerful enough to pull all of the air in your room size through the filter around five times per hour (also known as ‘air changes per hour’ or ACPH or ACH). Before making your purchase, confirm how long it will take for the unit to actually filter all of the air in a room of your room’s size and how many actual air changes the unit will provide in your room. A strong fan is also ideal to ensure that your device is powerful enough to suck in your smoky air as fast as possible.
Thirdly, consider the best placement possible for your air purifier. It should be centrally located in a frequently-used living area (such as in a living room), but a device that is easily moveable is preferable (Eoleaf’s devices, for example, come equipped with wheels!). Breathing and respiratory function slow significantly at night, so it is ideal to move the unit to your bedroom just before you go to sleep, especially for individuals suffering from respiratory conditions. If cigarette smoke comes from another building or below your door, place your purifier right where that air seems to be entering. Placing your device close to the pollution source increases its capacity to filter that pollutant.
Finally, be sure to keep your budget in mind. Budgeting for an air purifier has three parts: 1) the initial purchase of the device, 2) maintenance costs, and 3) energy consumption costs. The initial price tag of an air purifier for cigarettes can vary significantly depending upon the technologies and options offered by the device. Make sure to choose a device based on your specific needs (and remember that an activated carbon filter is just as important if you want to combat cigarette smoke odours!). Also, all air purifiers, regardless of the model, require filter changes. Lower quality filters, albeit cheaper, usually need to be changed multiple times per year. Higher quality filters, like Eoleaf’s, only need replacing once per year. Additionally, all devices consume energy differently. Search out a device that is as energy efficient as possible which will keep your energy costs and consumption low.
1 Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2013, May 23). Smoking. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/smoking
2 NHS. (2022, September 16). What are the health risks of smoking?. NHS choices. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-are-the-health-risks-of-smoking/
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, December 7). Radiation studies: CDC - Cigarette smoking and radiation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/smoking.htm
4 Bandiera FC, Richardson AK, Lee DJ, He JP, Merikangas KR. Secondhand smoke exposure and mental health among children and adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011 Apr;165(4):332-8. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.30. PMID: 21464381; PMCID: PMC3075798.