How smoking contributes to air pollution

The health risks of cigarette smoke are well-known: smoking can lead to a host of diseases that affect every organ of the body including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung diseases, COPD, and more1. Smoking can even be dangerous to non-smokers who experience both second-hand and third-hand smoking. However, you may not be aware of the dangers smoking poses on our environment and air quality. Did you know that cigarette smoke is ten times more polluting to our air than diesel emissions? Read below to learn more about how smoking endangers our air quality, putting everyone around us at risk of serious health consequences2.

Person holding a lit cigarette

Controlled experiment in northern Italy

In a small mountain town in northern Italy, a place with remarkably low levels of particulate matter (PM) air pollution, a controlled study took place to compare the effects of both diesel car emissions and cigarette smoke on our environment and on air quality.

During the study, a turbo diesel 2-litre engine was left idling in a garage for 30 minutes with the doors closed. The doors were then left open for four hours. Afterwards, three filtered cigarettes were lit sequentially and left to burn for 30 minutes. During these two events, a portable analyser took readings on the levels of PM. Upon comparing the results, the levels recorded in the first hour following the burning of the cigarettes measured 830 μg/m3 compared to 80 μg/m3 measured during the first hour of the diesel engine’s idling. Cigarette smoke was shockingly determined to have ten times more of an effect on air quality than those of diesel emissions2.

The various effects of tobacco production on air quality

Tobacco heavily pollutes throughout each step of production and consumption as demonstrated below:

Chart showing the impacts of the tobacco industry at each level of production

The growth, production, and transport of tobacco and its products contribute to air pollution and climate change by releasing greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide to the air we breathe. Globally, smoking contributes 2.6 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide and 5.2 billion kilograms of methane into our environment each year4. This does not include the toxic substances that are released into the air that can have damaging effects on our health, as you will see below.

First-hand, second-hand and third-hand smoking

In addition to its serious environmental impact, smoking is the number one cause of cancer death worldwide and is considered to be the biggest public health threat on a worldwide scale with an estimated 1 billion smokers around the world (12% of the world’s population!). Furthermore, an estimated 8 million people are killed by tobacco annually, 7 million of which die through direct tobacco use and 1.2 million people through second-hand smoke3. There has been recent focus on third-hand smoking as well which refers to the residue that settles and remains on surfaces (such as furniture, clothes, carpets, walls, etc.) long after a cigarette is put out. This residue is extremely difficult to remove and can remain on surfaces for days, months, or even years, with many people resorting to fully replacing carpets or repainting the walls in their homes. This is both costly and wasteful.

The most common diseases caused by smoking are:

  • Cancer including lung, blood, bladder, cervical, colon, kidney, liver, mouth and throat, and stomach cancers (among others)
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Risk of pregnancy complications including foetal tissue damage and lung and brain damage
  • Lower fertility and higher risk of miscarriage1

Read more about the dangers of smoking, including third-hand smoking here.

Did you know that cigarette smoke is also radioactive? Cigarette smoke contains polonium-210 and lead-210, radioactive materials found in the soil but also in fertilisers used by farmers on tobacco plants and other crops. These substances remain on tobacco leaves well after curing and processing and are inhaled into the lungs when smoked. This radioactivity can cause cell and tissue damage7.

How can we protect ourselves from cigarette smoke?

Of course, the best way to avoid the effects caused by cigarette smoke is to stop smoking and to encourage your friends and family to avoid consuming tobacco products! Another excellent solution to protect yourself from air pollution caused by cigarette smoke is to purchase an air purifier for your home and workplace.

Particles in tobacco smoke usually measure 0.3-0.5 μm in size. However, tobacco smoke contains nanoparticles that measure down to a size of 0.1 μm5. Not just any air purifier guarantees proper filtration of particles of this size. When purchasing an air purifier, you must ensure that its filter is HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air)-certified. As stated by European standards EN 1822 and EN ISO 29463, HEPA filters are capable of filtering at least 99.97% of particles of a size greater than or equal to a diameter of 0.01 µm in a single pass. All Eoleaf air purification products contain HEPA filters.

Another highly recommended technology to look for in your air purifier when dealing with cigarette smoke is an activated carbon filter. Activated carbon binds itself to a variety of pollutants including ozone, benzene, and VOCs (organic volatile compounds), further ensuring your clean air. It also is extremely effective at removing bad odours from your home or workplace, including cigarette smoke odours!

We’re here to help you choose the perfect device for your needs. Reach out to our team of air purification experts today to start breathing clean air free of pollutants caused by cigarette smoke.

Eoleaf air purifier model AERO PRO 150


References

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 28). Health effects of smoking and tobacco use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/health_effects/index.htm

2 MediLexicon International. (2023). Cigarette smoke produces 10 times more air pollution than Diesel Car Exhaust. Medical News Today. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/12481

3 Zhou, G. (2019). Tobacco, air pollution, environmental carcinogenesis, and thoughts on conquering strategies of lung cancer. Cancer Biology & Medicine, 16(4), 700–713. https://www.cancerbiomed.org/content/16/4/700

4 Kukreja, R. (2022, July 28). 13 serious effects of cigarette smoking on environment and human health. Conserve Energy Future. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/serious-effects-cigarette-smoking-environment-and-human-health.php

5 How to choose the best air purifiers for removing tobacco smoke. BreathingSpace.co.uk. (2022). Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://www.breathingspace.co.uk/how-to-choose-the-best-air-purifiers-for-removing-tobacco-smoke-i97 

6 Chestnov, O., da Costa e Silva, V. L., & Mukhtar, A. (2017). Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview. World Health Organization.

7 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

Eoleaf's range of air purifiers

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