Plants And Smoking – How Does Cigarette Smoke Affect Plants

No Smoking Sign On Shrub Plants
no smoking
(Image credit: MaZiKab)

If you are an avid gardener that loves indoor plants but also a smoker, you may have wondered what impact secondhand smoke can have on them. Houseplants are often used to keep indoor air cleaner, fresher, and even filtered of toxins.

So what does smoke from cigarettes do to their health? Can plants filter cigarette smoke?

Does Cigarette Smoke Affect Plants?

Studies have already found that the smoke from forest fires negatively impacts trees that survive big blazes. The smoke seems to decrease a tree’s ability to photosynthesize and grow efficiently.

There have also been a few studies about how cigarette smoke affects the growth and health of indoor plants. One small study found that plants exposed to cigarette smoke for 30 minutes per day grew fewer leaves. Many of those leaves browned and dried out or dropped off sooner than leaves on plants in a control group.

The studies on plants and cigarettes are limited, but it does seem that at least concentrated doses of smoke can be damaging. These small studies confined the plants to small areas with lit cigarettes, so they do not exactly mimic what a real home with a smoker would be like.

Can Plants Filter Cigarette Smoke?

A recent study found that plants can absorb nicotine and other toxins from cigarette smoke. This may indicate that plants and smoking cigarettes could be a way to filter indoor air to make it healthier for human residents.

In the study, researchers exposed peppermint plants to cigarette smoke. After just two hours, the plants had high levels of nicotine in them. The plants absorbed nicotine from the smoke through their leaves but also through their roots. It took time for the level of nicotine in the plants to go down. After eight days, half of the original nicotine remained in the mint plants.

What this means is that you could use plants to absorb toxins from cigarette smoke and the air in general. Plants are capable of trapping and even holding onto nicotine and other substances in the air, soil, and water. That said, too much smoke in a small area could have more detrimental effects on your plants rather than the other way around.

It’s always better to smoke outdoors, if at all, to avoid any health related issues to you, others, or your plants.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.