If you smoke, someone in your household smokes, or a neighbor in an apartment block smokes, you might be wondering whether the cigarette smoke or the cigarettes could be harmful to your green friends.
We know smoking it’s not good for people, so what about your plants?
It might sound strange but smoking can harm your plants in many ways, and extensive smoking over a long period of time could theoretically contribute to the death of a plant.
Although it’s not common for smoking in the household to end up killing your plants, you certainly need to do your research to avoid a disaster.
Luckily, we have all the answers for you here:
1. Can Smoking Kill Plants?
In short, yes, but here is exactly how smoking can end up killing your plants:
Excessive cigarette smoke can kill your plants because smoke particles and cigarettes dust will deposit on the leaves of plants which overtime, can negatively affect a plant’s ability to photosynthesize.
Toxins from cigarette smoke will be absorbed through the plant leaves and in extreme cases, it is even possible for cigarette smoke to pass something called Tobacco Mosaic Virus to plants.
Cigarettes however, could harm plants in more ways than just with their smoke.
2. Will Smoking Around Plants Harm Them?
Smoking around plants can harm them, yes.
There are not yet enough studies to confirm how much smoking is needed before a negative impact upon a plant can be measured, but it has been confirmed that concentrated cigarette smoke is harmful to plants.
Plants can absorb some of the toxins from cigarette smoke into their leaves and through their roots, and this may reduce their ability to grow well.
Plants can capture nicotine and hold onto it in high quantities for a surprising amount of time.
It can take over a week for high levels of nicotine to drop, even after the source of smoke has been removed – much longer than it takes for the levels to rise in the first place.
It’s thought that cigarette smoke may reduce a plant’s ability to grow properly.
It could stunt new leaf growth and make it harder for leaves to grow healthy or strong. Your plant might start to grow more slowly, and won’t put up new shoots as readily.
New leaves may be lost, or stay pale and yellow.
How far the effects of smoke spread is somewhat unclear. It’s known that cigarette smoke can travel through walls and floors, particularly partitions, but it’s not known what distance smoke can have an effect on plants from.
Most studies have been done on plants in concentrated cigarette smoke, rather than the milder effects of second hand or distant smoke.
It’s unlikely that smoke in the same building will have any noticeable effect on plants, but frequently smoking in the same room as a plant will probably cause some of the above problems.
3. How Do I Protect My Plants From Smoking?
The best way to protect your plants from smoke is to ban smoking in your home.
If you have guests who smoke, ask them to smoke out of the window or step outside. You can make the same effort, or get family members to if possible.
There aren’t really any other options for fully protecting plants from cigarette smoke.
Keeping them well-ventilated, perhaps beside a window or something similar, may reduce the effects a bit, but isn’t going to make a major difference.
If your plant has been exposed to abnormal amounts of cigarette smoke, you may want to put it out in the fresh air and let the rain wash over the leaves and through the soil.
Leave it outside for a few days, and hopefully some of the toxins will be released back into the air, rather than staying in the plant.
If you can’t put it outside, you can try flushing out the soil repeatedly with water (letting it dry out thoroughly afterward) and putting it by a window so that fresh air can flow over it.
4. Does Cigarette Ash Kill Plants?
You may have heard that ash is good for plants, but what about cigarette ash?
This is commonly used as a way of getting deterring pests and fertilizing plants.
Many people knock ash from the cigarettes straight into their plant pots.
However, this could have a lot of toxins in it, so it is probably best not to use it. Your plant may get some benefits from the ash, but it may also pick up nicotine and other nasty things, especially if the cigarette is unburnt in parts.
Equally, your plant could contract Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) from the ash, especially if it’s a species that is vulnerable to it.
Tomatoes and others in the family are particularly vulnerable to it, but many kinds of plants can suffer from it.
It will stunt the plant’s growth and will create a mosaic of dark green and bright yellow patterns over the leaves. Leaves may also look crumpled and malformed, and may just take the patterning on their leaf tips or stems.
TMV does not usually kill plants, but it can. Normally, it just reduces its growth and makes it look sickly.
The virus will remain alive in the soil even if the plant dies, and it is very easily spread via contact. It can cling to your skin, to tools, to clothes, to anything, so if one plant is infected, it is extremely easy to infect others.
You really do not want to spread TMV through your plants, so it is not a good idea to put cigarette ash in your plants.
5. Can Cigarette Butts Kill Plants?
The same goes for cigarette butts.
If you put them in the soil, the virus (TMV) can easily spread into the soil and to your other plants.
Many cigarettes also have plastic in them, which you don’t want in the soil.
The butts are polluting and unpleasant, and you may find that they don’t break down into the soil.
They won’t benefit your plants in any way, and you could end up poisoning the soil, killing off microbes, and releasing microplastics into your plant pots.
Depending on the kinds of cigarettes you smoke, they could take an entire decade to decompose, and watering your plants may wash toxins from the butt into the soil.
They may reduce germination in seeds and decrease your plant’s growth and health.
In extreme cases, cigarette buts can end up killing the plant, especially if you water the plant with them in the soil.
6. Is Smoky Air Bad For Plants
You might wonder about other kinds of smoke?
If cigarette smoke is bad for plants, what about incense smoke, smoke from fires, etc. If you burn candles, are you hurting your plants?
Small amounts of smoke shouldn’t hurt your plants.
Just to be sure, if you burn incense near your plants on a regular basis, they make take on some of the chemicals in the smoke, but if you choose natural incenses, they are unlikely to do much harm.
Smoke from your wood fire should not be an issue.
Almost all of this ought to go up the chimney, rather than into the room – and if it doesn’t, you need to get your chimney unblocked or tended to in order to fix the problem.
Candles produce small amounts of smoke, and again shouldn’t do harm to your plants.
In some traditions, smoke has been used to try and encourage the ripening of fruits, e.g. in Ancient China. The practice continues to this day in some places, and the heat and smoke are thought to help the fruits develop faster.
However, smoke from wildfires has also been shown to damage the growth of plants in nature.
Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides can damage the plant’s growth. It isn’t clear how much of an effect smoke can have on plants, but because they filter so much from the air and soil, it’s easy to imagine that smoke can do damage we don’t even recognize yet.
The ash particles carried by smoke could also be problematic.
If these settle on the leaves in noticeable quantities, they will reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and clog up the leaf pores, which are needed to help the plant get rid of excess moisture.
All in all, smoke from other sources probably isn’t the best for your plants, but it is unlikely to do much harm to them in small quantities.
Just to be sure, if you burn a lot of incense or a lot of candles, try to put them on the opposite side of the room to your plants.
7. Can Plants Filter Smoke?
Yes, plants can filter smoke out of the air.
They are thought to be able to pull pollutants from the air and absorb them, but this may not be a great way to deal with toxins in your home – at least not in concentration.
While plants are good at taking toxins from the air and this can be beneficial to people, you don’t want to be depending on your plants for that alone.
If you smoke a lot indoors, even if you have a lot of plants, you may find that the plants can’t absorb enough of the nicotine and toxins to either improve the smell or free the air of pollutants.
Some plants are particularly known for their ability to take toxins from the air.
Spider plants are particularly famous for their air purifying abilities, and many people grow them to try and improve the air quality in their homes.
In fact, if you are looking for the best plants to purify the air in your house, here is a very in depth article I wrote a while ago.
Overall, more study is needed to determine how much of an effect smoking has on plants, but it seems clear that concentrated smoke can damage or possibly even kill plants over a period of time.
Cigarette ash and butts should not be added to the soil, and you should carefully wash your hands before touching your plants if you smoke, to avoid transmitting TMV.
While plants are great for making the air of your home better for you to breathe, don’t depend on them to remove the harmful effects of cigarette smoke.