I'm thinking about buying an air purifier. Do any of them work on cigarette smoke?
Answer From J. Taylor Hays, M.D.
If you're looking for an air purifier that will eliminate cigarette smoke, you're out of luck.
Tobacco smoke is made up of gaseous pollutants and particulate matter. Most air purifiers, also called air cleaners, aren't designed to remove gaseous pollutants.
Mechanical air filters, such as high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, and electronic air cleaners, such as ionizers, target particles. While air cleaning devices can help reduce levels of smaller airborne particles, research suggests that the devices aren't 100 percent effective. This might be due to the difficulty of cleaning particles from every room in a home, and the fact that many particles from secondhand smoke are on the surfaces of furniture and clothing. When someone touches these surfaces, the particles become airborne again and are breathed in before they can be filtered. Air cleaners also might not decrease harmful health effects caused by indoor pollutants such as cigarette smoke.
Other air cleaners generate ozone, which is a lung irritant. At levels that don't exceed public health standards, ozone has little ability to remove air contaminants such as cigarette smoke.
The best way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is to not allow smoking in your home. If you smoke, this is another good reason to stop.
Jan. 30, 2019
J. Taylor Hays, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Residential air cleaners: A technical summary. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/air-cleaners-and-air-filters-home-printable. Accessed Jan. 9, 2019.
- Rice JL, et al. The feasibility of an air purifier and secondhand smoke education intervention in homes of inner city pregnant women and infants living with a smoker. Environmental Research. 2018;160:524.
- Secondhand smoke and smoke-free homes. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/secondhand-smoke-and-smoke-free-homes. Accessed Jan. 9, 2019.
- Ventilation does not effectively protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/protection/ventilation/. Accessed Oct. 26, 2015.
- Ratschen E, et al. A randomized controlled trial of a complex intervention to reduce children's exposure to secondhand smoke in the home. Tobacco Control. 2018;27:155.
- Zhan Y, et al. The influence of air cleaners on indoor particulate matter components and oxidative potential in residential households in Beijing. Science of the Total Environment. 2018;626:507.