Plants breathe the same air we do, and grow in the same sunlight that we enjoy. Rooms filled with cigarette smoke affect the way plants grow. Plants are beneficial to us in a smoky room as a way of getting rid of the poisons in the air, but that is not without its cost to the plant.
Ethylene in cigarette smoke makes plants drop their leaves, or cause a downward-shaped curve in the leaf. It also makes fruits ripen faster, and buds flower quicker. In young seedlings it causes a growth spurt outward, but not upward, producing short, squat plants.
Cigarettes contain many potentially deadly chemicals, including arsenic, benzopyrene, ammonia, butane, turpentine and methoprene. These chemicals are absorbed through the stoma, an opening that opens and closes to let in water and food. The most drastic effects of cigarette smoke on plant growth is in the early stages. Grown plants handle the poisons better.
The absorption of carbon dioxide, present in cigarette smoke benefits plants that use it during photosynthesis and release oxygen into the environment in its place. At the same time, smoke clouds the air surrounding the plant and coats the leaves, resulting in reduced available light to the plant. This results in a drained, pale color on leaves and flowers.
The molecules inside plants developed in smoking households or greenhouses change to accept the changes in water absorption and light availability. The result is a mutation from the original plant that will either not reproduce or will not reproduce appropriately.
NASA scientists advise using plants as household air filters. They naturally absorb the bad air and replace it with healthy oxygen. The plant most effective for this purpose were determined to be Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema), Complant (Dracaena), Devil's Ivy (Syndapsus) and Arrowhead Vine (Syngonium). These plants help to fight "sick building syndrome" caused by extra-insulated buildings, smoking and viruses.
A single plant cleans the air in a 10-square-yard space in a room of average height with an 8- to 9-foot ceiling. If an abundance of smoke is present, that area is reduced.
Overall, plants used to clean rooms do the job, but the effects are harsh on the plants. Leaves curl and discolor. Plants droop and look unhealthy, and finally, they die off. Buildings using plants to cleanse the air must replace the plants at regular intervals, as they would a filter on an air purifier.