Cigarette smoke has been a proven health concern for humans and animals for years. Studies on the effects of cigarette smoke on plant growth have been started; initial reports show that cigarette smoke has similar health affects on plant growth. Cigarette smoke affects humans and animals at a slower pace than it does plants. There is no treatment to the effect that cigarette smoke has on plant growth, only preventative measures can keep plants healthy.
The American Lung Association states that cigarette smoke has more than 4,000 chemicals found in it. Of these chemicals the more lethal include ammonia, arsenic, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, lead and sulfur compounds and nicotine. Chemicals found in cigarette smoke have the potential to alter plant DNA causing mutations. These mutations can impair or stunt growth in plants. Chemicals called particulates stick to plant leaves and stems; this action reduces the plants ability to absorb light, which in turn reduces photosynthesis, and then reduces the energy received from sunlight to create sugar for plant growth. Stomatal pores are also caused by particulates and result in less oxygen to the plant.
Discoveries by NASA have proven that house plants can absorb toxins such as formaldehyde and carbon monoxide from the air. This absorption builds up in leaves, stems and roots. The result is the build up of particulates. This results in clogged stomata, or the breathing function, of the leaves. Enough absorption reduces the ability of the plant to use carbon dioxide in creation of food which results in eventual stunted growth or death.
Tobacco Mosaic Virus
This plant disease is found mostly in households where smokers live. While not transmitted by cigarette smoke directly it can be spread by smokers. Tobacco Mosaic Virus can survive on dried plant material up to two years according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension. The virus shows as a mottled pattern of discolored or blemished leaves in a mosaic form.
Leaf loss is another effect of cigarette smoke on plant growth. Plants suffer a condition called epinasty that results in the leaves falling off or turning downward. This condition is caused by the amount of ethylene in cigarette smoke. The result is a swelling of the leaf leading to an inability to grow upwards. While few clinical studies are available experiments by students have been published showing consistently harmful effects of cigarette smoke on leaf growth. These published experiments showed plants exposed to smoke had fewer leaves, stunted growth and leaf mutation.
While most plants suffer damage from extensive cigarette smoke, there are plants that use the high carbon dioxide in the photosynthesis process when they also receive proper amounts of sunlight. These plants can be used to clean the air inside residences to help clean the air of chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Look for plants with fuzzy leaves such to be most effective according to New Mexico State University.