Home » How Does Smoking Affect Parrots? (Cigarette + Tobacco Fumes)
can parrots die from cigarette smoke?

How Does Smoking Affect Parrots? (Cigarette + Tobacco Fumes)

Last Updated on: 20th July 2023, 11:18 am

We’re all aware of the dangers of passive smoking. Unfortunately, cigarettes, cigars, and pipes pose a much greater risk to pet birds, especially as they’re caged and can’t leave the room.

Don’t smoke in a parrot’s room! Inhaling tobacco smoke and nicotine harms birds like parrots more because it passes through their lungs and air sacs twice.

Parrots’ respiratory systems exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke can develop breathing issues, skin conditions, rapid heart rates, pneumonia, and cancer.

Although vaping has fewer chemicals than traditional smoking, it’s not free of deadly toxins. Consequently, a parrot can still become sick or die from exposure to vaping in confined conditions.

Can Parrots Die from Cigarette Smoke?

Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to sickness and disease, leading to:

  • Breathing troubles.
  • Skin conditions.
  • Addiction.
  • Feather damage.
  • Cancer.

While this is true for many pets exposed to secondhand smoke, birds are at particular risk.

A macaw is more likely to experience breathing problems than a dog because parrots have a unique respiratory system, making them more susceptible to airborne toxins.

can cigarette smoke kill parrots?

Respiratory System

Parrots have air sacs spread throughout their inner chest.

This unique arrangement means every breath of air will pass through it twice. A parrot can take in more oxygen from the air by using an effective gas exchange mechanism in its blood vessels.

Unfortunately, this conspires against the parrot regarding tobacco smoke because it’ll inhale more toxins from the air. Nicotine and tar will more profoundly affect the avian body.

A parrot doesn’t need to smoke cigarettes to experience the negative effects. Being in the same room while someone smokes can cause severe respiratory issues or death.

Remember, a parrot can’t leave the room (it’s caged) or tell you when it’s in distress.

External Problems

Parrots exposed to tobacco and marijuana products will manifest issues externally.

Secondhand smoke will remain in the air and settle on furniture, clothes, and other household items. Alongside the chemicals, small ash particles affect the parrot’s lungs and air sacs.

It doesn’t matter if you avoid blowing that smoke toward a parrot. Secondhand smoke affects the area around the smoker. Even if you smoke outside, traces will remain on your skin and clothing.

The smoke will begin to coat the parrot’s feathers. As it preens, chemicals lingering on the feathers will be ingested, which can be poisonous, especially for parrots with compromised immune systems.

Can Cigarette Smoke Kill Parrots?

A parrot is more likely to succumb following exposure to cigarette smoke. In the meantime, the parrot may show difficulty breathing, moving, and flying.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco contains over 7,000 chemicals. Many of these chemicals are toxic, and at least 70 are carcinogenic.

Parrots breathe in more oxygen (and smoke) than humans. They also have more vulnerable immune systems and can fall victim to more toxins than us.

The Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery reveals that parrots exposed to secondhand smoke have significantly higher cotinine levels.

This is a byproduct of metabolized nicotine and is used as a marker to show that something has been exposed to tobacco. Secondhand smoke leaves a biological mark on a parrot.

This lingers after the cigarette is extinguished. Opening a window or turning on a fan won’t entirely remove the smoke and nicotine from the parrot’s environment or air sacs.

Lung Disease

Parrots can sustain damage to their lungs and air sacs from secondhand smoke. They may have a reduced lung capacity, have difficulty moving, or struggle to breathe at higher altitudes.

While most pet parrots aren’t allowed to fly to the same heights as wild parrots, this still permanently damages their bodies and reduces their life expectancy.

An issue for parrots is aspergillosis, usually caused by fungal spores. However, cigarette toxins can have similar effects but happen much sooner.

This results in suffocation and eventually death if not treated early. Parrots that are elderly or have compromised immune systems are most at risk.

High Blood Pressure And Heart Issues

Nicotine is a stimulant and depressant which affects the central nervous system.

For this reason, humans and parrots can develop high blood pressure from exposure to secondhand smoke. However, parrots may develop it sooner due to the complex blood vessels in their lungs.

This enables them to absorb more oxygen than humans and more toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke.

When paired with their fast-paced metabolism, parrots are efficient but vulnerable creatures. Also, the chemicals in nicotine can cause heart damage.

can parrots get addicted to nicotine?

Damaged Immune System

If the parrot had a strong immune system, it might not occur until after continued exposure to smoking. Secondhand smoke can affect the body’s ability to fight other illnesses and diseases.

This can be especially dangerous in young chicks, which may develop permanent health complications from illnesses they can’t effectively fight off.

Likewise, older parrots may succumb to deadly diseases they’d otherwise avoid.

Feather Plucking

Secondhand smoke and ash can make a parrot’s feathers dingy, dirty, and hard to clean.

Since parrots are diligent about cleaning their feathers, a bird may continue preening in the hope of removing the substance. If it fails, it may become upset, uncomfortable, or destructive.

Aside from behavioral issues, preening may switch to feather-destructive behavior. This self-mutilation could leave the parrot bald or damage the skin, resulting in bleeding and bacterial infections.

Skin Conditions

If a parrot has removed many of its feathers and has bare skin, it’s at risk of developing skin conditions.

Even a fully-feathered parrot can get dermatitis from secondhand smoke. This will be most common on the legs, where there isn’t a protective barrier of feathers.

Extreme nicotine and chemical exposure cases can result in sores, which may manifest directly on the skin due to secondhand smoke.

The most common reason is the parrot removes its feathers and pecks at the bare skin. Infections can develop, causing the parrot to dig at vulnerable wounds with its beak.


If ingested, the toxins in tobacco (including tar and nicotine) can poison parrots. As the parrot grooms and preens its feathers, it may ingest toxins, causing digestive issues.

Can Parrots Get Addicted To Nicotine?

The Department of Health for New York State found that 23.2% of adults smoke, and up to 98% of pigeons in New York City are addicted to nicotine.

This was discovered through blood samples and stool tests, where traces of cigarette paper were found.

An addicted parrot will crave nicotine. If the parrot experiences withdrawal symptoms, this could result in behavioral issues. The parrot may become destructive, confused, agitated, and refuse food.

If you smoke, do so outdoors where the parrot won’t inhale secondhand smoke. Always smoke outside the home, and keep all windows and doors closed.