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can parrots die from cigarette smoke?

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

(Last Updated On: May 13, 2023)

These days, almost everyone is aware of the dangers of passive smoking. Unfortunately, smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes poses an even greater risk to pet birds.

Don’t smoke in a parrot’s room! Inhaling tobacco smoke and nicotine is more harmful to parrots as it passes through their lungs and air sacs twice. Parrots’ respiratory systems exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke 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. So, a parrot can still become sick or die from exposure to vaping.

Can Parrots Die from Cigarette Smoke?

Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke can result in a parrot developing illnesses, leading to:

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

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

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

can cigarette smoke kill parrots?

Respiratory System

Parrots have a series of air sacs spread throughout their inner chest.

This unique setup means a parrot will have every breath of air 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 works against the parrot regarding tobacco smoke, as it’ll inhale more toxins from the air. So, nicotine and tar will more profoundly affect a parrot’s body.

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

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 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 develop health issues after exposure to cigarette smoke. In the meantime, the parrot may show difficulty breathing, exercising, 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 cancerous.

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

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. So, secondhand smoke leaves a real biological mark on a parrot.

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

Lung Disease

Parrots can sustain damage to their lungs from secondhand smoke. They may have a reduced lung capacity, have difficulty exercising, 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.

An issue for parrots is aspergillosis, usually caused by fungal spores. However, the toxins in cigarettes can have the same effects.

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 long-term 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 any of the illnesses they fail to 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, yours may continue preening in the hope of removing the substance. If it fails, it may become angry, uncomfortable, or destructive.

Aside from behavioral issues, preening may switch to plucking out feathers. This self-mutilation could leave the parrot bald or damage the skin, causing bleeding and infections.

Skin Conditions

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

However, even a fully-feathered parrot can get dermatitis from secondhand smoke. This will be most common on the legs, where the protective barrier of feathers provides little protection.

Bad nicotine and chemical exposure cases can result in sores, which may appear directly on the skin because of secondhand smoke.

However, the most common reason is that 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 cleans its feathers, it may swallow the toxins, leading to 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 the secondhand smoke. Always smoke outside the home, and keep all windows and doors closed.