We are all aware of the health hazards to our own lives of tobacco smoking, and how even passive smoking (inhalation of smoke from someone else in the same room) can be damaging to babies or children. Yet how many people realize that such tobacco smoke is even more dangerous to pet birds?

Sixty or seventy years ago almost every adult smoked cigarettes or pipes as a matter of course; it was accepted as the norm, and no health problems were imagined. However, long before that time, it was well recognized that birds were ultra-sensitive to the presence of noxious gases in the atmosphere. This fact was utilized in the employment of canaries down coal-mines, as sentinels to detect methane and carbon monoxide. These gases are potentially poisonous to humans, but long before they built up in concentrations sufficient to damage miners, the canaries would breathe in small amounts and rapidly die. Thus the mine-workers would hopefully have sufficient time to get out before they too succumbed.

This susceptibility to inhaled toxins is a consequence of the unique and efficient respiratory system of birds. Each breath of inhaled air is passed twice, through the lungs, and the gaseous exchange mechanism in the blood vessels is ultra-effective, thus, they are able to draw more oxygen out of the air (essential for their high metabolic rate) than can mammals. However, this efficiency is not confined to oxygen – any other material in the inspired air is equally effectively absorbed.

Environmental tobacco smoke or second-hand smoke exhaled from a smoker as well as the smoke released from the end of burning cigarette, pipe of cigar. It consists of more than 4,000 chemicals including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, chromium, nickel, vinyl chloride and arsenic.

Scientific evidence carefully collected over the last 30 years shows that people repeatedly exposed to environmental tobacco smoke are more likely to develop and die from heart problems, lung cancer and breathing problems. Several studies have been done that show chronic exposure also increases the incidence of lung disease and eye irritation in our pets. Since birds have an extremely sensitive respiratory system, it makes sense that this can be particularly devastating to them.

You should be aware by now of the health risks associated with smoking. You should also know that the effects of passive smoke; inhalation of smoke from someone else in the same room; can be damaging as well. It only makes sense that the more delicate respiratory of parrots will be even more at risk in a home with a smoker. Smoking around your pets is extremely hazardous to your feathered friend and there is no doubt that the life expectancy of your parrot will be decreased if he is in close proximity to smokers.

Those impurities that permeate the air will also end up as a residual film on your feathered friends feathers. If you’ve ever been in a home with a smoker, you have probably seen ?yellowish? film that can build up on things like windows or sheer curtains. That film is left on the birds feathers so when a bird preens itself, it will ingest nicotine as well as other impurities that are in the air. This ingestion of these impurities will poison the bird and in time will cause system disorders as well as digestive malfunctions.

If a smoker handles a bird with nicotine stained fingers, the chemicals on the hand get on the skin of the birds feet sometimes resulting in cases of dermatitis on the feet. Do your bird a favor and don’t smoke. (some of this article is exerpts from Alan K. Jones, BVetMed, MRCVS of the United Kingdom who gave me permission and inspiration to complete this article and inform the public 9/8/2006 Mr. Jones inspired me to continue this issue. I also questioned many breeders over a two year period as well as many bird owners to which I thank all the opinions that I got. This article was meant to be written and read.

For birds, it is suspected that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke in poorly ventilated areas predisposes them to pneumonia and other respiratory ailments, including lung cancer. Unfortunately, many of the harmful products in smoke are in the form of gas. Therefore, environmental tobacco smoke cannot be entirely filtered out through ventilation systems or special fans. It can take many hours for the smoke of a single cigarette to clear. Keeping a bird healthy includes avoiding smoke from burnt food, burnt Teflon, house fires, as well as tobacco

Thus diverse materials such as scented candles or air-fresheners, paint fumes, decorating dust, feather dust, strong perfumes and of course overheated TEFLON fumes, will adversely affect birds. The latter particularly will kill birds within minutes.

The hobby of bird-keeping has existed for decades, thus developing alongside the smoking culture. However, while many public places (restaurants, cinemas, transport, etc) (note: most places today are non-smoking but not too long ago the previous applied) are now designated as non-smoking zones as we have become aware of the health hazards of cigarette smoke, it is still difficult o persuade visitors to bird shows that the smoke they are exhaling is potentially more damaging to the birds they have come to see than it is to themselves!

This note is from an avian veterinary clinician: I see this damage manifest in two ways. The first is a result of the atmospheric chemicals on the outside of the bird. If you have ever walked into the home of a heavy smoker, and seen the wallpaper, paintwork and net curtains stained yellow with nicotine, you will appreciate how this pollutant will also settle on the birds plumage. Pet birds living in such a home will have feathers that are dull and dark, often feeling greasy to the touch. Their normal attempts to preen and keep the feathers in good order will be in vain, and they will end up over-preening and plucking themselves in attempts to get rid of the noxious deposit. Many cases of feather plucking parrots we see are the direct result of cigarette smoking in the home.

The nicotine that is inevitably swallowed in the preening process will poison the bird, leading to digestive malfunction and nervous signs. Birds that are tame and are handled frequently by the nicotine-stained fingers of their smoking owners will not only have permanently dirty plumage, but the chemical will often act as a direct skin irritant. These birds can develop dermatitis on their legs and feet.

The second manifestation of tobacco smoking damage in birds is the internal result of the inhaled smoke and its chemical contents. The tars, nicotine, and hydrocarbons contained in the smoke will settle in the lungs and air-sacs of the bird with exactly the same effects as they do in humans. Blood pressure will rise, lungs will function with reduced efficiency, and the heart will become damaged by the toxins and the extra work it has to perform.

This was no better illustrated than by a post-mortem examination (a gent in the United Kingdom) carried out several years ago on a much-loved Amazon parrot. The bird was 35 years of age and quite a character. He had an extensive vocabulary of words, but also sounds such as telephone and door bells, laughing and crying, coughing and sneezing. Unlike many talking birds, he loved an audience and would go through his repertoire to order. His owner for the last 5 years of his life was a lady who used the bird as entertainment

Breeders thoughts:

From Linda: When I approached a bird breeders chat group I wanted opinions on the good and bad of smoking; their personal thoughts and the following is what I received which gives a good heads up to the subject as this is a subject that most people still do not want to talk about as they could be a smoker, previous smoker and now non-smoker. I do not want to come off judging others, just want to protect our animals and humans that breathe our air. I myself am a previous smoker and have been a non-smoker for many years; however, never have owned a bird during this time. This is now a smoke-free environment and I can notice the difference in my air that I breathe (having asthma especially makes me notice more) and things just smell different; especially clothing, furniture, curtains, etc. This is just my opinion.

From Debra: I do know of lots of breeders who do smoke. But most do not smoke around there baby’s. I also know of lots of pet owners that smoke. Some one that I know has had a bird for 22 years and they have smoked the whole time. Now this bird has been to the vet and all is good with the bird. I’m not saying smoking is a good thing or bad just tell you what I know of. And some breeders will not smoke around the birds. I would like to see what the group from birdbreeders Think. Also in my eye's i Know smoking is no good for us.And it's no good for the parrot's.Some people have been smocking for year's right up to old age and nothing has happen to them.But again i know of some younger people who have pass away from it.So what im saying smock is no good for us or the parrot's.I did smoke at one time and now have C.O.P.D from it.So that's what i got from smoking. . Feb. 7, 2006


From Maggie: I quit before I ever had the birds and wouldn’t allow it around them. I do know of another breeder that smokes while feeding the babies and although most of the birds survive, I often wonder if they have a shortened life span. I guess we’ll never know. Than again, some humans have never smoked and die of lung cancer too. I have no idea as to what to say about that one.

From Anna: I have always had my birds in a separate room for themselves (the Fids room). I smoke outside of the house at the moment. (I’m renting and that’s the rules}. If I smoke inside it is not around my birds?.they are away in their rooms before I smoke. Hope this helps?..If quest want to smoke they have to go to another section of the house or outside?I do smoke in the house when they are not out and about. For now I go outside because we are all together in a mini apartment for now. I find the air is nicer for both myself and my birds and other animals if the smoking is done outside. And in a 2nd email is the following: When I worked for a breeder there was absolutely NO SMOKING anywhere NEAR the birds?breeders, babies, pets, house.

From Joan: There was a really friendly African Grey at our local pet store that I would have loved to have but didn’t have the money. He was finally bought by a woman who due to life changes had to sell him 4 months later. A friend bought him and was having real problems with him, biting, screaming and just not a happy bird. She took him to the Vet and the found he had C.O.P.D. A problem encountered by LONG TERM SMOKERS. This beautiful bird had to be put to sleep. Smoking around birds to me is a No. I do smoke but not in the house and as an extra precaution I also have a filter system between the birds upstairs just in case some of the smoke filters into the front room where they are. I never smoke around the birds. And after having a cig I wash my hands. I do not let my birds preen my hair. It is a cruel addiction.

From Starla D. I have always read that cigarette smoke is toxic for the birds?and when I smoked I never did light up around them. But I will say that a relative of mine owns a cockatiel. She has had him since he was a baby and he is 19 years old. She is a heavy smoker, and so is her husband?she has candles burning all the time and?the cage is in the kitchen which means she cooks around him all the time to, and I have read that that is’t good either. Now I am not telling anyone this because I think it is ok to do such a thing around the birds, I am just stating that in this one case, it obviously has not seemed to harm the little guy. I wonder, since she has had him since he was just a couple months old..could it be that this one bird had just adjusted to being around these pollutants?
What do you all think?
NOW I AM GOING TO JUST SOME EXCERPTS FROM HER EMAIL AS IT IS LONG:Now I have to add something else here?I am an EX smoker?it will be one year since I smoked. She tried everything to quit which was very hard for her. She was diagnosed with kidney cancer in the summer and had surgery to remove the kidney and now she states it is not worth the risk of ever doing it again; that and her 3 young children. Feb. 10, 2006

Credit, permission, and thoughts given by the following
Alan Jones – United Kingdom – article by Dr. Dawn Ruben
Debra Amikons at


Linda Loerzel at
Maggie Rice at
Anna at
Joan at
Starla D. at



Down Life’s Highway,
We traveled for many years,
Through Good,
Through Bad,
But always Near.

Our Time together will always be cherished,
Our lives entwined for eternity,
I’ll always watch over you
As you always watched over me,
Growing older together was not enough time.

Our love withheld time for us,
Our tears show our love,
Our heart will never still,
As we loved each other and always understood.

Our paths will always be one.


Linda Nov. 2, 2002

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