User Question: Can Smoking with an Oxygen Machine be Dangerous?

We always encourage questions about using oxygen therapy equipment, especially when it comes to safety. No question is a bad question, so always feel free to contact us! The following question is a good one since it has to do with oxygen and fire safety.

“I'm having a very hard time quitting smoking since I was diagnosed with COPD and put on oxygen. I was already under a lot of stress, and my diagnosis just made it worse. I've tried several methods for quitting without much luck yet, and I've heard that I shouldn't smoke while using my oxygen concentrator because oxygen helps the fire to spread. I was wondering if it would be safe to smoke if I go outside while using my portable oxygen concentrator.” – Name Withheld

Dear Friend Who Is Trying to Quit Smoking,

We always advise against smoking while using an oxygen concentrator, or any oxygen therapy equipment, because if a spark catches the oxygen and has a fuel source, it will ignite and spread extremely fast. The "fuel source" can be anything from a small patch of dry grass, a carpet, or your clothing or hair.

When a fire comes in contact with pure oxygen, like that from an oxygen concentrator, it will burn much hotter because fire needs oxygen to burn. When more oxygen is present, it can become out of control in the blink of an eye.

Please be safe and do not smoke at all while you are using your portable oxygen concentrator if you are indoors or outdoors. We advise you to keep at least a 10-foot radius from others who are smoking, or from campfires or other open flames.

Since you have COPD, you should turn your home into a non-smoking area, for your safety and everyone else's. Fire safety aside, second-hand smoke is even more harmful than first-hand smoke. Anyone in your home that comes in contact with cigarette smoke is at a higher risk of developing COPD later in life, the longer they are around it.

And, of course, don't give up on trying to quit. It's very hard to quit smoking, but there are many things you can do to make it easier. Use electronic cigarettes and slowly reduce the amount of nicotine, or use nicotine gum or patches to help you quit. Stay busy with things you enjoy doing, and start new healthy habits, such as drinking more water or start a new exercise routine (approved by your doctor).

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

13 thoughts on “User Question: Can Smoking with an Oxygen Machine be Dangerous?”

  • Lorraine Doran

    My neighbor is leaving hospital soon . And will be on oxygen. He smokes and falls asleep .. forgetting to switch things off .. can this be dangerous

  • MartiniBeanie

    One of my neighbors has an enormous oxygen machine in her apt & she's a chain smoker. I'm concerned she's going to blow up this building. Is there anyone who we (neighbors ) can report her to?

    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment. That is quite concerning and we can understand your worry. Our suggestion would be to call your local fire marshall to complain regarding a continuous fire hazard. You may also be able to speak to the landlord of the complex and express your concern over the dangers at place.

  • Holly Lemieux

    If oxygen is shut off while smoking and at least 10 ft away are you safe when oxygen is turned off?

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman April 30, 2018 at 7:48 am

      We always advise against smoking while using an oxygen concentrator, or any oxygen therapy equipment, because if a spark catches the oxygen and has a fuel source, it will ignite and spread extremely fast. However, as we stated you should always keep at least a 10 ft radius around you when you are around others that smoke. This should also apply when you turn off the machine and step away from it while smoking.

      • Vikki cipullo
        Vikki cipullo May 24, 2020 at 8:41 am

        I do NOT advise smoking at cigarette in your hand...or you and the whole house can go up I AM TOLD FROM MY OXYGEN if you have to smoke go AWAY from the oxygen machine....and shut off and GO OUTSIDE AND MAKE SURE IT IS FAR AWAY OR YOU WON'T SMOKE ANYMORE CAUSE YOU WILL BE DEAD.

  • Big R

    While I was working at a hospital in the 90s, a patient approached us in a wheelchair. My colleagues and I were seated at the tables for lunch in the courtyard. I noticed she was on an oxygen nasal cannula. We checked her 02sats and they were on the low side. Inquiring whether she ought to be on an 02 mask, she giggled and stated she had to switch out to the cannula so she could smoke.
    With that she pulled out a cigarette and we told her nicely not to light it. She did comply hesitatingly and asked what the problem was, lol! We nicely explained that the two did not mix.
    I also began to explain that aside from that I would like the opportunity to explain the importance of breathing consciously instead of reflexively breathing semi shallow as most people do. She perked up and hung on every word encouraging me to continue. All along she held her cigarette in her hand and displayed some mild shaking of the extremities of the hand.
    I explained that breathing well is something one would do if exercising, running, walking briskly, playing a sport etc. Then when done they would likely go back to shallow/semi shallow breathing that's customary. Also if someone had their head underwater while swimming, that they would tend to take a deep breath when their head broke the surface of the water. Those are, I continued to tell her, some of the rare occasions when people breathe properly with the breathing discipline necessary for efficiency. She seemed to appreciate the advice. Additionally I asked her if she breathed in as well on the 02 tube (cannula/mask) as she tends to do while inhaling on her cigarette. She instantly grasped the essence of what I was trying to get across. She agreed that it was always a nice deep inhaling breath while smiling and a shallow one when breathing. It all seemed to make a lot of sense to her and she demonstrated how deep she could now breathe with the cannula and her 02 sats jumped up to 95% and above. We trusted she got the idea and she then quick disconnected from her line and had a quick smoke as we watched and then put her 02 line back on again, lol! I advised her that if she must smoke, to take two deep breaths of fresh air for every puff of her cigarette. So as to expel as much of the smoke from her lungs before she puffed again. She left with a promise to do that and not mix oxygen and smoking in any way.
    Ironically the next day we heard about a patient in one of the wards that lit a cigarette in his room that night with the oxygen line open and got burned pretty bad. There was yellow tape ouside that cornfined off his room which was also obviously damaged. Glad it wasn't her but feel sorry for the guy. Cheers!

  • Pam

    If my husband smokes a cigar and the window is down is it alright for him to smoke his cigar while I'm in the car with my oxygen on level 2 !

    • Margaret Goodman

      It is always best to not be around someone who is smoking while on oxygen for health reasons alone. You are however safe as long as the cigar is not right next to the machine.

    • VIKKI

      NO...I would NOT trust a lit cigarette or my oxygen people told gave me stories of all of them blowing up with the house they lived in....

  • connie mckamy
    connie mckamy June 9, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    I just moved into apts in March. I told the manager I had recently been diagnosed with multiple P.Es in both lungs. After moving in I discovered my next door neighbor (and various male guests) smoke cigarettes and marijuana) on our shared 4ft x 5ft balcony and stairway. The neighbor just below her smokes but is respectful and cut down 90% as his wife is very pregnant. Then we get to the neighbor directly below me who smokes under the open stairway and open outside area (5 ft x 10ft). This area has walls on 3 sides. These neighbors also have smoke cans which they leave all their used butts in. The downstairs one has his coffee can filled with 6 inches of butts sitting on a table covered in 1/2 inch of ash. I have spoken to them several times. They think moving to the end of the stairs or running down the stairs past me when I come home is enough, I have never been in ICU in my life. I have been here for less then 3 months and have been admitted to the cardiac ICU, suffer chest pains several days per week, had a positive over night oximetry verifying the need for oxygen. I am not a smoker and never have been. I had a repeat VQ scan last week that shows the PEs are dissolved but still I need oxygen. I have spoken to the manager and nothing has changed. I called the County Health Dept and was told they would send a violation to the complex. I will add that there are 2 places in the lease that address not interfering with other tenants health, peaceful living with use of alcohol, weed, cigarettes or other substances. Also no butts, ashtrays are to be outside. I am worried about my shortness of breath, chest pain, waking at night from it/always being tired, dizzy (have fallen several times bruising bones) increased risk of blood clots and now oxygen so close to the lit cigarettes of these selfish people. I will need it to get up the stairs and sometimes they are within 2 feet of me with a lit cigarette. My dad (a 50 yr plus smoker with beginning/medial lung disease) yelled at me and told me I have no right to expect them not to smoke as they lived here before I did. I am unsure of where to go from here as the neighbors and management are clearly not getting how serious this is for me

  • Claire Simpson

    My mum seems to think it's ok to smoke near her oxygen because it's not plugged in. I think not

    • Sanket Jain

      You are correct. We do not recommend smoking near an oxygen concentrator whether plugged in or not. Although a turned off oxygen concentrator does not contain oxygen, it's still harmful to smoke near the device - when she turns the unit back on and the smoke has not dissipated, it'll get into the concentrator and damage the device. We do not encourage smoking at all.


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