Dangers of Smoking While Using Oxygen

January 5th, 2012 by @lamberts

Two days ago marked the latest tragedy of a person burned or killed due to smoking while using oxygen.  The Lorain, Ohio woman’s face, eyebrows, and hair were burned by the flash fire that erupted as she smoked, but fortunately she survived.  The day before, a Scottish man in Edinburgh was not so lucky.  While receiving treatment at a local hospital, he snuck into a bathroom to have a cigarette in spite of being on oxygen.  His cigarette sparked a fire, cost him his life, and endangered the other patients and staff of the hospital.

These are not isolated incidents.  Just in the past 10 days, news reports reveal a staggering number of deaths and injuries caused by smoking while on oxygen:

  • Jan. 3–Lorain, OH woman burns face, eyebrows, hair
  • Jan. 2— Edinburgh, Scotland man died
  • Jan. 1— Lakewood, CO man died
  • Dec. 30–Kansas City, KS man did over $3,000 fire damage to home
  • Dec. 30–Portland, OR man burns face, lungs
  • Dec.  27— Manchester, NH man died
  • Dec. 27— Carthage, MO 2 hospitalized with burns, dozen homeless from fire

However, do not interpret these events to mean that oxygen therapy is something to be afraid of.  It is to be respected.

Oxygen therapy is a life-saving medical treatment that has benefitted millions of Americans and others throughout the world.   It is a critical part of treatment for a variety of illnesses, injuries, and diseases, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), one of the leading causes of death worldwide.  Oxygen therapy allows one to receive a higher concentration of pure oxygen, aiding in heart function, easier breathing, better sleeping, reduced blood pressure, improved mental clarity, and more.

The same reasons that enable oxygen to help people are also what makes cigarettes + oxygen such a deadly combination.  When one receives oxygen therapy, it’s 100% pure oxygen.  As you remember from grade school, the three ingredients to make a fire are fuel, heat, and an oxidizing agent (oxygen).

Fire Triangle

If you or a loved one uses supplemental oxygen, Homecare Advocate offers the following tips:

  • If you’re on oxygen, DO NOT smoke.
  • If you live with or visit someone on oxygen, DO NOT smoke around them.
  • Stay away from open flames, sparks, and gas (including gas stoves).
  • Turn the oxygen off while not in use.
  • Avoid petroleum-based products.
  • Do not use aerosol sprays nearby.
  • Comply with all safety instructions provided by your home medical equipment company.
  • Keep your oxygen concentrator in a well-ventilated area.
  • Never allow the tubing, cannula, or mask to be covered, as it can result in a buildup of concentrated oxygen.
  • Keep the name and number of your home medical equipment provider in a prominent spot for reference.
  • Post a sign stating DANGER: No Smoking, Oxygen in Use (download the one below if you’d like)

Homecare Advocate Blog Post #48: Dangers of Smoking While Using Oxygen

Companies like Lambert’s who provide oxygen to our patients have qualified respiratory therapists and service technicians who are available to assist you with training, instructions, maintenance, repairs, and support while you are using supplemental oxygen.  If you have any questions on how you can create a safer environment for you and your loved ones while using oxygen, please call your provider.


17 Responses to “Dangers of Smoking While Using Oxygen”

March 28, 2012 at 10:16 am, Doug Allaire said:

Now i know, thanks for the info


April 09, 2012 at 11:58 am, Oxygen Concentrator said:

My dr just put me on oxygen therapy at night because my oxygen saturation levels were dropping to about 82% at night (according to a sleep study). They brought the concentrator out Monday and I’m supposed to sleep with it on…..but, I can’t sleep with it on. The last 2 nights I have lain there awake for 2 hours and finally had to turn it off so I could get any sleep at all. It kind of makes me feel funny….maybe it’s just anxiety but it feels like my heart is doing flip flops/palpitations in my chest. I can doze off for a second and then awake in a panic with my heart racing. Plus, it’s loud but I can’t put it in the hall because we have dogs and cats in & out & I’m afraid one of them would chew up the tubing. And, I don’t like anything on my face. Does anyone have any suggestions? Are there any possible negative side effects to using oxygen? I think I’m only on 2 lpm, that’s not much is it? I think I’m just nervous about it…..can anyone put my mind at ease? Thanks.

Is high flow oxygen therapy dangerous for patients with severe pulmonary hypertension?
I just wanted to find out if high flow oxygen therapy can release blood clots or cause a stroke if administered suddenly to patients with severe pulmonary hypertension.


April 17, 2012 at 10:42 am, Ashley Plauche said:

It is important to follow your physician’s orders for using Oxygen therapy, as there are numerous potential problems that can arise from not using it regularly and as prescribed. The oxygen concentrator shouldn’t be too loud; at Lambert’s, our staff uses Phillips Respironics EverFlo Q, which is a quiet model that makes very little noise. You are right to be concerned about pets chewing on the tubes, so I would recommend keeping it and the concentrator away from them. Wearing the tubing may be a bit of an adjustment at first, but most people become accustomed to it after a short period of time. If it continues to bother you, check with your home medical equipment provider or physician for further guidance.


April 19, 2012 at 2:40 am, Shanika Mcraney said:

Just wanted to stop by and say thanks. Enjoy reading your stuff.


July 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm, Mitzi Turpin said:

Thank you for this entry. I printed it to send to my dad, who has COPD and uses oxygen, yet still smokes. I am scared to death he will cause a fire. He thinks the dangers are exaggerated, and there is no reasoning with him. He lives in an apartment building, so I am going to tell the management of the apartment complex that he is using oxygen and smoking. I’d say they will not be happy with it! I’ve tried to tell him he is endangering not only himself but also others who live in his building, but he doesn’t care.


August 06, 2012 at 9:11 am, Ashley Plauche said:

Mitzi, so sorry to hear that your father doesn’t understand the dangers of smoking while using oxygen. To reinforce what you talked to him about, perhaps you can contact his home medical equipment provider and have a therapist or technician talk to him about this again. Thank you for speaking out and helping protect your father and those around him; best of luck!


February 10, 2014 at 10:49 am, lue maxey said:

My mother has smoked non filtered cigarettes for over 60 years. She has cronic COPD and has been put on oxyen at home. I bought her electronic cigs and she did fine with them for a month then went back to smoking. Recently she woke me up at 1am and said she needed my help. She had caught her oxygen tube on fire while smoking and burned her face. Cheeks, nose, lip and singed her eyelashes..she was really lucky she didn’t catch the bed on fire or worse. I warned her about smoking with the oxygen on but she was sneaking the cigarettes and nothing happened so she kept it up until this happened. For the past few days she has gone back to the electronic cigarette and has not lit another one since. I hope for her sake and everyone in this house that she doesn’t try it again.
This is a great website and people need to know to respect the oxygen that they are on.


October 29, 2014 at 11:25 am, Ashley Plauche said:

Lue, thanks for sharing your personal story. I’m so glad your mom was able to recover from her injuries. You’re 100% right: it’s critical that people respect the oxygen therapy–if mishandled it can have devastating consequences. We’re glad our blog and Web site have been helpful to you.


July 30, 2012 at 6:35 pm, Dianna Cardell said:

Really good post. I just came on your blog and wanted to say i always have really really liked reading your blog posts. Anyway I am going to be subscribing to your feed and I really hope you post again soon enough.


August 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm, hypertension said:

I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension a few years ago. I get short of breath doing ordinary things that other people who are healthy don’t even think about, such as light housework or walking around the shopping mall. I take my medicine as prescribed by my doctor. I am grateful that I have many friends who are very supportive. At times, I feel bad emotionally with my family because I can’t do the things I once did. I don’t want to spoil their fun when doing things as a family. I was once a very active person and besides feeling bad physically, I have to deal with my emotions, although I always try my best to stay positive and happy. I try not to dwell too much on what I used to do, but I concentrate on what I can do. I can’t change my diagnosis, but I can change what I choose to think about it.


October 25, 2012 at 12:00 am, Jeramy Seabaugh said:

What a fantastic article! Thanks and keep up the good work!


October 30, 2012 at 7:55 am, Trula Riase said:

Fantastic post! I found it really useful.


December 31, 2013 at 12:25 pm, cyril said:

danger of smoking with oxygen or NOT
all the people smoking are a huge pain


February 08, 2014 at 3:37 am, Kayelani Daniels said:

Thursday night my dad was rushed by ambulance to the emergency room because while using his oxygen he decided to smoke a scigarette. He didn’t even turn it off first and flames shot up his face burning off the better portion of the hair above his shoulders. Now the doctors say he will have severe scaring and will never grow hair from the neck up. The reason i put this up is because like many he never listened to the warnings and this was not the first time he smoked while using his oxygen, because nothing ever happened before nobody really paid to much attention. So when he went to light a cigarette that night nobody even noticed but then a ll the sudden my dads face was nothing but flames and because my dad has very long facial hair and even longer hair on his head everyone panicked. We should have been much more cautious and not allowed him to smoke near it. Just because nothing happens one time does not mean that you will be as lucky the next so please, remember the warnings are there for a reason and should be taken very seriously.


October 29, 2014 at 11:27 am, Ashley Plauche said:

So true! Thanks for sharing your story; it’s tremendously beneficial for our blog followers to hear first-hand stories as a deterrent for themselves or their loved ones to smoke–or be around smokers–while near oxygen.


August 03, 2014 at 12:22 pm, Carol Lee said:

A very close friend, age 62, was on home oxygen therapy for end-stage COPD, per Hospice protocol. On 06/30.2014, she managed to get a hold of a cigarette, lit it, and suffered third degree burns over 55% of her body, along with inhalation injuries. This was such a tragic accident. Apparently, she had been allowed to smoke while supervised, without the nasal O2 in use. Family members suspect that she had “stashed” cigarettes. Fortunately, she passed peacefully. heavily medicated with narcotics and sedatives.


October 29, 2014 at 9:38 am, Ashley Plauche said:

I’m sorry to hear of her passing. Many don’t know the dangers, risks, and protocols of using oxygen therapy, and I’m sorry that your friend paid that price. Our condolences to her loved ones.


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