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Smoking and Air Conditioning


People have known the dangers of smoking to health. Cigarettes contain thousands of harmful chemicals that can cause cancer, addiction, fetal loss, impotence and so on. Regulations 2004 amendments to the Tobacco Products Control Regulations 2005 have been underlined prohibited area and if convicted can be fined a maximum not exceeding RM 10,000.00 (ten thousand) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. The air-conditioned premises is one of the places gazettes as non-smoking areas. Air conditioning is often used in the office or at home. The main function of air conditioning is to freshen the air, in turn, provide comfort to the user. However, despite the convenience, there are harmful effects on health if it is not properly maintained.

Exposure to indoor environments that are unhealthy and dangerous can cause various unhealthy known as ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ (SBS). There are several studies said this syndrome contributes to health problems such as headaches, irritation of the eyes and skin and cramps1. Cigarette smoke is one source of pollutants that can contribute to SBS. Figure 1 describes how smoking can affect the health of individuals, even individuals that do not smoke. There are 4 of the 10 people in Malaysia who work in the building exposed to cigarette smoke or secondary smoker without realizing 2. It produced high indoor air pollution with gasses which produce 300 toxic1. It became worsened when the smoke mixes with other air pollutants such as in Table 1, in which turn to affect the respiratory system, cause harm to human health. In this case, vulnerable people such as the elderly, children, and pregnant women have low immunity.

Definitions / Terminology

Air conditioning is defined by a tool cozy (fresh) air; a tool to control humidity and temperature in a room, building, vehicles and so on to generate the air dry, cool and comfortable.
Smokers were defined as those who smoked more or stronger (Kamus Dewan Fourth Edition).
Secondary cigarette smoke / stale smoke that is generated from tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars or pipes where the smoke exhaled by a smoker. 4,5,6

The effects of smoking in the air conditioner room

  • Chemicals found in cigarette smoke can be transmitted through the internal air circulation system, lungs, and blood vessels.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke from tobacco smoke among smokers, even when she roams separately but share the same internal ventilation system.
  • The severity of the effects of cigarette smoke inhaled by non-smokers is greater than smokers.

Preventive measures

  • Air conditioning equipment must be maintained regularly to ensure that it works properly
  • Do not smoke in the air-conditioned area.
  • Make sure the occasional opening of windows to let fresh air replaces indoor air to reduce the accumulation of indoor air pollutants.

Figure 1. How a cigarette smoke can be inhaled in the air-conditioned


No Types of Pollutants
Volatile Organic Compounds (Volatile Organic Compounds(VOCs) for example: benzene, toluene, chloroform, acetone, styrene dan ethylene oxide.
2 Bacteria such as Anthrax, Brucellosis, Legionella sp. Pseudomonas sp., Streptococcal pneumonia, Tuberculosis
3 Fungi like Blastomycosis, Candida sp., Coccidioidomycosis, Histoplasmosis
  Protozoa such as Cryptosporidiosis, pneumocystis, pneumonia

Table 1. Types of Pollutants (Source: Medical Laboratory Observer, 1996)


  1. Morgan, M. T., Barnett, D. B., Carver, F. B., & Curtis, L. R. (1997). Environmental health. Morton.
  2. Malaysia Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2011 Fact Sheet (2011).
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2015 Aug 20].
  4. Institute of Medicine. Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects: Making Sense of the Evidence [PDF–707.47 KB]. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, 2009 [accessed 2015 Aug 20].
  5. National Toxicology Program. Report on Carcinogens, Thirteenth Edition. Research Triangle Park (NC): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 2014 [accessed 2015 Aug 20].
  6. Yu, B. F., Hu, Z. B., Liu, M., Yang, H. L., Kong, Q. X., & Liu, Y. H. (2009). Review of research on air-conditioning systems and indoor air quality control for human health. International journal of refrigeration32(1), 3-20.
  7. Kamus Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Edisi Ke Empat
Last Reviewed : 16 March 2017
Writer : Hjh. Ummi Nadiah bt. Yusoff
Accreditor : Mohd. Ridzuan bin Mohd Salleh