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Avatar universal

constantly smell cigarette smoke

I have been experiencing the same thing for about a week or so--smell cigarette smoke when no smoke exists. Thought it was coming from the AC vent in my office but then started smelling it in car and at home. The strange thing is that when I inhale, sometimes the odor is so real I feel my eyes slightly burning as if I were sitting next to someone smoking. I am 40 yrs. old, never smoked, have been off depression meds for about 8 mos. No recent sinus infections.

This discussion is related to constantly smelling cigarette smoke.
132 Responses
Avatar universal

Do you mean to say that there is no possibility of smoke after smell in the AC or blowers in the car and at home?

There is a possibility that the smoke is already present there. Then there is perhaps the need to get the AC cleaned out in both of these places.

However, if no on else feels that there is any smoke at these places, there might be some other trigger here which is associated with cigarette smoke which is triggering this reaction in your mind and tells your body that there is smoke when actually there is none. This may happen due to Association of one stimuli with another response.

I think you should first get these places checked for any smells and get it cleaned out, cigarette smoke may be retained in the furnishings and linen.

Thereafter we may consider any other treatment for you.

let me know if this helped.
Avatar universal
There is no smoke in the air vents or around the house. It is someting within us. You are not alone.

I understand exactly what you are going thru. I have the same exact problem. I'm going on 3 months now. Sometimes I find myself taking little shallow breaths of air to avoid the full impact of the smoke smell.  

In search for some relief  I had found that the carbon dioxide that we expel during our breathing cycle is definitely an immediate relief for me from the smokey smell.  I find myself just raising the neck potion of the shirt or t-shirt I'm wearing right over my nose and continue to breathe normally. I do the same with the bed sheet when I go to bed. I just lay it over my nose and mouth and breathe. And even after I remove the shirt or the sheet, I am smoke free for a while.  The carbon dioxide stops the smell for me. I'm going to guess that if you use a paper mask (like a dust mask), poke a few holes in it for a little exchange air, it will work just the same. It works , it really does.  

This may or may not work for you as some other member found it did not work for them.

But there's more, I went to the Dr this week and very hessitantly brought the subject up if he knew what Phantosmia was. Not immediately but did not look at me like if I had 2 heads and a tail. Anyway, he asked if I suffered from acid reflux and I said yes, sometimes. He said that acid reflux does not always presents itself as a gulp of acid rushing up your throat. It can be non symptomatic. He gave me some medication and said if that did not take care of the problem he'd send me for am MRI to rule out anything serious.  

And another thing. I am a Paxil user.I've been on Paxil for over 12 years I recently started to reduce the amount of Paxil that I take from 5mg a day to 5mg every other day. The smokey episodes have decresed but not totaly gone.

Keep me posted
I have saw multiple doctors regarding this condition. Smell of smoke came from too much acid in my stomach. I stopped dirking coffee and avoided high acidic food. Smell of smoke is GONE! my dentist figure it out.  I hope this helps
Avatar universal
This happens to me all the time too ~ I feel like someone is actually sitting beside me, smoking a cigarrete right into my face.  I am a non-smoker and so is the rest of my family.  Sometimes the smell is so strong I feel like my chest is heavy with smoke and my eyes are a little foggy  I really hate it. After reading through some blogs, I'm happy to see there are others have have experienced this so I don't feel crazy, but I'm surprised there are no one has any real answers to what this is.  
Why You Smell Phantom Cigarette Smoke When Nobody’s Smoking
Nobody around is smoking, so why do you smell cigarette smoke? Is this crazy or what? There are some explanations for this phenomenon.

“There are many reasons that cause people to have phantom smells and/or bad smells (known as parosmia),” explains Jordan S. Josephson, MD, Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in NY, Author of Sinus Relief Now, Director of the New York Nasal and Sinus Center.

Unfortunately, some causes of smelling cigarette smoke
when nobody is smoking are very serious:

“These phantom smells can be caused by damage to the olfactory nerve by chemicals, or infection with a virus or bacteria, or trauma. A tumor of the brain or the olfactory nerve can also cause phantom smells. Or it can be caused by the infection itself. And the resulting sensation is then confused in the brain with the smell of cigarette smoke.”

More about parosmia: Dr. Josephson notes, “The bottom line is that many people may get this sensation at one time or another. If it comes and goes, then again, there is probably nothing to worry about. However, there are a few conditions that can cause parosmia, and this lasts longer than a fleeting moment, or recurs more frequently, and this is something that needs to be looked at carefully.”

Why is cigarette smoke usually the phantom smell? “The parosmia is often described like the smell of smoke or cigarette smoke or like something that is burning. Overall this symptom is poorly understood and we don’t know why people relate this to cigarette smoke. It may be that the neurologic signals sent to the brain by the damage is closest to what we have learned is the smell of cigarette smoke or something burning.”  

If one has parosmia, when should he seek medical attention? “If the parosmia lingers, worsens and does not get better or it occurs with increasing frequency, you should probably see a board certified otolaryngologist and a neurologist and get studies to evaluate the cause of this problem. The good news is there most likely is a solution for most of these sufferers.”

What is it about phantom cigarette smoke and being alone in a car and nobody’s been puffing tobacco? “Many people report that this sensation of parosmia is brought on by dry heated air.  That is probably why many people report this to occur in the car because of the heating system in the car blowing dry air.

"Boiling water and forced hot air from a furnace have also been reported by many patients to induce this sensation as well.  It is probably that there was damage to the nerve, and the heat causes the nerve to fire and cause this sensation of parosmia.  However, this is not well understood.”

Other causes of smelling cigarette smoke are infections that can invade the sinuses or throat. These can harm the nerves that pick up scents. Dr. Josephson explains, “This is usually following a sinus infection or an upper respiratory tract infection.”

He continues, “If it is a bacterial sinusitis it needs to be treated with antibiotics, irrigation with saline and topical steroid sprays.  Furthermore, viruses that attack the olfactory nerve or taste nerve can lead to this sense of something burning. Migraines can also be related to an aura that brings on the sensation of something burning or a smell described like there is cigarette smoke when there is none.”

If you continue to smell cigarette smoke, Dr. Josephson urges a comprehensive workup which includes a smell test and CAT scan. “Then appropriate treatment has to be instituted. And the cause may be multi-factorial and therefore the treatment may need to be multifaceted.” Unfortunately, two more causes could be neurological conditions including stroke.

I have saw multiple doctors regarding this condition. Smell of smoke came from too much acid in my stomach. I stopped dirking coffee and avoided high acidic food. Smell of smoke is GONE! my dentist figure it out.  I hope this helps
Avatar universal

You could be having sinusitis or rhinitis which could be allergic in nature. Do you have associated symptoms of cough, wheeze, breathlessness, post nasal drip etc?

You should try steam inhalation, saline nasal drops and oral antihistamine medications for your complaints and see if it helps with the symptoms.

You should see your doctor and get a clinical examination for a diagnosis and to evaluate if any investigations are required including blood tests, chest xray and CT scan of the sinuses.

Are you allergic to any specific substances or have had allergic reactions in the past? Are you on any medications currently?

You could read the following link -


Let us now about how you are doing and if you have any other doubts.

Avatar universal
I have experienced the same sensation of smelling cigarette smoke intermittently over a number of years. It generally occurs, or is enhanced, when I am tired or very sleepy. At first I attributed it to being out with people who were smoking and that there were particles lingering in the hairs in my nose, but it happens when I have not left my apartment and stayed up too late.
Nice to know I'm not the only one, but the answers offered seem to pander a bit.
Avatar universal

This also possible because of the ability of the brain to associate different stimuli and then combine various responses to it. In your case, association with various agents in smoking, sensitized the body and therefore interaction with even one of the various components that make up the smoke may have induced this sensation of smoke around you.

Hope this will help you understand the cause of this strange sensation.
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