Working and living in space comes with a decent list of stressors that many astronauts are guaranteed to experience. It isn’t uncommon for some people to resort to cigarettes to help them relax, but can astronauts do the same? Are they even allowed to? Is it even physically possible? Well, here is everything you are going to want to know.
So, can astronauts smoke in space? Astronauts cannot smoke in space; NASA doesn’t allow smoking (or vaping). This is to ensure maximum air quality (and sufficient Oxygen) and safety for all astronauts on each mission. Although, this isn’t to say that a packet of cigarettes has never been up into space, even if they have never been smoked.
In fact, a lot of astronauts – particularly in the 50s, 60s, and 70s were smokers.
That’s just how it was back then,
So, a lot of smokers have flown into space. Especially in the early American space program.
That being said, they had to obtain once on a mission.
There are even reports of Russia sending packs of cigarettes with their cosmonauts in the early days of their space exploration, but again, this has changed with modern times.
But why would NASA ban smoking? Let’s find out, shall we!
Are Astronauts Allowed To Smoke In Space?
For numerous reasons, astronauts are not allowed to smoke in space. Even if many astronauts would prefer to have them on board, they do more harm than good. Keeping the ship’s ecosystem in pristine condition requires consistent upkeep and a decent list of rules to live by.
Outside of the astronaut’s health, smoke can harm the air quality of the ship and could cause health issues for smokers and non-smokers alike.
You’ll also need fire to light a cigarette, and although astronauts have experimented with fire in outer space, it isn’t something that should be leisurely used.
In general, having anything combustible in space isn’t a great idea, and as always, the safety of the astronauts and the ship is the most important.
Once again, there have been reports of cigarettes in space, but this was in the earlier days of astronauts and space travel, which came with a massive learning curve for everyone involved.
Although it’s essential to test what’s possible in space, cigarettes don’t positively affect their health or the working environment.
NASA wants astronauts to be as happy and comfortable as possible, but there are simply some risks that aren’t necessary, and cigarettes fall into that category.
Just like alcohol, this may not keep some astronauts from sneaking cigarettes on board, but most understand the consequences and choose to leave them at home, at least to our knowledge.
Astronauts cannot smoke in space for three reasons; smoking can compromise the health of astronauts, the success of the mission, and the integrity of the ship’s quality of life. Smoking cigarettes may seem like a small act of pleasure and relaxation for some, but it could have long-term adverse side effects on the air quality and health of those on board.
Astronauts have everything they need on the spaceship to survive outer space, but these resources shouldn’t be taken for granted.
You can also find information online that mentions the difference in oxygen intake between smokers and non-smokers in outer space.
Oxygen is precious in the vacuum of space, and those who are consistent smokers on Earth are known to use more oxygen than non-smokers.
In the early days of NASA and space exploration as a whole, they were relatively relaxed about the health requirements for astronauts.
Nowadays, astronauts are given a decent list of rules to live by to ensure they stay physically and mentally healthy, but that wasn’t always the case.
It isn’t that NASA doesn’t want to give astronauts what they want, but they understand the many health risks associated with space flight, and smoking only adds to those risks.
With modern technology, you might think that maybe vaping would be a good alternative.
Unfortunately, this still falls in the same category as cigarettes for health and safety reasons.
As we shall now see, below.
Astronauts cannot vape in space for the same reason cigarettes aren’t allowed – combustion poses a great risk to the astronauts and the spaceship.
It may be considered a safer alternative to cigarettes here on Earth, but it can equally, if not more dangerous, to vape in outer space.
A big reason for this is that vaping relies on intense bursts of combustion, and the coils and technology inside can reach even greater temperatures than a cigarette.
Gases are much more sensitive in the controlled environment of a space shuttle, and the slightest discrepancy in air quality can lead to some disastrous circumstances.
The oxygen-rich space inside a spaceship or space station can be a recipe for danger, as fire can lead to an even larger fireball.
Currently, there haven’t been any reports of anyone vaping in space as cigarettes were banned long before the technology became available, so it was never allowed at any point.
Cigarettes may provide a more uniform experience with heat and fire, but vaping can be much more unpredictable.
Vaping also relies on a thick liquid to saturate a coil before it can be burned and turned into vapor.
This not only requires a significant heat source, but the liquid itself can cause harmful side effects to your health depending on the nicotine content.
Aside from the liquid, vapes require a power source to work, which in themselves can be explosive.
This may not be a current trending issue in the vape industry, but there were a handful of reports of the batteries exploding in the earlier days of the technology.
This, of course, would be highly detrimental to space operations.
Whether due to user error or a manufacturing defect, NASA and astronauts can’t risk exploding lithium-ion batteries in outer space.
A vape is unlikely to work in space. There’s nothing stopping the battery from firing and heating the coil in space, but you more than likely wouldn’t get the desired effect it provides in zero-gravity. Vapes come with a thick liquid that has to saturate a wicked coil and then burn to create vapor, and that liquid would have a hard time saturating in the element of zero gravity.
Firing and heating a vape in space can quickly become dangerous.
If the wicked coil isn’t properly saturated, the heat generated will only burn the wicking material.
This will produce an unpleasant smell and, if heated long enough, could result in unexpected combustion.
All of these factors are enough evidence to show that, even if a vape works in space, they pose a safety risk to the astronauts on board.
Then again, NASA likes to test how things work in outer space, and they may try vapes in outer space in the future, but I doubt this will be considered any time soon, or potentially at all.
From another aspect, cigarettes provide consistency with each inhale that you may not get from a vape.
Their inconsistency and posed risks are enough to get them banned from outer space.
Still, NASA could potentially invest in vaporizers that work well in low gravity while minimizing risk in the future.
For now, they’re too much of a safety concern to be considered, and the technology that comes with them offers added risk to astronauts and equipment alike.
Whether it’s cigarettes or vapes, NASA and other space agencies don’t allow astronauts to have them during space travel.
You’ll find many articles online that document the history of cigarettes in space, primarily with Russian astronauts, but that soon came to a halt with evolving information about working and living in outer space.
Space agencies may revisit these topics in the future, but neither vaping nor smoking cigarettes is allowed on space missions, regardless of how bad astronauts may want to have them.
A lighter would likely work in space, so long as the lighter contains enough pressurized fuel (as gas), the initiator provides a spark and there is sufficient oxygen content in the environment. This is not true for matches, candles, and old-fashioned liquid-fuel-and-wick lighters though, because they rely on a process called convection to mix the fuel vapor and atmospheric oxygen, and convection relies on gravity (which there is none in space).
Wondering what else astronauts can and cannot do? Then my other guides may be of interest:
- Can Astronauts Drink Alcohol In Space?
- Can Astronauts Have Tattoos?
- Can Astronauts Use Internet In Space?
- Can Astronauts Watch TV In Space?
- Can Astronauts Use Cellphones In Space?
- Can Astronauts Burp In Space?
- Can Astronauts Fart In Space?
- Can Astronauts Wear Glasses?
- Can Astronauts See Stars In Space?
Hey, my name is Chris. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.