The truth is that most air purifiers for smoke (when it comes to cigarettes and cigars) will disappoint. That's because most are designed for pollen and dust and not smoke - the challenge is the tar. However 3-4 of the 10 available technologies for air purifiers may satisfy that need.
In this review I'm starting with tobacco smoke, but also will be handling smoke problems for:
1 - Cigarette & Cigar smoke removal
2 - Stove and Fireplace fumes
3 - Kitchen/cooking smoke
4 - Industrial smoke from pollution, factories, etc.
1 - Ionizer Plates (also called electrostatic or truman cells)- include washable electronic plates (as with the Oreck Air Purifier, and Ionic Breeze), or electrostatic grids (Alive Air). This technology attracts and disable molecules of smoke via positive and negative electrically charged plates and wires. With this technology the air must go into and through through the purifier to be effective.
2 - Negative Ionization - Negative ion generators don't use plates but send negative ions into a room disabling some smoke. Not as effective as the plate/grid method it sends the negative charge into the air which means the particles can drop and attach to the carpet or other surfaces in the room.
3 - Ozone Machines - Ozone is probably the fastest way of removing smoke. The downside is that ozone can irritate or even damage lungs in high levels (it is not recommended that you be in the room during it's use). Brands include Ecoquest (formerly Alpine and now Vollara) however there are several inexpensive chinese brands available for low levels of ozone.
4 - Carbon - Carbon will very effectively remove smoke, however the carbon will need to be in high amounts and will have to be replaced often.
NOTE: HEPA not a good choice as it does not disable smoke as effectively and you'll have to replace the HEPA filters frequently. While it is true that a HEPA filter acts like a cigarette filter the tar which builds up in it will make the HEPA smell like smoke almost immediately.
The washable electrostatic type of air purifiers for smoke may be the best bet financially.. The "grid" types are preferred over "plates because the plates can often create "ozone" that can irritate sensitive lungs.
If you want to get rid of smoke and dust or pollen then a combination of HEPA and electrostatic would be the way to go.
Cigarette smells are easy to remove at the time of smoking, but becomes a more serious problem when it gets into curtains, walls, carpets, etc. The air purifier WILL NOT get the odor out of walls and fabrics, no matter whether it uses ozone, ions or any of the ten technologies. This is due to the tar attaching itself to the actual molecules in these materials, and it will continue to emit smells for years. Cleaning or replacing the carpets, curtains (drycleaning may work) or painting the walls is the only way, unfortunately. That's how deep tar gets into the molecules.
CONCLUSION: To reduce cigarette smell from your home you have to remove the cigarette smoke from the air as the smoking occurs, before it attaches itself to the materials in the room.
The one thing I would include in this situation is a negative ion generator. Not only will it kill some of the smoke (although it's not as effective as otehr means) more importantly it will make the air healthier, especially because wood burning will utilize oxygen in the room.
CONCLUSION: For kitchen smoke you'll find most types of smoke air purifiers will clear the air rather quick. The exception is HEPA - which will remove dust and pollen but not gas particles.
I finally realized that the car traffic nearby was the culprit. So despite living with an ever present ocean breeze the air was very polluted by nearby traffic. I put in a 9 stage Alive Air Purifier with a washable pre-filter, washable electrostatic grid (and HEPA filter). The black soot meant washing the pre-filter and grid every week or so. Better it than my lungs!
The carbon removed more of the toxic gases within the air, while the negative ion generator in it re-enlivened the air (pollution is positively charged ions which, by reducing healthy negative ions, can create headaches and will reduce both brain function and energy levels).
For Car Pollution - use electrostatic, negative ion generators, ozone, and/or carbon filters.
The comparison chart on this site and video reviews can show you which models include the technologies for smoke removal.