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Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke was my main trigger as a child and was the first one I noticed with my adult asthma. 

Unfortunately, a lot of my family members smoke. No one I live with, but people I visit. 

They only smoke outside and away from me, but if I have the smallest flare while visiting them it can go downhill very fast. 

Does anyone have any experience dealing with this? Any tips or tricks? 

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  • K8sMom2002

    KellyAnn, hugs … I feel you, I do, because cigarette smoke, even the smoke that clings to clothes after a smoke, is an instant asthma attack for me. I've been known to have an asthma attack if I'm downwind from someone lighting up in a parking lot.

    Do you have flares when they visit you instead? Are they able to visit you? What's the exact rollout of your symptoms/reactions from exposure to cigarette smoke? Where do they smoke outside? Do you have to walk through that area?

    Tips that have worked for me: 

    • avoid areas where people smoke or have been smoking
    • put as much physical distance as possible given the situation between me and someone who has been smoking/is smoking
    • ask people to remain outside for a certain period of time after smoking so some of the smoke gets off their clothes.
    • ask people to change clothes
    • stand upwind from someone who has been or is smoking.
    • avoid houses or cars where people smoke
    • aggressively treat my asthma upon exposure — I use my inhaler the minute I am exposed to cigarette smoke, but that's because it's part of my asthma action plan. Talk to your doctor about ways to help. Pre-treating may be an option for you before your visit.
    • if they mention anything at all about wanting to quit, offer them suggestions and encouragement and resources and thank them profusely. AAFA's got some great .

    My mom smoked … a pack a dayer for years, even after a diagnosis of asthma and COPD. She just couldn't quit and was horribly addicted. I had to balance my frustration with the fact that cigarette smoking IS an addiction and if it were easy to quit, many people would have already done so. 

    She finally was able to quit three years before she died. It allowed me to spend so much more time with her and enjoy being able to visit. So don't give up hope. 

  • Pljohns

    DH smoked for years but never in our house and never in the cars or around the kids.  I made him take a shower and change clothes, wash his hair and everything before he could be around the kids when they were babies (you would think all of that would make him quit right?).  He finally quit 4 years ago and after he did I blasted him-I told him I will NEVER understand why people with perfectly health lungs are willing to do that to them when I would give anything to HAVE perfectly healthy lungs! 

  • Serene

    I have never smoked, but mom did as a child. She quit and has perfect lungs now.

    wood smoke/cooking smoke is a trigger for me. Where I live there are few smokers anymore, but that will change likely as pot has now been legalized and it will be available widely next year.  I can't abide smoke of any sort, and will avoid smoking wherever it occurs.  Even prior to developing asthma, I hated the smell and was allergic to the scent of tobacco burning which makes my eyes and nose run.

  • K8sMom2002

    PLJohns, yay for finally having a smoke-free home!

    Serene, ugh on having the possibility of more triggers around you … I hope that your legislators will work to create smoke-free zones regardless of what is in that rolled up cigarette. 

  • Shea

    Biggest tip I can think of is letting the family members know… I like the way you said it here, maybe with more details to help them understand the problem better: 

    (I know you) only smoke outside and away from me, but if I have the smallest flare (from the smoke that sticks to clothing and skin) while visiting it can go downhill very fast (it flares up my asthma and I cannot breathe and have to take my emergency inhalers and it exhausts my body for days, or whatever happens to you– that just comes to mind to me)."

    … and then maybe say, "I am trying to think of a solution, do you have any ideas?

    .. I was thinking maybe you could wait to smoke after I leave.. (see if that flies)… 

    ..Ask them if theyd consider using an e-cig at family events…

    My only other thought is for you to wear a mask.. they have cuter ones these days…. I carry one with me in my purse but I do not like wearing it :/ but they are supposed to help. 

    I have to admit, there was a time in my life when I smoked. I drank. I cared little for my health and was unaware how I affected others. Smoking relieved stress and anxiety and helped me blow off steam… it was compulsory and addictive too. So.. I get those who smoke… if it werent for having asthma and a young child and KNOWING to be grateful for lungs.. I might still be blissfully unaware smoking at the party but those things above, I think people would be open to.

  • Kathy P

    I find people who have never smoked really can't grasp the appeal and don't understand the addiction. I haven't smoked in over 20 yrs and there are still days that I crave a cigarette! I can't even be around smoke these days, but there are still days when I'd live to light up! It makes no logical sense, but that is what addiction is about. 

    Do you think pretreating when you know you might be exposed would help? I have to do that if I know I'll be around cats. It places the burden on me, but it's a trigger that is hard to avoid sometimes without isolating myself. And it work to where I can hang out with people who have cats for longer than I would be able to without pretreatment. 

  • Jen

    I haven't smoked in a very long time either, Kathy.  Probably about the same as you.  The smell totally grosses me out these days, but I can see the appeal of the habit.  Like Shea says – it's kind of compulsory and stress relieving.

    Cynthia – Your mom sounds like some of the patients at the pulmonology office where I worked in grad school.  They would sit outside of the building, both before and after appointments, to smoke.  Working there is what made me quit.  I did so before my first day because my brain just couldn't logically have me continue smoking and work someplace where people were dealing with lung issues.  I think for me, the addiction was not as strong, so it was easy to use logic and go cold turkey.  I know for others, though, it is really tough.

  • K8sMom2002

    Quitting smoking IS hard, which is why I never started it to begin with. My grandfather died of lung cancer, my mom's older sister died of emphysema, her younger sister had severe asthma despite NOT smoking. Her brother also was a smoker and had emphysema. Our family did NOT have strong lungs!

    Not only did cigarette smoke stink and cause me trouble breathing, but it was expensive and caused our ceilings to yellow.

    Plus I saw how my mom struggled to quit smoking — several times. My dad could lay the pack down for years and it not seem to bother him at all. But my mom just could not give it up. She hated it. She despised it. And she tried everything — the gum, the patches, the filters, even considered hypnosis. My mother was the most single-minded person I knew, and if she couldn't do something, it couldn't be done, at least not at that moment.

    That's why I try very hard to be gentle with smokers. I steer clear — far, far away, because I DO like to breathe. But I picture my mom, white knuckling it through yet another effort to quit, and I tell myself, "If it were easy to quit, they'd have quit already."

    I encourage young people NOT to try smoking of any sort, but I'm constantly amazed at how many teens and young adults do. I visited a university some years back for a work meeting, and it seemed like every third person I met was strolling with a cigarette dangling between their fingers — this on a campus that was a tobacco free campus! 

    When my mom started smoking, doctors and scientists didn't know how bad smoking was on the lungs and they didn't know how hard it was to quit. Young people today have been educated and taught about cigarettes … and yet they still decide to try it.

    @09kellyann, have you been able to tweak any of the suggestions in this thread to work for you?

  • Jen

    @09kellyann Have you figured out some ways to manage around people who smoke?

  • K8sMom2002

    @09kellyann, I thought about you the other day and meant to share this with you here … just getting around to it. 

    I was at a funeral last weekend, and I sat down in a pew about halfway back. I was fine for a few minutes as I watched other people file in.

    Then suddenly I couldn't breathe — the smell of cigarette smoke and the tell-tale reflex of my lungs to just seize up got me. 

    My sister was with me, and she has a better nose than I do. It was a guy who had just come in and was sitting two rows up from us. The air conditioning must have been blowing the tobacco smoke my way. 

    This was JUST before the service was to start, and I wasn't in a position to get up and leave. 

    At graveside, I made sure I steered well clear of him!