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How do you deal with smokers?

Cigarette smoke — or even the heavy scent of cigarette smoke on a person's clothes — can trigger a humdinger of an asthma attack for me. But I live in the south, where unfortunately lots of people still smoke. It drives me nuts when I am walking into a store, and I have to walk by a group of people smoking. I hold my breath until I get by. In the past, I've had coworkers or clients that I've had to deal with who smoked and it was so hard to concentrate on helping them when I was trying to NOT have an asthma attack!

I try to understand and empathize … they wouldn't be smoking if they could easily quit. It's an addiction; I get that.

But what exactly is a polite way to deal one on one with someone who is smoking near you? Is it good asthma etiquette to politely ask, "Excuse me if I stand upwind, but I have asthma, and I don't want an attack?" 

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  • Kathy P

    That's a tough one…I rarely encounter smokers where I am, so when I do, it's quite a shock to my system!

    Last time I was traveling, we took a cab and I immediately regretted it as I was squished in the middle of the back seat in a cab that reeked of smoke! I was immediately gasping. The only thing I could do was pull my scarf up over my mouth/nose and breath slowly letting the scarf be a filter. We weren't going terribly far.

    I don't know how I'd deal one on one if I had to.

  • K8sMom2002

    Thank goodness I haven't been stuck in a smoke-filled car in a while. It's funny — both my parents smoked like chimneys when I was little, and I never realized how badly it did me until I moved away to college. Now even a little bit of cigarette smoke can trigger an asthma attack. My inhaler is ALWAYS near me!

  • Wheezy Me

    This thread is old, but seems that the subject is always relevant

    Cigarette smoke disturbs me and worsens my symptoms. Luckily, smoking in public indoor spaces (including public transportation) is forbidden here. When I encounter smokers in the street, I get away from them, and hold my breath until I get past them. Sometimes it can be quite frustrating! (Being forced to leave the bus station and wait in the rain because someone smokes nearby, for example).

    The positive aspect is that asthma helps me avoid secondhand smoke.

    BTW, we have a new guy at work who smokes several times a day. He does so out of the building, but even so, the smell off him when he comes back disturbs me. We told him several times it is bad for him (which I bet he knows anyway) but it doesn’t look like he intends to quit. He’s a friendly coworker, and I don’t want to sound mean. What would you do?

  • Melissa G

    I agree Wheezy Me, secondhand smoke bothers me too. 

    In the fall and spring, when the pollen count has dropped, I can't even open our windows or back door because our one neighbor smokes and it comes into our house. 

    When Bekah has appts at the children's hospital and we have to walk from the Ronald McDonald house we have to walk by the "smoking area" to get to the side door.  I hate it. 

    Have you talked with your supervisor about your co-worker?

  • Wheezy Me
    Melissa G posted:

    I agree Wheezy Me, secondhand smoke bothers me too. 

    In the fall and spring, when the pollen count has dropped, I can't even open our windows or back door because our one neighbor smokes and it comes into our house. 

    When Bekah has appts at the children's hospital and we have to walk from the Ronald McDonald house we have to walk by the "smoking area" to get to the side door.  I hate it. 

    Have you talked with your supervisor about your co-worker?

    Melissa, thanks for relating!

    Isn't there any way to avoid the smoking area at the children's hospital? I mean, it shouldn't be central, and there are usually several ways to get from place to place around hospitals.

    And no, I didn't talk to my supervisor because what he does is legal as long as he smokes in the smoking area only.

  • Melissa G

    Unless we take the shuttle, there is no way for us to get around the smoking area. I could drive but right now the Ronald McDonald House is under renovations for the next two years and we have to park at the hospital and walk over…I really need to talk with someone at the hospital and see if they can move the smoking area. 

  • Wheezy Me
    Melissa G posted
    The Ronald McDonald House is under renovations for the next two years and we have to park at the hospital and walk over…I really need to talk with someone at the hospital and see if they can move the smoking area. 

    Sounds like a good idea! Do you know other parents there that can join your request?

  • Brenda Silvia-Torma

    Wheezy Me, that is a great idea! Melissa, does the RM house have a forum like this that their members participate in? I went on their website and saw a you can take.

  • K8sMom2002

    Wheezy Me, third hand smoke is definitely a problem for folks with asthma!

    AAFA has a really great blog post about .

    While cigarette smoke is an instant asthma trigger for me, I remember how my mom struggled to quit for many, many years. Doctors, family members, friends … no matter who told her to quit or why she should, it didn't seem to help her. She was a smart woman with asthma, and she knew how it affected her. 

    Instead of saying that smoking is bad for him, could you instead say something like, "Hey, I know that smoking is an addiction, and that you would probably quit if you could, but the third-hand smoke that clings to your clothes is causing my asthma to be worse. Until you are ready to quit, what are some ways that you and I could work together to reduce my exposure?"

    You might suggest that he wear a removable jacket over his clothes when he smokes, and maybe he could wash up when he comes in from a smoke-break. Or you could ask if he's ever considered using a nicotine gum.

    If he's resistant to any change or accommodation, could you then go to your boss or HR and say, "Hey, what are some strategies to reduce my exposure?" 

    It could be that they may be open to you moving to a different location in the office.

  • Melissa G

    The smoking area is actually in front of the hospital…so that is where we need to put a request into. The RMh's smoking area is in an area that is away from every one as it should be. 

    I am thinking the hospital the smoking area where is it because it is also a bus stop. But if you walk down to the RMH or or the other building for appts, you have to walk right past the bus stop. 

  • Wheezy Me

    Cynthia- thanks for the advice! I don't believe they will move me somewhere (the way our department works) but I can try talking to the guy about it.

    Melissa- that's so unfair! You would expect a hospital to be aware of the dangers of passive smoking… Well, I hope they move that area. And the more of you who ask, the better the chances are. Fingers crossed for you!

  • K8sMom2002

    Wheezy Me, good luck in your upcoming conversation! A lot of smokers are "nose blind" to the smell … smoking actually reduces your sense of smell, and folks do tend to not notice smells that are common. Maybe he honestly doesn't smell it?

    Melissa, here's hoping the hospital will consider a policy that means smokers can't be within so many feet of an entrance. Lots of buildings have signs saying, "No smoking within so many feet." And lots of hospitals actually now have a smoke-free policy that extends inside and out.

  • Pljohns

    DH use to smoke but he never smoked in the house, any of the cars or around me or the boys.  When the kids were little I wouldn't let him near them until he had showered, washed his hair and changed his clothes AND put the stinky ones in the washer.  Wasn't right to expose them to his bad habit.  Thankfully he has been quit almost 4 years now.

    The hospital system I use to work for had a smoke free campus rule-couldn't smoke anywhere on campus-not even your private car if it was parked on campus-they would right you up in a heartbeat about it though.  Most smokers just learned to walk across the street so it was "off campus"