I’m pregnant, my coworker smells like smoke, and it’s making me sick

A reader writes:

I am in the early stages of my first pregnancy. My fiance and I have been trying for years. My coworker, who I share an office with, goes out for numerous smoke breaks throughout the day. When he comes back to the office, the smell of cigarettes on him is so strong  that it bothers me. Not only does it make me feel sick, but I worry that it could be harmful to my baby.

How can I solve this without being a major pain in the ass? We’re a small office of only 4 people. 

Is there any possibility that you could move offices, either temporarily or permanently?

And have you talked to your coworker about the problem?

It’s not reasonable to expect your coworker to stop smoking just because you asked, but you can certainly explain that the pregnancy has made you more sensitive to smells and nicely ask him to help you think of solutions. If he’s anything other than an ass, he’ll want to try to reach an accommodation, especially if you’re being nice about it.

Nice: “Bob, I’ve noticed since I’ve been pregnant that I’m much more sensitive to smells, especially cigarettes. Lately when you come back to the office after smoking, the smell of cigarettes is making me feel sick. I’m certainly not going to ask you to quit smoking because of me, but I wonder if there’s anything we can do that will minimize the odor?”

Not nice: “Could you have the decency to stop subjecting my unborn child to your evil and disgusting habit?”

But if you can’t reach an accommodation with your coworker (or if you’re convinced that trying won’t get you anywhere), then talk to your manager and explain the problem. Come prepared with potential solutions — whether it’s swapping offices with someone else, working out of another space in the office, or moving your coworker somewhere, depending on what makes the most sense. You might also mention that in addition to making you feel sick, thirdhand smoke — smoke residue on skin and clothes — is starting to be acknowledged as a danger in itself.

Good luck, and congratulations.

{ 191 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon*

    This is pretty common, I think. Smoke never bothered me much until I got pregnant, at which point it made me unbelievably nauseated, but only for the duration of the pregnancy. Best of luck.

    1. Arbynka*

      I started to have a strong aversion to smoke with my first pregnancy but for me it never got better.

    2. Natalie*

      I’ve never been pregnant, but from what I hear that can happen with a lot of smells – all of the sudden they are just intolerable.

      1. Windchime*

        I don’t specifically remember smoke making me feel ill, but lots of food smells (that I normally like or find neutral) made me nauseated when I was pregnant.

  2. [anon]*

    You also might have to spill the beans about your pregnancy sooner than you’d wished, if something is causing you extra trouble. Which kind of stinks but at least makes the issue make more sense to people who aren’t you! Also, congratulations. :)

    (For me, I developed a huge, major taste aversion to chocolate, and especially chocolate mint, as soon as I got pregnant. Which was a few weeks before Christmas. When usually peppermint chocolate things are my favorite and so everyone, EVERYONE gave me some and handed me some and wanted me to eat them and was surprised I didn’t. That was tricky.)

    1. AnonAnony*

      Oh man, mint was supposed to be an anti-nausea thing and it made me SO sick to my stomach.

      Ginger worked, thank goodness.

      OP – if your coworker is open to really changing things up, electronic cigarettes can be a really good option – all the nicotine and oral fixation, none of the icky stuff in cigarettes, and you avoid the odor. There are even government programs and rebates because it can be a first step toward quitting.

      1. Dawn K*

        I developed an aversion to mint during my first pregnancy as well that has never gone away. To this day, it makes me nauseous! Ugh.

        1. Pamela G*

          Nauseous = causes nausea, as in “that smelly bin is nauseous”
          Nauseated = feeling nausea, as in “mint makes me nauseated”

          Sorry, pet peeve :)

                1. Julie*

                  Well, I appreciate the information because I’m one of those grammar nuts, and I knew that I was using “nauseous” incorrectly, but I didn’t know what was correct. :)

          1. Anonymous*

            If you look up “nauseous” in the most recent version of the Oxford dictionary, the first definition is “affected with nausea; inclined to vomit.” Words change.

          2. Tiff*

            I say this with a chuckle, but seriously….there is no easier way to get on peoples’ nerves than correcting grown folks’ grammar when you know exactly what they’re trying to say.

      2. fluffy*

        They are better than regular cigarretes, but check first. My county has prohibited the use of e-cigarrettes by its employees at work as well as all of the property,

        1. Natalie*

          I’m not sure AnonAnony was suggesting the co-worker use the e-cigarette inside their office, just that they smoke it outside instead of a regular cigarette. I wouldn’t use an e-cig inside, even if it was allowed. I just assume it would bother or concern some people and it’s not a big deal to go outside, IMO.

  3. PPK*

    Is this a good time to bring up the AAM recommended air purifier again?

    I don’t have any additional ideas, I just wanted to say that I totally understand the OP. Our workplace is smoke free and very few people smoke. When we had a coworker who did smoke, it was like hitting into a wall of stink when you had to talk to him and he had just come in from a smoke break. And that was after he had to walk over from the designated smoking area, up a flight of stairs and down the hall. It was surprising how strong it could be.

    1. Arbynka*

      My co-worker was surprised that I could tell when he stepped out for a smoke. I think it gets in your clothes and hair.

      1. TL*

        It is the worst and I can always tell when someone’s come back from a smoke break. (Even here, where they have to drive off campus and smoke outside – when they get back I can still smell the smoke on them.)

        1. fposte*

          Though there’s confirmation bias there–unless they’re all officially informing you, you don’t know if any of the non-smellers are smoking. (Not that I think you’re wrong, just being a logical pedant.)

          1. TL*

            To be fair, I’ve never seen anyone smoking outside that I didn’t smell cigarette smoke on before, but you are indeed right. :)

      2. Cath@VWXYNot?*

        Same here – there are very few people who smoke, but occasionally I’ll get a whiff from someone’s jacket or (worse, but less common) the entire elevator will reek of smoke when I get into it.

        Mind you, the same thing happens with strong perfume smells, which may be even worse…

        I’ve never smoked or lived with anyone who smokes, so this may not work – but would having a designated smoking jacket that doesn’t come back with him into the shared office help? Extra points if it’s a nice burgundy velvet material :)

        1. Loose Seal*

          Changing the jacket actually does help! I worked with a lady who would go to her car at lunch and spend her 30 minutes in there, eating and smoking. I had worked with her for several months before she mentioned that she smoked. I was so surprised to find out because she never came back from lunch reeking of smoke (and I’m particularly sensitive to it). She said she put on a different coat in the car and put a scarf over her hair for the smoking trips. Seemed to work for her and it was a lot better than another co-worker who didn’t change but sprayed themselves head to toe with copious amounts of perfume and thought it meant that no one could tell she smoked.

          1. Just a Reader*

            I really cannot imagine putting so much effort into a habit that can kill you slowly.

            BUT that was very considerate of her!

          2. Windchime*

            I used to have a co-worker who would do the “smoke and cologne” thing. I wonder if his sense of smell was off, because the combination of smoke stench and then being drenched in cologne was nearly unbearable for those of us who worked near him.

      3. Ready for a cigarette myself*

        My husband is a secret smoker. Not secret to me, but to many of his friends. He smokes a few cigarettes a month when he is out with his friends. I can almost always tell, even hours after, when he is at home in bed, because I can smell it in his lungs.

          1. Ready for a cigarette myself*

            I have a very good (unfortunately) sense of smell.

            I am not a wine drinker, but I can identify the notes in his glass of wine, too.

      4. Scribbles*

        Your coworker was playing you, dummy.

        YOU: Oh Marge…you been out for a smoke again.

        MARGE: Gee Pat…you’re soooo smart. How could you ever tell? Did you notice that’s it my time of the month too?

    2. Liz*

      One of my new colleagues has the AAM-recommended air purifier! It seems quite good.

      Of course, its use was accompanied by a note explaining that perfume use causes sudden infant death syndrome, combatative behaviour, low sperm count, etc, and that it’s very sad that women feel the need to “pep up their libidos” through its use. That bit, I think, is less AAM-approved.

      (Then I came into work and found her erecting a room divider, to which she sewed sound-proofing, because apparently she “sensed” that a colleague was annoyed by the sound of the purifier. Our manager seems rather befuddled; maybe I should recommend AAM.)

  4. Anonymous*

    I feel for the OP – I am not bothered by secondhand smoke, but the smell of stale smoke on smokers is really tough for me to take.

    It seems like the only option is for one of them to move to another workspace for the duration.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Even when I smoked, the stale smell bothered me. I usually went outside so my house didn’t get too much of it.

      I’m glad I quit–it’s yucky and expensive–but if we have a worldwide nuclear event or are about to be smacked by a comet, all bets are off.

      1. LCL*

        Yup. If I ever get that terminal diagnosis, my first stop is for a carton of Marlboro Menthols. And it’s been 22 years since my last one…

    2. Natalie*

      Agreed – I am a sometimes-smoker and I cannot stand the smell of stale smoke on people’s jackets, especially (I suspect) certain brands of cigarettes. And stale smoke mixed with bad perfume is the bane of my existence.

  5. Rayner*

    Man, I loathe sitting next to smokers – at work or on the bus. It physically makes me want to heave. As an asthmatic, if someone sits down next to me right after a ciggie break, I can actually have an attack – unable to breathe, etc.

    Can’t stand the habit at all, and wish heartily that everybody would just give it up or the government would ban it. Unfortunately, that won’t happen any time soon, even though it should. #soapbox

    I definitely suggest the OP try to get of that situation by following AAM’s advice. My absolute sympathies.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      +1. Not bothered by the asthmatic part but I HATE sitting on the bus home from work and having someone who reeks of smoke. I don’t smoke and absolutely hate the smell. I end up cramming myself into the corner, as far away from the person as I can get.

      If a person smokes only one cigarette, it’s not bad. I usually get the person who chain smokes and it trails them like perfume. Yick.

  6. AnonAnony*

    Oh, and the most basic step to take would be to ask him to wear a specific jacket to smoke that stays OUT of your work space.

    Hee – a smoking jacket! Hugh Hefner not included.

    1. Lillie Lane*

      *snort*! That’s a good idea, along with the air purifier. Is there anything that helps to get the smoke smell out of hair?

        1. AnonAnony*

          I think that was an Onion joke a while back “Date reeks of Febreeze.”

          I don’t know if there’s anything worse than a strong “faux fresh” smell covering up a strong stale smell.

          CSB time: When I was 6 weeks pregnant, my mother-in-law left shrimp out overnight accidentally. After she tried to get me to smell them to tell if they were “still good” she then tried to get rid of the shrimp smell with pine-scented Glade. In a totally unrelated event, I had my first bout of morning sickness just hours later!

  7. Jack*

    Oh my, this is the first time I’ve even heard there’s such a thong ad “thirdhand smoke”. And it’s actually harmful?

    Jesus, what a world we live in.

    1. anon*

      Yeah, it’s really crazy that people will subject themselves and everyone around them to something that unhealthy and awful!

      1. Bean*

        I have never understood the point of smoking cigarettes, even in highschool when it was “totes cool”. Why would I want to waste my money (they’re expensive!) on something that will more than likely give me cancer and yellow my teeth etc.?

        My absolute favourite is my friends who eat everything organic and use chemical free cleaners, but they smoke cigarettes!

            1. Loose Seal*

              Yes, but they still consist of chemicals, just not the man-made ones.

              Kind of reminds me when my Facebook friends circulate stuff telling you not to eat this or that because it contains dihydrogen monoxide, implying that all chemicals are bad for you. Dihydrogen monoxide = water.

          1. TL*

            One of my friends has just picked it up – at 24!!!! (Also a health/organic/”chemical-free” nut.)

            (I work at a cancer research center) One time she said to me, “Do you mind if I smoke? I know you have this ‘thing’ about smoking.”

            It was the only time I’ve ever been really tempted to break my “don’t-lecture-smokers-they-already-know” rule.

            1. Bean*

              This “thing” about smoking? Why do smokers feel the need to act like what they are doing is not harmful to those around them? My “thing” about smoking is that I do not want to get cancer or listen to how my smoking friends are “too broke” to do anything meanwhile they smoke a pack a day. TL, working at a cancer research centre, I cannot even believe your coworker would be that stupid.

              1. some1*

                “TL, working at a cancer research centre, I cannot even believe your coworker would be that stupid.”

                The way I read it is that *TL* works at the cancer research center, she doesn’t mention that the friend works there, too.

                Why do non-smokers always read things wrong? ;)

                1. TL*

                  I am the one working at the research center (doing, more or less, research) and a fair number of (mostly international) people here still smoke, though not on campus.

                  But, yeah, I have a huge, completely reasonable “thing” about smoking, not just because of the health effects, though I try really hard to keep that only to “Would you please not smoke around me? Thanks.”

                2. some1*

                  @TL: The only reason I can think for your friend seeming to trivialize your position on the issue because she hasn’t been smoking for very long. Most smokers are used to being treated like pariahs. I am surprised when non-smokers invite me to light up around them.

                3. TL*

                  @some1 – maybe. It’s also because she’s young and doesn’t think things like lung cancer apply to her, so my “thing” is completely unreasonable to her – lung cancer/other diseases only happen to other people.

                  Also, most of her other group of friends smoke, so she doesn’t usually light up around us non-smokers.

            2. Cath@VWXYNot?*

              I also work in cancer research. I have a friend who picked up smoking during her first year out of med school. She actually got really mad at me once when I wouldn’t give her change for the ciggy machine; I just told her that she really should know better!

              (She stopped a couple of years later)

        1. Natalie*

          Just a couple of things to keep in mind:

          – the vast majority of smokers in the US start smoking when they are fairly young (12-14). Their brains aren’t fully grown, particularly the parts of the brain that make long term decisions
          – nicotine is incredibly addictive, one of the most addictive drugs humans use in fact
          – smoking correlates highly with various mental illnesses, particularly anxiety and depression

          It’s not really helpful to look at becoming a smoker as a series of rational choices, because the factors that lead to cigarette addiction aren’t remotely rational. It’s just a totally different arena.

          1. Eva R*

            + so hard, and this goes for any compulsive behavior, addiction, or mental illness.

            The problem with cigarettes is often linked to class as well. Someone who has very little money may be able to afford a pack of cigarettes but not therapy, for example. Smoking is most common in people who have a mental illness or people who have high stress jobs that involve shift work and losing sleep or that are physically demanding because it’s easier to smoke a cigarette and get back to work than to do many other, much healthier things. I have the same issue with my eating habits- exercise is also great for stress relief but fitting a 20 minute walk into my day isn’t as easy as eating a chocolate bar.

        2. Kate*

          @Bean, I think we have the same friends. One day I’m going to drink too much, lose the internal filter, and point it out to them. All while eating GMO corn chips…..

      2. Andrea*

        Even crazier that they stubbornly insist that they have a right to subject others to this poison!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          For me, all it took was one time lighting up without thinking, and I took the reaction to heart and never did it again. After that, I just assumed that I would go outside (except in Exjob’s smoke room, before they did away with that, and before I lived at my dad’s in the late ’90s, I smoked at my own apartment).

    2. Rayner*

      Well, given that cigarettes contain the same key ingredients as toilet cleaner, industrial solvents, and corpse preserving stuff like formaldehyde, as well as lead, arsenic, and benzene, the fact that they’re dangerous even third hand – with pregnancy – shouldn’t really be a surprise.

      Human beings don’t come with a cigarette smoke proof filter, unfortunately.

      1. TL*

        To be fair, it’s not just the presence of the chemicals – it’s the short- and long-term dosage that’s damaging.

        Smoking one cigarette is very unlikely to do any damage. Developing a habit is.

        1. Rayner*

          Well, no, if you experience one sniff of a cigarette and don’t do anything else with it, then it’s highly (read almost sure) likely to not affect you.

          But it’s still a very good idea NOT to be constantly exposed to that kind of chemicals for long periods of time.

  8. EM*

    OP, that sounds awful— my sister is asthmatic and lingering smoke smells on peoples’ clothes and hair make her really sick too. So this isn’t meant to minimize your discomfort, but do feel better knowing that the health risks from your coworker smoking outside the office to you and your future-baby are infinitesimal. (This is coming from a cancer researcher).

    I hope you find a way to resolve the situation with your coworker that makes the environment less nauseating for you anyway.

    1. Andrea*

      Came here to say the same thing—-I’m allergic to smoke and asthmatic, and thirdhand smoke makes me wheeze and cough and it makes my eyes itch. I have a hard time walking by smokers who stand outside in front of businesses and such, of course, but that thirdhand smoke stench that clings to them later is just as bad. This complicates things, like using public transportation, for example, and it affects things like where I can go and what I can do, like outdoor festivals or concerts, where smokers stand around and act as if they aren’t subjecting others to poisonous air just because it’s outside. I hope for the OP’s sake that her sensitivity to this smell is temporary. Because trust me, it’s very difficult to deal with all the time.

  9. Anonymous*

    I feel for this OP. I have never smoked, but remember years ago working in offices where people did in break room and one supervisor in her own office. This is my one dislike of all dislikes. I would come home at the end of the day and my coat will smell like that. Come on people, smoking kills. I have known some of the most wonderful people that have had this horrible habit. This lady has every right to protect herself and her unborn child. Hate, hate this habit.

  10. COT*

    It sounds as if OP’s pretty early into her pregnancy, so she may not be interested in making it public at work just yet. Could you use an excuse like, “Lately I’ve become more sensitive to cigarette smoke” or something like that? It might not be as convincing as the health-related reasons for an unborn baby, but it’s a good place to start without having to reveal your pregnancy.

    I actually have become more sensitive to cigarette smoke over time, but sometimes I just can’t avoid it. It helps me to be prepared, such as having scented oil to dab under your nose, or a scented candle on your desk (even if you don’t burn it). Those obviously don’t help if you or your coworkers are sensitive to fragrance, but they work for me. Could you keep a small fan at your desk to help keep the air fresher around you?

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      This might be a stupid question, but can you breathe through your mouth more? When I was pregnant and sensitive to smells, I found that helpful to avoid offensive odors. Bonus: the practice comes in handy when changing dirty diapers.

      1. Anonymous*

        It might prevent the smell from making her sick, but she’s still inhaling carcinogens while pregnant.

      2. Anonymous*

        I heared the nose is acting as a kind of filter. Directly inhaling through the mouth will only subject her to more chemicals then.

      1. Meganly*

        As horrible as it is to think, the number of fires started by e-cigs probably isn’t even close to the number of fires started by regular cigs. =/

        1. Sara M*

          Absolutely. My friend is a burn ward nurse. A large percent of her patients are there from cigarette fire burns (usually combined with another addiction or condition that left them unable to respond properly to the fire).

        2. JessB*

          Totally agree – I live in Australia, and the number of idiots who throw lit cigarettes out of their windows, or on the ground is astounding. Bushfires can be started by a lit cigarette careless thrown from a car window, killing people, animals and destroying property, not to mention that cigarette butts are the item most found in litter.

          Blech, just another deadly side effect of this awful habit.

  11. Erin*

    Ugh. I’m pregnant, too, and I have a co-worker who almost always goes out for a smoke just before a meeting. I now wait for him to arrive and pick his seat because I cannot stand sitting next to him. I’m at about 20 weeks and no longer nauseous, but it still bothers me much more than it used to.

  12. Malissa*

    The best thing I’ve found to keep any smell at bay is a small desk-top fan. Point it so the fresh air blows towards the origin of the smell so that only fresh air comes across your desk.
    Works great with strong perfumes as well.

    1. Jax*

      Yes! OP, if you can bring in a desk fan, go for it. In the worst waves of pregnancy nausea, it’s amazing how much air blowing on your face helps.

      And in this case, it can help move the stale, smelly air away from you.

    2. Stephanie*

      I totally second this suggestion! My office is right next to the lunch room and a bathroom, and I was pretty sensitive to smells all through my pregnancy. A small fan pointed straight at my face did wonders to just push the scents away. And later on it was helpful because as my pregnancy progressed I was really warm all the time.

  13. some1*

    As a smoker, I’d like to thank AAM for the compassionate response that didn’t bash the LW’s co-worker.

    It’s pretty obvious the folks suggesting e-cigarettes are not smokers. Your co-worker knows he should quit. He knows if he keeps smoking he will likely die from some smoking-related complication at some point. He’s heard of e-cigarettes, Chantix, nicotine gum, the patch, hypnosis, cold turkey, etc. (He’s probably tried at least one if not more to quit), and he doesn’t need you to inform him about it.

    You wouldn’t (or at least you shouldn’t) walk up to an obese person and ask them if they have heard about Weight Watchers. Just because his addiction is making you literally ill doesn’t give you the right to tell him or help him to quit. You can’t change him, but you could change yourself. I’d second the suggestion about keeping something scented or fan on your desk.

    That being said, I do feel for you as well, because even as a smoker it can be hard to be in a confined space with someone who just came in from smoking (like an elevator).

    1. anon*

      It sounds to me like you’ve already decided on behalf of the OP’s coworker that he’s not going to be willing to make any changes to his habits.

      1. some1*

        I never wrote he would be unwilling to make changes (like wearing a jacket or using Febreze) as far as lessening the LW’s comfort.

        What I actually wrote is that I have no doubt in mind that someone else in his life has asked him to quit before and gave him suggestions on how to do so, because I speak from personal experience.

            1. RD*

              Febreeze was “discovered” by a smoker who was working in the lab. One day after working with it when he came home NOT smelling like smoke his wife asked him if he’d quit smoking. The chemical does eliminate odors. It was originally marketed without a scent and that was added later because no one was buying the original. No one thinks their stuff stinks so they weren’t buying a plain odor eliminator. Anyway, I think Febreeze could be very helpful to the OP and her CW if he’s willing.

              1. anonymous*

                It’s a possible solution, though if she’s sensitive to smells the chemical smell from the scents in the Febreeze might be as bad as (or potentially even worse than!) the smoke.

                Unfortunately, I know a couple people with strong and especially artificial+strong scent as a migraine trigger. Febreeze is one of their worst offenders.

    2. Anonymous*

      Some1 I feel bad for others that do have this habit. I have never smoked and hate to smell the stuff. Don’t you see it is different from someone walking up to an obese person asking them have they heard about Weight Watchers, smoking affects other people. I have known some wonderful, kind people that have this horrible habit. My husband’s mother was one of them before she finally stopped. Before our first child, I never said a word about her smoking in our family room whenever they came to visit. As soon as my baby was born, I told my husband I am not having this around my baby. She couldn’t quite understand, but from then on never did it in my home. I don’t think the non-smoker should have to change, it is the smoker that is hurting us. No offense, but I hate the smell of smoke and the health risks it imposes on those of us that do not smoke. I care about the smoker too. Just wish people would realize how dangerous of a habit (not to mention stinky) it is.

      1. some1*

        “Don’t you see it is different from someone walking up to an obese person asking them have they heard about Weight Watchers, smoking affects other people”

        While you can’t catch obesity, it does affect other people in some of the same ways smoking does. It leads to diabetes, heart disease, etc. which means their family members have to take care of them if they get sick and everyone’s health care costs go up.

        My comparison was stating that just because smoking makes you feel ill, doesn’t mean that smokers don’t already know about ways to quit.

        And FWIW your MIL is a tool for smoking in your home even before you had a baby. I would never presume to do that even in a smoker’s home, unless they offered.

        1. some1*

          ETA: but the equivalency about your home vs. the workplace is a false one. The LW’s co-worker is not smoking inside, he’s going out like he is supposed to by law in most places in the U.S.

        2. Cat*

          Careful, some1, I can promise you that there are plenty of people who do think it’s okay to go up to fat people and tell them about Weight Watchers and the last thing we need to do is get them together with the people who like to harass smokers!

        3. Anonymous*

          I am sure you are a considerate person and would never impose your smoking on others. BUT, I still hate to go to the mall and have to pass by those smoking by the door. I realize people know the aids to stop smoking, but it does affect others and that is not right. My mother-in-law only stopped when she got COPD. I was very young when she smoked when she visited us and to be honest did not want to offend her. I did not want to hurt her feelings. Today, being older I would talk to her and explain I love you but hate this habit. If you want to do this do this in your own car and your own home. I am not against the person, but I do believe this is so unfair to the non-smoker. I understand how the obese person affects us by diabetes, heart disease etc. and the health care cost going up. BUT, as a slender person in good health, I still see a difference. Their extra pounds are not going to cause me heart disease, lung cancer, etc. That being said, I am sure you are a caring person and I just wish everyone could stop this habit.

          1. some1*

            Yes, but you do see the difference between the LW’s co-worker going outside at work to smoke where he’s supposed to vs. a guest coming into your home and smoking without asking? No one is saying this guy is going to go to the LW’s house and stand over the baby’s bassinet blowing smoke rings.

            1. some1*

              ETA: your experience with smokers who intruded on your space is not what we (me, the LW’s co-worker) all are like,

              I don’t know why this gets perpetuated so much that we are all disgusting and rude. I remember the first time a former co-worker of mine were walking to lunch on the sidewalk. I was smoking, I finished and said, “Excuse me” and ran over to put out the cig butt & put it in the trash. She looked at me like I just picked my nose and said she couldn’t believe a smoker would throw away their own butts in a trash can.

              1. Anonymous*

                Some1 I am sure you do the considerate thing around others, I think I am not one to ask for any objective opinion on smoking. I have never smoked and I hate, hate, hate the habit I see in others. I have told my own 3 children that is one of the worst habits you can ever have. They do not smoke or my husband either. I would have never dated anyone that smoked. I can not stand the smell. Regardless, how much a smoker tries to be polite the health risk to themselves and others is there. I try hard to stay healthy, I exercise and eat healthy and have good habits. I wish there were stricter laws on this in public. I do not want to be exposed to this when I am in public. This is just my own opinion. Like I said, I think there are so many wonderful, kind people that breaking this habit would be so hard for them to do. Still, I wish they could for their health too.

                1. some1*

                  You can keep hating smoking all that you want and wish it would be banned. My point is that the thread isn’t supposed to be a referendum on smoking and what people think about it, it’s how to handle it when your co-worker (who is not doing anything wrong) smells like smoke and it makes you sick.

              2. fposte*

                I think it’s the confirmation bias thing again. Smokers who do so in a way that doesn’t impact non-smokers are by definition less noticeable than smokers who smoke in a way that affects people.

                1. TL*

                  Yup. If I never see/smell you smoking, it’s never going to be something I ask you not to do around me.

        4. Anonymous*

          “While you can’t catch obesity, it does affect other people in some of the same ways smoking does. It leads to diabetes, heart disease, etc. which means their family members have to take care of them if they get sick and everyone’s health care costs go up. ”

          That’s a lot more indirect (and highly affected by other factors) than “being around a person who is smoking is quite likely to cause you health problems” though. Someone existing in an area while being obese is not going to give their coworkers diabetes or heart disease.

        5. RJ*

          The difference here is that second hand smoke does more than make health care costs go up- it can actually kill you.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think Some1’s point was that people who smoke know that it’s bad for you and know that there are various quitting aids available. You’re not going to be giving them information that they don’t know. It’s similar to telling someone overweight about Weight Watchers, or asking someone struggling to conceive if they’ve considered adoption. People know these are all options. They’re not using them for other reasons.

        1. some1*

          Yes, thank you, the adoption analogy is a good one. I can imagine if I confided in someone that I was struggling to conceive and they suggested adoption I’d have the same reaction, like, “Gee, wow, you are the first person to ever mention that!” which is exactly my reaction when strangers approach me and say, “Don’t you know smoking is bad for you??”

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I really really wish people would stop calling it a habit—it is an ADDICTION. Most smokers who don’t quit keep smoking because they are ADDICTED.

        That’s why Chantix was invented–to stop the ciggy jones in your brain, where the nicotine goes into the little receptors. If it works for you, then it really works–you literally have no desire to smoke. Of course you still can, but you won’t want to because you won’t get that nicotine rush (read: high).

        I can never, ever date, marry, or live with someone who smokes. Ever. I am an addict and if I’m around it that much, I will start again, as sure as an alcoholic has to avoid booze.

        1. some1*

          “I really really wish people would stop calling it a habit—it is an ADDICTION. Most smokers who don’t quit keep smoking because they are ADDICTED.”

          I agree, but I don’t think it’s something anyone can really understand unless they were ever a smoker. I know recovering alcoholics and drug addicts who haven’t relapsed in over a dozen years, and they have tried to quit smoking multiple times and always start again.

          1. Natalie*

            Actually, from what I understand a lot of alcohol/drug addiction counselors specifically don’t recommend that people in recovery try to quit smoking. It’s too hard and too easy to lead to relapse, and if the choice is sober and smoking or drunk and not smoking (and then probably starting to smoke again) sober is usually better for everyone.

            Every single person I know in recovery smokes and drink a lot of diet Coke. :)

            1. some1*

              True that. I knew people in AA who would drive 20-30 miles to go to meetings held in smoking venues when there were still public places you could smoke inside. (I live in a pretty cold climate most of the year)

            2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              Shhhh about the Diet Coke addictions.

              We Diet Coke addicts are mostly running under radar. We need to keep it this way, or somebody is going to legislate something somewhere, and it will become Socially Unacceptable to drink Diet Coke and next thing you know we’ll all be huddled around a dumpster, drinking the cans (wrapped in brown paper), in two feet of snow.

              Be very. Very. Quiet.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Yep, an addict is an addict and there are substitute behaviors. That’s why a lot of people who try to quit smoking start pigging out; they substitute food (or candy) for cigs.

            The first time I quit, without the Chantix, I used a sippy cup of ice water with a straw instead of gum or candy. If I wanted to smoke, I would sip the water instead. It worked pretty well (I also had other motivation–my bf at the time didn’t want me to smoke). I started again after we broke up. When I was ready to quit some time later, the water didn’t work, so my doctor gave me the medicine and that did the trick.

            1. some1*

              I think the reason people eat more after quitting smoking is partially that they are subbing food for cigarettes, but for me it was about my appetite changing. I just became more hungry and my sense of smell increased a great deal, which led me to just crave food in general. There’s a reason cigarettes used to be marketed as an appetite suppressant.

              I definitely think quitting is a good thing for everyone who smokes, but most of us learn the hard way that you really can’t make the decision to do it for anyone but yourself. You can’t do it for your significant other or your kids or your parents no matter how much you love them, because it’s just too easy to backslide if you still really, really want to.

    3. Catherine*

      “It’s pretty obvious the folks suggesting e-cigarettes are not smokers. ”
      I was going to second the e-cig suggestion and want to contradict the above statement. I’ll admit, only with an anecdote; but I’m convinced.

      After smoking for 40 odd years, my husband got an e-cig on April 3rd. (Yes, I have the date marked in my calendar)
      He threw away all his back-up cigarettes on April 8th (!) and hasn’t looked back. He can be around smokers and not be tempted. He noticed that “cigarettes really stink!” on about April 15th (I thought it would take longer than that.) He’s pink again.

      I can go on and on.
      He also has lowered the amount of nicotine in the “juice” by half as well over the last six months.

      There may be some as yet undiscovered hazards to e-cigs (untested does not mean unsafe, despite what news reports would have you believe), but as far as I’m concerned they are a harm reduction, both for smokers and all those around them.
      They’re cheaper than cigs too.
      And worth a try.

      1. some1*

        I’m glad your husband quit smoking, and I know people who quit smoking using e-cigarettes and realize it can be done; I wasn’t disputing that. I was disputing that the LW’s co-worker hasn’t heard about them.

        1. TL*

          He still may be willing to use one around the office, though. It’s worth it to ask – not as a “hey you can quit!” way but as a possible compromise for 9-ish months.

          1. some1*

            If he was ready to go for the whole workday without smoking, he probably would have done so. I know lots of smokers who never take smoke breaks at work. They chew gum, do an e-cig, or just refrain.

            Your smoking co-workers who smoke at work aren’t just waiting for you to complain about it first before they stop. We know we are seen as lazy, less productive, smelly, and rude by some of our co-workers already.

            1. TL*

              If smoking an e-cig at work, even if he has no interest in quitting, makes things significantly easier for a coworker, he might be willing to try and see if it’s an acceptable alternative for a short time. I’m sure he knows e-cigs exist; he may have never considered/tried them before and might be willing to do so.

              I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out as a possible compromise, as well as a smoking outfit or switching offices, as long as she’s polite and nice about it.

              1. some1*

                It’s worth suggesting, but as someone who has been smoking at work since high school, I don’t think it’s likely that he will want to try it all of the sudden.

                Unless this guy just started smoking or this is his first job ever, I’d bet my bottom dollar he has already received at least one complaint or passive aggressive remark in a professional context.

                1. TL*

                  The difference here, though, is she has successfully shared an office with him without (I hope) complaint, and she now has a legitimate medical reason for needed to avoid the smell. It’s not passive aggressive; it’s a “I’m sorry, my circumstances have changed and this thing that was fine now isn’t – hopefully temporarily – can we work out a compromise?”

                2. some1*

                  I get what you are saying, but as a non-smoker you are looking at the Febreze, jacket, and the e-cig all as “compromises” that are alternatives that can be equally accomplished to smoking cigarettes for the co-worker. They are not.

                  You have no idea what it is like to go 8-10 hours without a cigarette when you are addicted to nicotine and used to smoking during that time. Your suggestion is kind of par with telling a homeless guy who got attached on the bus, “Maybe you should buy a car”

                3. TL*

                  @some1 – wait, what? The Febreeze, jackets, ect… would allow the coworker to still smoke just as much and get his nicotine fix while hopefully removing the smell.
                  The e-cigs would also (hopefully) allow him to get his nicotine/oral fixation fix without the smell.
                  No one is suggesting he go without or even lessen the amount that he smokes. I don’t think a single person here has suggested he quit during the workday. Everyone is trying to give suggestions on how he can smoke/get his fix while removing the smell for the coworker.

                4. some1*

                  My point is that you are acting like asking the guy to use an e-cig at work is just as reasonable a request as asking him to use Febreze, a smoking jacket or something else. It’s not. Not to mention, if he smokes on the way to work (like most smokers who drive to work do) it won’t help anyway.

                5. TL*

                  I think it’s reasonable to ask once, as part of a range of possibilities. I think it’s also reasonable for him to say no for whatever reasons. I’m imagining the conversation going something like this “Smell is bothering me. Do you think you could try getting a smoking jacket or a Febreeze routine or an e-cigarette during work for the next 8-9 months?”

                6. Mander*

                  As a former smoker, I don’t think I would have been the least bit offended if a co-worker asked me if I’d be willing to try one of these solutions for a while, provided they were nice about it. In fact I didn’t even realize how strong the smell on my clothes etc. was until I quit, and began to notice it on other people. So it’s possible that the co-worker may not realize how obvious the smell is. If e-cigs had existed back then I would have been happy to try them.

                  Smokers know that smoking is bad for them and for others, but as has been mentioned, it is just not that easy to quit. But if a request for an accommodation can be given in a nice, non-sanctimonious way, then a reasonable person should be able to make concessions. I certainly wouldn’t have seen putting on a designated jacket or trying the e-cig at work as unreasonable impositions on me.

    4. Sophia*

      +1 Thank you for this. I’m not a smoker, hate the smell, but do have a grandmother who has tried unsuccessfully to quit. I think it’s incredibly rude to ask someone to switch to ecigs. I think the best way for the LW to go is ask to be moved. I’m pregnant myself and don’t understand why pregnant women feel that others should accommodate to their choice to have a kid. I get sick from the smell, I move. It’s not others’ responsibility to do so. I’m actually quite surprised at the comments in the thread. Just like new grads thinking they’re “special snowflakes” is bad, so too is pregnant women thinking that way.

      And as a note, I’m not talking about discrimination related aspects related to pregnant women.

      1. Anonymous*

        I don’t think this is about “special snowflakes” though. The pregnancy is really only relevant as a health/changed circumstance factor. If the coworker had developed asthma where they didn’t have it before, it would be the same situation.

        And depending on the workplace, moving someone’s desk could well be a pretty difficult/labor-intensive solution. I know that moves at my workplace aren’t something to do on a whim, because of infrastructure/network issues. Asking the guy to wear a jacket that he can then hang up far away during his smoke breaks (when we’re hitting the cold time of the year so he’ll probably want to wear an extra layer outside anyway) could very well be a much less complex solution than moving someone’s desk to the other side of the room for 8 months.

    5. Andrea*

      It’s actually not possible for people with asthma that’s triggered by second- and/or third-hand cigarette smoke to change themselves. Just sayin, if they could, well, they just wouldn’t have asthma.

  14. J*

    Ask your co-worker to wear a “smoking jacket” when he smokes. Then discard the jacket somewhere else in the office when he comes back inside. We’re also in a small office, many years ago we had several smokers who didn’t want to smell like cigarettes all day long. They had a zip up sweatshirt that they would put on before going out to smoke so that the sweatshirt would absorb all of the cigarette odors.

    When they came back in, they would hang up the sweatshirt somewhere outside of their office.

    1. Riki*

      This is a great idea! Cigarette smoke is very sticky and the only way to really get rid of the smell is with soap and hot water. You can’t do laundry at work, but you can easily keep a spare smoking jacket/sweatshirt or hang up the jacket you have away from where you and your coworkers it.

  15. Joanne*

    Ugh, i’m in this same situation! I go to client’s homes for my job, and many of my clients smoke in their homes. now that I’m obviously pregnant, most of them don’t smoke around me, but I definitely smell like smoke anyway after I leave their house. Since these are clients, I don’t feel as though I have any standing to say anything (and what would I say? Please fumigate your house each week before our sessions). I try to remind myself that the risks are very small and that I am doing everything else I can to have a healthy baby.

  16. Cruella Da Boss*

    Lingering smoke smell is just the start. Not all scents that will bother you are going to be offensive.

    Other smells that make pregnant women sick are :
    perfume, after-shave, peppermint, butterscotch, cooking ethnic food, cooking regular food, furniture polish, Pine-Sol, Febreeze,scented deoderant, laundry detergent/fabric softener, hairspray, hand sanitizer, kitchen-tub-tile cleaner, lotions, lip balm, flavored coffee creamer, Starbucks specialty coffees, body wash, and the list goes on and on.

    Like someone told once me, getting pregnant was MY choice, not theirs. Buy a small air purifier for your office. Check your local home improvement store for reasonable models.
    Good Luck!!

    1. some1*

      “cooking regular food”

      I have never been pregnant and eggs being cooked has been known to make me gag. No idea why.

    2. JulieInOhio*

      And it may be stuff you can’t even smell, or at least not much. For me it was yeast, as in a brewery. (I went for the food only, honest!) It was a favorite place, but I just couldn’t eat there until it got warm enough to eat outside.

      1. some1*

        She wasn’t implying that smokers deserve sympathy because they smoke. She’s saying the LW and other pregnant women will likely find many scents offensive.

      2. BCW*

        Yeah, and your choice to be pregnant doesn’t trump their desire to smoke outside because you don’t like how they smell after

  17. MLHD*

    He could try wearing a jacket when he goes out to smoke, then removing it when he comes in. That helps at least a bit.

  18. Ann Furthermore*

    I have to say, the e-cigs do work. My husband switched to them about 2 months ago and he hasn’t smoked at all since. Plus, he’s taken a drag off one here and there and now to him they taste totally disgusting.

    He asked his doctor about the e-cigs, who said that even though there’s quite a bit we still don’t know about them, logic dictates that any health hazards are minuscule compared to real cigarettes.

    I made it about 2 weeks on the e-cigs, and they really do help take the edge off. But it’s not quite the same sensation. I was doing OK, but at the moment my stress level is sky high due to this project I’m working on that is launching in January. It’s either smoke or eat…working out only gets me so far.

  19. Rindle*

    This is such a touchy situation. I feel bad for everyone involved. I might talk to the boss first about casually changing the seating arrangements. The coworker might become defensive (or extremely hurt, angry, or embarrassed) if/when you confront him directly. Smokers are one of the very few groups of people it is still widely acceptable to demonize, and any comment can feel like an accusation. (For the record, I’ve never smoked, but my parents do. It has caused a huge wedge in my family. I won’t stay at their houses when I visit my hometown because I cannot breathe, but they think I’m just being contrary because I’ve always hated their smoking.)

    Also. Some smokers seem to carry the scent more than others. I don’t know why, but you might do some Internet research. I work with someone who carries so much of the odor that I cringe when we’re in meetings after a smoke break. I bet the “smoking jacket” idea above would help. I also once saw someone on the street using a gizmo similar to an old fashioned cigarette holder. I’ve wondered if that was to minimize the smell on the hands and arms.

    Good luck!

    1. BCW*

      Thats so true. I’m not even a smoker (I have smoked, but very rarely, and I’m not addicted) and I’ve noticed that its ok to demonize them. For some reason the nicotine addiction is considered “a choice” and as someone on here even said, they don’t get any sympathy (not that anyone was asking for it). Yet alcoholics, drug addicts, or even people with food addictions are considered different somehow and no one would dare tell a drug addict “why don’t you just stop”.

      1. Andrea*

        That may be true sometimes, but not always….for example, my parents are both alcoholics, and even though I understand now that it’s an addiction, I also know that they put themselves on that road with their choices (and after seeing this play out with their own families, they still did it). So, yeah, it starts out as a choice for sure. But your point about telling addicts to just stop is a good one….presumably, they would if they could, but something is defective in their brains, so they can’t.

        1. some1*

          I think you have a pretty fundamental misunderstanding about how addiction works. Yes, your parents chose to have that first drink. So did I. Probably so did most of the people posting in the thread. Most of us didn’t become alcoholics. I tried alcohol for the first time even knowing that it was illegal and I have a history of alcoholism on both sides of family. I still didn’t become one.

          Yes, there are people who never, ever try alcohol or tobacco because they just plain don’t want to or they are afraid of becoming addicted at some point. But no alcoholic or smoker had that first drink or first smoke believing they would become addicted.

          1. Andrea*

            …and smokers don’t get addicted after one cigarette. So, your point doesn’t hold. I’m not going to argue with you on this (anyway I’m leaving in a few hours for a weekend trip…just waiting for my husband to get off work), but it seems like smokers spend a lot of energy trying to defend a habit that makes other people’s lives worse (and of course, it makes their own health worse, too). That’s one reason why I don’t have anything to do with people who smoke; it’s just a fundamentally different way of looking at the world and thinking about our responsibilities to one another. It doesn’t even matter that much if it’s an addiction or a habit, really.

            1. some1*

              Smokers don’t get addicted after one cigarette, but plenty of people try smoking and don’t get addicted. So I don’t understand why you are judging me for trying something tons of other people have tried.

              And just to let you know, when you write “I’m not going to argue with you on this” and write your viewpoint on an issue after that statement, what you actually telling people “I’m only interested in shutting you down, not responding like a grown-up.”

  20. Piggle*

    I agree about asking him to wear a jacket of some sort when he smokes. You can also ask him to WASH HIS HANDS. My SO smokes and he doesn’t have the overpowering smell of a smoker.

  21. BCW*

    I think the most fair thing to do is to ask your boss to move your seat or to get a personal fan or air purifier. You are the who has a new issue, not the smoker, so you should be the one to adapt due to your increased sensitivity.

    As Sophia said above, I’m very surprised that so many people think that this person (the smoker) should change their behaviors because of a choice you made to get pregnant.

    1. Anonymous*

      I still say the smoker should remember not all of us want that stinky smell around. Made a choice to get pregnant of all the things to say. Who wants to expose a baby to that? I think smoking should be confined to your own car and own house.

      1. Jen in RO*

        Well the stinky smell was not a problem with OP until she got pregnant, so that is the key event. I bet much doubt that smoke smell on a coat can harm the baby, so this is all about mom’s comfort, which she can have if she switches office (assuming that’s possible in the particular company).

    2. Rayner*

      Yes, because exposing other people to carcinogens, toxic material, and reeking clothing is totally fair and should get a free pass. >.>

      1. BCW*

        As long as smoking is legal, then thats something you will have to deal with. And the point was, the OP didn’t have a problem with it initially, so it was HER circumstances that changed. If the co-worker didn’t smoke, and then started, I could understand as well. Let me be clear, I’m no fan of smoking. I had roommates who did and it sucked. Even with my door closed and an air purifier, my clothes smelled like smoke even when clean. I also was jumping for joy when they banned it indoors in Illinois. However, I think just because you don’t like the smell, the other person doesn’t have to jump through hoops to appease you.

        1. Rayner*

          I’m asthmatic. Sitting next to someone who smokes can often be a trigger for me being unable to breathe . It’s not about appeasing me, it’s about my right to breathe freely.

          So, yeah. I think it’s bloody unfair of this coworker to come in, reeking of smoke because it physically could harm other people. And even if they aren’t physically affected like I would be, it’s still unfair.

          You wouldn’t say that a coworker who refused to wash and stank of BO was allowed to come in and subject others to his smell because it’s legal on the books. It’s still unfair and gross. Why should smokers get any different treatment?

          1. some1*

            Let me get this straight: because *you* have asthma, the LW’s co-worker shouldn’t be allowed to go outside and smoke even though you don’t work there?

          2. BCW*

            If there is a medical reason, like yours, then thats a different story. However, this is just someone’s increased sensititivy to an odor, not an actual medical reason. It seems people think they have the right to tell everyone what to do based on their preferences. I believe I’ve seen on here people wanting to ask others to use other soaps, body washes, or deodorant. At some point, you just have to deal with other people. As I said, I think its perfectly fine for the OP to ask to move seats because it would make her more comfortable. I just don’t think it should be on the other person to change for her comfort.

          3. Eva R*

            I also have asthma and am female, and the comparison of asthma and being pregnant astounds me. If they made relatively inexpensive devices that would keep me from getting asthma or having an attack I would use them.

            Being pregnant is not a medical condition.

            I am not even a smoker but some of these comments rub me the wrong way. I think the original advice is the best. Both of them should continue living their lives and either figure out how to work together or not sit near one another.

  22. Erika*

    Not to be a negative nancy, but your advice only works if she’s already told people at work about her pregnancy. If the OP works in a non-family-friendly environment or is in a position where she isn’t yet comfortable sharing her pregnancy news at work, she’s in a very bad position here because she can’t tell her coworker the real reason she is so miserable with the smell of the cigarette smoke.

    When I was in my first trimester, I had a lot of difficulty with nausea and was absolutely sick at work all the time because I sat right next to the area where people would eat lunch and I could smell EVERYTHING (seriously, cookies wrapped in plastic and so on). There was one employee in particular who brought particularly pungent food to work every day and would leave it sitting near my desk for HOURS.

    To compound matters, I was unable to move and completely unwilling to tell my bosses about my pregnancy until I had an exit strategy worked out, as I was the first pregnant employee they’d ever had and they were not known as a family-friendly company (they ended up handling the news much better than I would have expected).

    All that to say: it may be something you have to tough out. Perhaps you could speak with your OB about the chance of the smoke harming the baby (probably small, considering it’s not smoke-smoke, but I’m not a doctor) and the option of vitamin supplements that will help with the nausea.

    Good luck!

  23. Del*

    Honestly, I think the most fair thing to do is to see what he’s willing to do, and find the thing that is the least effort/least imposition for everyone involved. It may be that he’s willing to make some changes — if so, great. It may be that he’s not. If so, well, then the coworker will have to change.

    It seems like a lot of the commenters in this thread are willing to jump to a very oppositional/blamey standpoint – YOU made the change, HE shouldn’t have to change anything. Or HE’S the gross smoker HE should have to change. And in my experience, that’s a really bad way to go about looking for resolution. One way or another, someone is getting blamed for the situation and the entire responsibility for making an accommodation is being placed on their shoulders, when mutual compromise can often lead to much better results.

    The weather is getting colder (in a lot of areas AAM’s reader/asker base covers) right now. So the smoking jacket resolution is probably a fairly easy one to adopt, because he’s likely starting to wear some kind of jacket/coat/sweatershit during his outdoor smoking breaks anyway. That’s a very low-effort solution. Depending on the setup/network/whatever at the OP’s office, moving her desk may be low-effort, or it may be high-effort; the OP is the best one to answer that. Switching to e-cigs during the working day is probably a medium- to high-effort solution for the OP’s coworker, although it’s at least worth floating to see if he’ll give it a shot. The OP picking up a desk fan or finding some odor-eliminating spray that doesn’t also trigger scent/chemical sensitivity is probably another low-effort solution, depending on finances.

    Talking to the coworker without placing blame, as AAM suggests, is really the best starting step. Work WITH him, OP, not AGAINST him, and you’ll probably get the best resolution.

    1. Del*

      I think that is my most epic misspelling of “sweatshirt” ever. I’m just gonna go ahead and blame being sick.

    2. Mander*


      I really don’t understand all the blame-y comments (your choice to get pregnant, you self-righteous breeder! your choice to be a disgusting, polluting smoker!). Why is it so difficult for the OP to nicely explain to the co-worker that they are feeling very sensitive to smells, and ask if the co-worker would be willing to adopt a temporary measure to reduce the smoke odor? The “smoking hoodie” sounds ideal, IMHO. If the co-worker is unwilling, then asking about changing seats is the next step. I don’t see why a pregnant woman asking for a short-term change should be viewed as a selfish, self-righteous demand to special treatment because of a choice they made — a choice which, it seems, is implied to be wrong and selfish.

  24. adrienne*

    Try asking him/her to leave their coat elsewhere in the office – a coat closet? I’ve found that those hold a lot of smokey smell.

  25. A Jane*

    I just had a coworker microwave a few strips of bacon. Our microwave is the copier room, but the smell is starting to permeate through the office.

  26. Wubbie*

    Would everyone please stop saying thirdhand smoke causes cancer until you can provide a study that shows this.

    From the American Cancer Society’s website: “No actual cancer risk has been measured, but the health risks of thirdhand smoke are an active area of research.”

    1. Wubbie*

      It also says “There is no research in the medical literature as yet that shows cigarette odors cause cancer in people.”

  27. non-smoker*

    Many good comments here, but I’d like to say that:

    1) Switching seats with someone else seems to be just making it someone else’s problem. Yes, the smell of smoke was worse when I was pregnant, but I would not be willing to have to smell that all day every day even when I wasn’t. If someone came in with a particularly strong smelling perfume, it would be perfectly reasonable to ask them to take steps not to smell so strongly. Putting aside the very real health risks, I should not have to deal with the consequences of someone else’s smoking (if anything, it’s the smokers who seem to me to be the special snowflakes, insisting that no one dare challenge their right to do what they want and ignore the effect on those around them).

    2) Yes, nicotine is addictive. What do addicts do – they go to reahab or find another way to get treatment. All this talk about how hard it is to kick the addiction is like an alcoholic saying they should be able to take breaks during the day to drink, because they have an addiction that they aren’t willing/able to quit. And no, don’t tell me the difference is that smoking doesn’t impact your ability to do your job. I’ve known plenty of functional alcoholics who could perform their jobs while buzzed, but if their employers had found out they were drinking on the job would have been canned immediately.

  28. NonSmoker*

    At no time in my career has an issue due to someone’s smoking ever been addressed. While the comments on this post speak to smoke as an odor – the real problem is what the smoke contains. What if the substance being smoked wasn’t a cigarette, would one be complaining about the odor or how the substance (meaning it’s chemicals/toxins affect you). I react to cigarette smoke way before I am consciously aware that someone is smoking or has smoked and is now in my environment. But I get the cigarette smoke odor is what we smell and can identify. I am currently sharing an office and thought I would resolve by simply requesting to be moved, but it has created such an uproar with staff and managers alike, some whom smoke themselves and can’t remotely see why I have an issue. So again, I will be resigning myself to suffer through until my situation changes. I even agreed to try an air filter, but manager was unwilling or incapable of making the purchase.

    1. Anonymous*

      I am sorry you have to put up with this. Years ago when I worked in a government office smoking was permitted in the office. My supervisor was a chain smoker and when I did filing in her office it was horrible for me. I worked with many professional people and many were smokers. I have never smoked and none of my family do so I would come home with my coat smelling like cigarette smoke. This is one thing I cannot see others not understanding. The health risks are so many and it is not fair to impose that on others. That to me is selfish on the smokers part.

  29. mtm*

    Not only is second hand smoke bad for Mom and Baby, but THIRDHAND smoke, the residue on chairs, desks, walls, is also incredibly toxic to the development of the baby and the well being of mom. The writer should ask to change offices immediately.

  30. chris*

    Correction: “Thirdhand smoke” is not exactly starting to be acknowledged as a danger in itself, but it is the latest scare tactic being hyped by the antismoking crusade. There’s no real science behind it.

  31. Jan fink*

    I live in an apt and the lady upstairs smokes all day and night. I can’t sleep, breathe, or stand to go home. Sprayed everything known to man. She knows. I gave spoken to the manager 5 times. Doesn’t matter. I wake up smelling smoke, even tasting it. It is repulsive to me. How to get the smell away, and off me?

  32. Gordy*

    I have never been a smoker, and therefore retain my full ability to smell the things I love – the smells of nature, flowers, plants, trees, and the smell of food. Unfortunately this also means I can smell second hand smoke at 30ft! My boss is addicted to breathing smoke into his lungs for pleasure. I don’t have problem that as it’s his lungs, and the way he’s going he’ll end up as one of the 16,500 people who die from smoking related illness worldwide every single day – the ultimate Darwin effect.
    The problem I have is that when he regularly returns from smoking outside, he has smoker’s halitosis, and I have to endure working for the next half an hour like I’m sitting in an ash tray. It drives me crazy.

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