update: I share an office with a smoker, and the smell is making me sick

Remember the pregnant letter-writer last year who shared an office with a temp who smoked — and the smell was making her sick? Here’s the update.

The temp was spoken to again by HR not too long after my letter was posted, after she brought in an essential oil diffuser (!). She was told she could not use that in the office without the okay of everyone and she took it home. (We have other smokers at my office, which is mostly open workspace, but I work in a small, enclosed office – even small lunch smells get big even when you aren’t pregnant in here! It really was a smell and maybe health issue, not a smoking issue!)

She also cut way back on the cover-up scents, which did help with the headaches, but she still smoked at home and in her car on the way to work (which is totally her prerogative!) so that scent remained. Unfortunately, working at a different station would not work for the type of work we do, but the boss took everything into consideration and decided to redistribute the tasks that needed to be covered while I was on leave (my office mate would take on some of my more technical things and give some of her lighter tasks to the temp) so she could begin working on those and some new small projects on her own. She would need to stay in the office for now but would be given her own chair while working at my desk while I was on leave and would be moved to a new desk space in a different office upon my return if she was hired on. Hurrah!

This was an okay resolution for the next couple weeks. The smoke smell was still strong but more tolerable when we weren’t sitting directly next to each other but work was getting done, we were all getting along, and things were moving right along! Then some issues started to arise with the tasks she was given by my office mate. Some large mistakes started popping up and it turns out she wasn’t following the procedures she was taught or the notes she took during training. We have some leeway on how we can do our work, but some things can’t be deviated from, due to some outside standards enforced by our industry. She sat with my office mate to do some re-training and it was going okay until she started deviating again. When my office mate told her she needed to do it X way, like she was taught, our temp pushed back and said she thought it was better to do it her way, way Y. Office mate explained that it may seem better but for reasons A, B, C, which become more apparent the longer you work here and get to know our system, you can’t do it way Y. The temp sort of rolled her eyes, said whatever but did it way X … until she was working on her own again. She was spoken to by our boss and told that although way Y may seem correct at the start, it causes issues down the line that aren’t apparent right away.

It all sort of started to go down hill from there. She started complaining a lot about the way everything was done and making comments like, “Well, I would do this but I don’t want to get lectured again.” She would also make a big deal about how some tasks were harder or took longer so she would leave them for later and do all her easy tasks first … which resulted in the bigger stuff never getting done.

Long story short, she was let go before I even went on leave. We ended up redistributing some duties to others on the team and brought in another temp to handle some tasks from everyone. This person has worked out well and is still here!

So it all worked out well in the long-term! I have a beautiful, healthy baby and my office is back to feeling harmonious! I really appreciate your feedback and reassurance that I wasn’t going pregnancy-crazy! It helped to have those direct conversations with my boss and I’m so lucky she understood and took real action! And many thanks to all the commenters! The vast majority were so positive and supportive – you all are AWESOME!

{ 134 comments… read them below }

  1. Bunny*

    Semi-Related Rant:

    I swear I am not ripping this off from the Friends episode!

    Literally half of my small office (15~ people) smokes and they take constant smoke breaks together. Which is fine with me, but I feel like I am being cut out of a lot of team building/office politics because I don’t smoke.

    Anyone been in this situation? How did you deal? Something that happened recently was I found out I was being minorly insensitive about a co-workers work slacking because they had told all the people that they smoke with that they were going through some family issues that I had no idea about.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      It doesn’t impact me but there is a team that sits very close to me that all go for 4 smokes breaks per day together. One of the people even purchased a large SUV (think Suburban) so the whole team could fit in. Of the group of 6 only 4 were smokers at the beginning but now the other 2 started vaping to “fit in”. The team members who did not participate didn’t last long in that group…

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This sounds like high school and I just shivered. That sounds so stinky gross.

        Thankfully all the smokers over the years I’ve worked with use their smoke breaks to get the heck away from everyone else, there’s no crowding around chit chatting and whatever. They do that all day long in the shop, they use their breaks to actually detach.

        Also if I have to do something in order to “fit in” with anyone, anywhere, it was never ever going to work out.

    2. Miss Fisher*

      I think thats how it always is. There was a group in our building that smoked and we counted one day. They left in a pack almost twice an hour. I don’t see how any work got done. Its the same now except management smokes so all managers go out together. It all just adds to the clickiness. People start smoking so they can go out with management and talk.

      1. seriously*

        I think there’s also a problem in watching how much time people spend smoking. Would you like it it someone counted the minutes or amount of times you got up to get coffee and chat with a coworker in the kitchen or how many times in an hour you go to the bathroom?

        It may be cliqueness, but it’s no different than people who eat lunch together or go for a coffee run in the afternoon. It starts to sound like resentment when people are upset coworkers are having smoke breaks and don’t actually make any steps to bond with them otherwise. You don’t smoke? Fine, ask them to lunch or coffee or just to take a walk.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I agree with you that it’s not a good thing to be policing people’s time.

          However it’s way easier to notice a group of people constantly leaving throughout the day than to watch a person who’s doing their own thing.

          A big group walking out the door together every hour is pretty distracting. Not so much when it’s just Nancy going to get herself another cup of coffee or use the bathroom even every hour.

          1. Not a Blossom*

            I agree. Monitoring how often 1 or 2 people go out to smoke would be weird, but how could you not notice a large group leaving (and twice per hour!)?

            1. ...*

              Also you can’t easily join in so it leaves people feeling left out. If people are grabbing a coffee, lunch, going on a walk, stopping by walgreens you can join in!! But smoking you can’t unless you want to literally inhale poison…..And people should not have to inhale poison to feel included at work or get ahead.

          2. mrs__peel*

            I can understand the policing and resentment if you don’t get equivalent breaks.

            There are some workplaces where smoke breaks are considered fine and dandy, but leaving your desk regularly for any other reason (e.g., to go for a walk) gets you the stink eye. I worked in a place like that, where the non-smokers were effectively working ~40-50 minutes longer every day than the smokers but being paid the same.

            1. Alexandra Lynch*

              Yeah. I worked before my marriage in housekeeping at a hotel.
              Coworker to manager: “Hey, Mary, can I go burn one before I do the other side of my hall?”
              Manager: “Yeah, sure.”
              Me: “Okay, one side done, here’s the dirty sheets. I’m going to reload my cart and, before I go do the other side of my hall, can I step outside for a few minutes and just breathe?”
              Manager: “We pay you to work, not to stand outside, Alexandra.”

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              This is the issue I’ve had at several workplaces. It isn’t so much time policing,but if I don’t get to take a break AT ALL because when Mitch and Julie are out taking smoke breaks people ask you to take on extra work or answer their questions because they “don’t want to bother them while they’re smoking.” Next thing you know it’s the end of the day, they’ve gotten six breaks, I’ve gotten none. If I try to get outside and walk around, “we’re really busy. I need you here.” (as Mitch and Julie walk out the door with their cigs).

            3. Julia*

              This. Although this extends to things outside smoking. If my co-workers spend most of our time in the office (which is our home base, we usually work outside and only are in the office between assignments) talking to each other (loudly…) about non-work stuff, no one bats an eyes. If I play on my phone for the same amount of time to relax, that’s a NO. Hm…

    3. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      Actually I’m part of a similar clique – but we don’t smoke, we take coffee breaks together. Since we have an on-site Starbucks, we can go for a walk and have a chat while in the queue and while waiting for all our orders to be filled. It’s possibly subtly different in that we’re not an exclusive club – if you want a brew, just join us – but it can also be a source of gossip. Not so much team building though because we’re pretty much the entire team, so I guess it’s not really comparable.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        but it’s maybe 1x/day, right? The team next to me tends to have 4 – 8 of their 10 members walk over to the cafeteria together right after their stand up, for coffee. But that’s the only time that large groups of people move together; they don’t even do it for lunch.

        Every hour, or even every other hour, would be a really different story.

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          Oh its 2-3 times a day, including grabbing lunch together (morning brew, lunch – optional, depending on meetings, mid-afternoon). It breaks up the day and matches our focus levels. It’s good to get away from the desk and screen for a walk for a bit.

    4. JSPA*

      If you’re all friendly, say “I could use a chance to stretch my legs” or “a chance to see the sun” for ~one of their smoke breaks per day. Stand upwind, and do…some arm circles, stretch against a post, expose your arms to the sun for 5 minutes, and (in a small way) join the chatting. If there’s no wind that day, maybe you choose not to, but so long as there’s a breeze, you won’t get a lungful, just an earful.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Or take your cup of coffee with you so you can have a drink with you.

        That’s how my mom always does it when she’s taking her breaks in the smoking area verses the breakroom. She hasn’t smoked in 30 years and still sometimes goes out to the area to talk to her friends out there.

      2. Fikly*

        I’m asthmatic. There is no way to stand within 30 feet and not get covered in fumes, even if there is no wind.

    5. Dr. Doll*

      Thank goodness I’m in a nanny-state university in a nanny-state, and there is simply no smoking or vaping ALLOWED. At least it takes care of this particular exclusionary reindeer game.

      1. mrs__peel*

        I used to have to drag my asthmatic self through clouds of smoke to get into work, and I’m really grateful to work in a place now where smoking is completed banned basically anywhere around the building. People have to go WAY off in the distance if they want to smoke, or in their own cars.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        My university banned smoking/vaping too, but there was still a real issue with people smoking and vaping at the bus stops and other places (minus a glorious three months after The Incident, but even that didn’t stop them for long).

    6. Asenath*

      I was once in a similar situation, and one of the organizers spoke to me about it – she was concerned that I was left out because I didn’t go out on smoke breaks. A majority of the people there were smokers, and I think some who weren’t went on the breaks for social reasons. I really dislike the smell of smoke, so I just said I didn’t want to join the smokers, and it wasn’t brought up again. I don’t think my decision made any difference in the way I was treated, but I wasn’t there long.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        In collage I would tolerate sitting in a big cloud of smoke just to be in on the chatter. As an adult there is no way I would put up with it now. I don’t recall ever being happier about any law passed in my lifetime as when my state banned smoking in restaurants and bars. Best thing ever.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The stories of “then others took up smoking because of it.” are fascinating to me. It grosses me out so much that I cannot imagine just going “Hey let me try that.” But I supposed those that are on the fence of “meh don’t care either way” may then decide to see what it’s about it. But group behaviors like that really interests me because I either want to do something or don’t, there’s rarely any “oh well sure I’ll try it out just for funsys.”

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          My husband used to just be a “party smoker” in college. He took up smoking to get a break at work (plus the supervisors smoked, so it was beneficial in that sense). Now he’s a regular smoker at work during stressful times and it worries me deeply.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I see this happen a lot over the years to friends who are the “I only drink when I’m druuuuuuuunk”. Yeah no, that’s a slippery slope and can lead to what your husband is doing. I don’t blame you for worrying, it’s something we all do when our partners are engaging in risky behaviors like that. That’s part of the habit formation. First it’s just a few puffs if your’e drunk at a party. Then it’s when you’re stressed. Then you find that you’re stressed for the rush season at work that’s a couple months. Two months of constant smoke breaks leads to smoking when you’re not stressed but just have the habit of grabbing one.

    7. Tundra*

      I used to be in this situation. I got one of those toy pipes with the bubble soap, and one day just started going outside with the smokers during one of their breaks to blow bubbles around. Within a few weeks there were 5 or 6 of us joining the smokers to blow bubbles around the parking lot.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        You sound like we could hangout and do silly kid sh*t together.

        Signed, I bought a bubble machine for an event because bubbles.

    8. I coulda been a lawyer*

      I’m a former smoker who went through that when I quit. I HAD been part of the crowd smoking with the boss each time she went for a smoke and then suddenly I wasn’t. Fortunately for me she missed my insight and asked me to rejoin “whenever you are ready to hang with us without smoking yourself” so that was good. But my time on the outside made me recognize your problem, so I mentioned it to the boss. We became much more inclusive after that. In fact she would even go to a non-smokers desk and say “I really need a smoke, but I also want to talk about Project Y – would you mind joining us? We won’t blow our smoke at you!

      1. What day is today?*

        I think smokers, particularly heavy smokers really underestimate how invasive their smoke is. Not intentionally blowing it on someone doesn’t even begin to address the issues (see replies to original letter). Being asked by the boss to go discuss work stuff while she smoked would have me looking for another job.

        1. mrs__peel*

          I definitely agree with this. I would feel pressured to do it and feel physically bad afterwards.

          1. ...*

            Yeah….Yuck. Smokers often think (generalization I know) that airing out for a second and using some breath spray makes them totally neutral but they’re just used to the smell….Ask me how I know….

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It literally kills their nose and sense of smell like that. They CANT smell it themselves.

          My mom told me about how when she quit how things started changing. First she tasted her food better! Less salt or butter needed to amp up the flavor profiles. And then she started smelling things she never noticed before, including how foul the scent of smoking was.

          I also recall a day when one of my old bosses walked through the office and his wife was sitting with me, chatting about something. He was like “Hey, you’re here already, wife! Come on outside and hang out with me, just going to go smoke.” and she responded with “You know I don’t want to smell that, I’ll talk to you when you’re done.” LOL [He used to roll his own, so he’d chat with me while he prepared one, then went out to do his thing, he never dreamed of inviting me outside because he knew I was the same kind of response as his wife.]

          1. Turquoisecow*

            My mom has smoked for as long as I can remember and she also covers most food in salt before even taking a bite. I never considered the connection.

      2. Burned Out Supervisor*

        I was a heavy smoker for 16 years and started quitting when I realized almost none of our management team smoked. As I rose within the department I realized how “smelly” I was and it was probably pretty sucky to sit next to me. It was EXTREMELY difficult for me to quit and I ended up using Chanitx for nearly a year to quit (and it was still hard). I would be very reluctant to join my manager on a smoke break, and I quit 6 years ago. Frankly, I’d be pretty pissed that she would even ask that of me. Just go on your break and talk to me about the project when you’re done (or, you know, we could talk about it now and you can wait 10 minutes).

        1. SayWhat*

          Congratulations! :)

          I quit a 3-pack-a-day habit cold turkey, which was pretty brutal. It’s been 29 years (wOOt!) and I just don’t understand why anyone would want to start.

    9. Close Bracket*

      My mother used to go hang with them even though she doesn’t smoke bc she liked them and would rather take her breaks with them than with the non smokers. :)

    10. mrs__peel*

      I was in a very similar situation, where the office had a clique of smokers (including the head of the organization) who were very close-knit and took frequent breaks together. It became clear that there was preferential treatment going on, e.g., with the smokers having a leg up on promotions and others being excluded. It definitely had a major effect on office morale, especially among the qualified non-smokers who were getting passed over for jobs.

      This was just the tip of the iceberg with the organization head being a terrible manager, and there was a mass exodus of employees (including me) who left and found new jobs. I was quite pleased to find out that he got demoted shortly after we all left. (My new job is much better, and I love it).

  2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I have to wonder if she started getting cranky and pushy at the end because of some kind of resentment she’d built up from her chats with HR. Which really, in the end it worked out better for everyone, she is hopefully happier wherever the wind blew her after they decided she wasn’t going to work out in that position!

    I’ve shared space with sweaty stinky people over the years and I’ll take that over the smell of stale smoke embedded in fibers and pores.

    1. Observer*

      Her behavior was more than “cranky and pushy” though. Flat out refusing to do things the ways she’d been explicitly instructed is a major problem.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Fair enough, she was downright insubordinate at the end, that’s for sure. I just see how this snowballed quietly into that though, which is why I was being somewhat soft on her.

        Also nicotine withdrawals come to mind since she was cramming it all into her private time and then would go presumably 8 hours without any, that can cause moody awful behavior. But in the end, really it’s just good she got let go and everyone is free of one another, it wasn’t working out!

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        What kind of person hears “Your coworkers are sensitive to smells so we need to reduce the smells” and thinks “I know! I’ll bring in essential oils!” *shudder*

        The only thing worse than a bad smell is trying to cover up the bad smell with another smell. It never ever works.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I blame the MLM people who hock the crud as “safe” and “organic” and “cures” to ailments. She could have easily fallen prey to one of those “Asthma!? This citrus oil will clear that right up!!” *barf*

          Lots of people are simply uneducated when it comes to allergies, sensitivity and you know, people who have different health needs =(

          Also it sounds like she took the conversations to say “the fact you smell like smoke is the problem, don’t smell like smoke.” so she tried covering it up with perfume [barf again] and was told “no, not like that!” so she’s all “Uh, essential oils are “safe” right?!” Argh.

        2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          The kind of person who probably only take requests or instructions completely literally — “you only said I couldn’t wear SPECIFIC PERFUME, you didn’t say Specific Essential Oil!” or even more nitpicky like “you said I couldn’t wear essential oil on my body, you didn’t say I couldn’t use a diffuser” — and disregard the intent behind it — reduce scents across the board.

          On one hand I have a 1.75 out of 10 bit of sympathy for her — she’s a smoker and that’s an addiction that is very difficult to handle; plus she’s being point blank told she stinks, which hurts to hear no matter who is saying it and why; and any remedy she can think of (whether passive-aggressively or earnestly) to combat the tobacco stink is also met with disapproval, so she’s in an untenable position on that.

  3. Triumphant Fox*

    Smoke is so tough, especially with pregnancy! It sounds like she had a tough time taking feedback in general. I’m glad things worked out – especially with a new temp.

    Congratulations on the healthy baby!

  4. XtinaLyn*

    Sounds like the resolution was more than you could have hoped for.
    Side note: When I was pregnant with #2, I could NOT handle the smell of coffee. I would gag at the slightest whiff of it, and the smell of freshly brewing coffee? Oh, forget it. My mom had come up to stay with me a few weeks before my daughter was due, and she would brew coffee every morning. I finally forced her to brew it in the guest bathroom with the door shut and the window open, even in early January. I can’t imagine what the smell of stuck-on smoke would have been like–good for you for communicating clearly and speaking your truth!

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I also had terrible nausea. It was triggered by the most random things. The worst was the cold…and I got pregnant right before the start of winter. Ugggggh.

    2. Penny*

      It took me weeks when first pregnant to realize that the gross rotting smell was the coffee maker, not the fridge.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I get this before I get a migraine. Did we buy a new brand of coffee, it smells so awful? Why does it still reek of salmon from the other night’s dinner?

        Oh. *takes meds*

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I feel you. My sense of smell goes bananapants before and during my period. I fear what could happen if I ever get pregnant.

  5. it's me*

    Good thing she left!
    I had downstairs neighbors who smoked in their apartment (bless my heart, I somehow didn’t think this was okay, but in Georgia it’s totally fine, apparently unless it’s a designated smoke-free community) and I rejoiced when they moved out, since there was nothing I could really do about the smoke getting into my apartment.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My upstairs neighbor at my last complex used to smoke inside only during the cold months. There would be times I’d walk into my bathroom in like November and it would be full of the stench of smoke from their clear chainsmoking habit. [They smoked on their balcony during the nice weather…they’d unceremoniously drop their butts down their deck boards and so my balcony in turn was covered…I was unable to use that balcony, I refused to start the war I kept stewing about in my head, needless to say.]

      I too was shocked because I came from areas where you couldn’t smoke indoors. It’s a regional/municipality and landlord’s decision, much like a pet policy. I was not pleased to be paying out my butt for a place that was contaminated by stank.

        1. Veronica*

          Chicago is pretty good about this. I think NYC is too.
          I will always love Mayor Bloomberg for starting the smoke-free movement. There is no telling where I would be now without it.

    2. Miss Fisher*

      I had a friend who had to move out of her condo because the people next door were smoking pot, okay and legal, which was seeping into the babies nursery.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        It’s legal here too–and I *really* hope that if we were bothering the upstairs neighbors with it, they’d ask us to stop. We are trying to keep the vapor away from them, but if they tell us that isn’t working, we can stop. It’s a pleasure, not a need.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You’re very kind and thoughtful, thank you.

          Sadly most aren’t like this. I’ve witnessed people asking nicely if someone can please be mindful of their smoke and they get a cloud blown in their face or it sets off WWIII.

        2. pleaset*

          “I *really* hope that if we were bothering the upstairs neighbors with it, they’d ask us to stop.”

          @The Man, Becky Lynch – I think you really should tell/ask people if they are bothering you. if the other person escalates, that’s on them.

        3. mrs__peel*

          You could always slip a note in the mailbox/ under the door asking them to let you know if there are any issues. They would probably think you were very considerate to ask.

    3. Bunny Girl*

      We moved this summer because our downstairs neighbor would not stop smoking like a chimney in his apartment. Our lease said you couldn’t but it didn’t stop him. I complained to our landlord numerous times and he started smoking inside with the window open. I have severe allergies and my boyfriend has asthma and it was making us both sick. I hadn’t really wanted to move before he moved in, but I was all on board with it after he did. We moved into a house and it’s a lot better. Our neighbors smoke but at least it isn’t getting filtered into my vents!

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        My next-door neighbor’s brother moved in with her and he smokes. He only does it outside, which is good for her and the house, but it’s bad for me and how much I [used to] love hanging out in my backyard. The slightest whiff of smoke fires off my allergies and makes me nauseated. He has to light up 4-6 times an hour, for 5-10 minutes at a time, so the only time I can enjoy my yard is in the early morning hours before he wakes up.

        It bothers me that I have to wait for him to die to be able to enjoy my own yard again.

          1. Observation :/*

            What a nasty comment. it’s not funny to joke about people dying prematurely just because they do something you don’t like.

            1. Veronica*

              As a person who has been sick too many times to count – including my entire childhood and young adulthood – from the fumes of smokers, I think it’s funny.
              Last Saturday I went to a social event and it turned out to have a patio and it turned out many people were smoking on that patio, including the jerk who thinks he’ll die without his cigar (and thought it was funny to bring it inside last year, knowing I’m allergic to it), and the fumes coming in through the open doors – technically illegal since it was inflicted on the bartenders, but nothing will be done…
              I currently live in a non-smoking building and 3-4 smokers have moved in – I had to explain to them they couldn’t stand right in front of the door and smoke – I saw one this morning light up right in the doorway.
              Sigh. Big sigh. Yes, that joke is funny.

            2. Kate2*

              It’s a little funny. As an asthmatic who has gotten really sick from selfish smokers, I am sick of being told to feel sorry for smokers. I’ll never forget asking a family of smokers to move less than 6 feet away so they weren’t directly under my window. They started smoking under my window even more! And they knew I am/was asthmatic and they were making me really sick.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Nah bro, all my grandparents died of smoking related lung diseases. It cuts your life span but they died in their late 60s when all their siblings lived about 10-15 years longer. It doesn’t work like that. They were 3 packs a day, no filters kind of smokers.

      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        Yeah, we have neighbors down the hall who we’ve had to report several times for stinking up the floor with pot. (Illegal in our state, not that I care either way.) Seriously, haven’t they ever heard of special brownies? I don’t care what they do if they don’t make my apartment smell of skunk!

    4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I used to live in a complex where you could only smoke outside, so my next door neighbors did, indeed, smoke outside. On our small, shared front patio next to their front door, which was at best a few feet away from my front door. Relentlessly. I haven’t been willing to live in a place with entrances that close together since.

      (Also, they’d feed a large group of outdoor/semi-stray cats, and for a while I had problems with one of their cats running into my apartment whenever I opened the door. This was substantially more pleasant than the smoking because at least cats are cute, but still not neighbor of the year material since I’m allergic to cats as well as sensitive to smoke.)

  6. Third or Nothing!*

    Yay, I’m glad everything worked out! The smell of smoke makes me ill as well. Headaches, nausea, the works. It would have been really difficult for me to be in your situation, especially on top of concerns about a growing baby.

    Oh and congrats on the birth of your baby!

  7. Not really a waitress*

    a Lifetime ago, I was a dept manager at a department store. I was promoted from within and a lot of the managers, including my boss, smoked. When they took a smoke break, I took a non smoking break, We all enjoyed a little sunshine and they were careful to place me up wind. We solved more problems on those breaks then we did in meetings.

    Later in a different lifetime, I realized the best way to keep my boss’s attention was to following him out to the smoking gazebo. Again. Upwind was important. But I was able to talk as long as I needed to and often got what I wanted out it as he was happy to keep smoking while he listened.

    When I was pregnant however, rules had to change. I had a coworker who I was good friends with. We used to sneak out on Tuesdays for the sunset movie discount. We saw Airforce 1. I could smell her cigarettes and her lotion and it made me queasy. Turns out I was pregnant.

  8. blink14*

    It IS a health issue. Third hand smoke is a real thing. It is mind boggling to me that culturally around the world (and even more so outside the US) that people are so cavalier about smoking and the dangers it presents. Every cigarette smoked in the presence of another person or in an area where another person may also inhabit or just walk through is hurting that other person. Every. single. cigarette. And yet, there continues to be this culturally perpetuated hallucination or something that this isn’t happening. I’ve started purposely crossing the street and actively avoiding smokers in public, and I really could not care less if someone finds that offensive. I have a right to protect my own body.

    Don’t even get me started on the stupidity of vaping if you aren’t doing it to quit smoking.

    1. Asenath*

      The evidence that third hand smoke causes harm is extremely flimsy. If you want to avoid smokers, go ahead, but its extremely unlikely that the tiny concentration of dangerous chemicals in the residue left behind by smokers is going to hurt you at all.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Third hand smoke is a problem for pets, because they lick the residue off their fur.

        Growing up, my cat died of stomach cancer, and I only recently connected this to the fact that her previous owner was a chainsmoker who died of lung cancer (which is why she was up for re-adoption.)

        1. Asenath*

          Even cancers which have strong links to tobacco smoke sometimes turn up in pets – and people – who have never smoked and never lived or worked with smokers. The fact that smoking is highly associated with lung cancer doesn’t mean that everyone who has lung cancer has it because of tobacco smoke – and I don’t think the cause of stomach cancer in cats is known at all.

        2. Veronica*

          It’s a problem for babies and toddlers too, because they crawl around on floors and walls and then put their hands in their mouth. I have seen a medical study about this.

      2. Annette*

        Yes. People just hate the smell of smoke and make up these silly justifications. you won’t get cancer from passing a smoker on the street. Fear mongering helps no one. Sorry!

        1. blink14*

          I may not get cancer, but I may have an asthma attack, and have in the past. That is detrimental to me.

        2. Bill*

          From cancer.gov: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all classified secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen.”
          It is not a silly justification, it is a fact. The truth helps everyone but those who don’t want to know.

          1. Observation :/*

            Secondhand smoke, yes (and those affected are mostly people who are constantly exposed to it, indoors, not walking down the street for literal seconds). Thirdhand smoke is absolutely made up by people who don’t like the smell of smokers’ clothes and want to sound like they have a legit health concern.

            1. mrs__peel*

              Thirdhand smoke can certainly trigger asthma and other respiratory issues. It’s hardly a “made up” concern, and is far more serious than just objecting to the smell.

            2. Temperance*

              lol nope. I have allergy-triggered asthma, and cigarette smoke, including the stank of a person who has recently smoked, can trigger it.

            3. Medic Al*

              C an you cite the peer-reviewed studies that reached this conclusion which you are basing this claim upon, please? A quick search of the relevant literature has not yielded anything that supports your position here, so I am confused where you are getting this from.

      3. blink14*

        There is proof that tobacco residue lingers for months on fabric, carpet, in furniture, in dust, wall paint, etc, and it shouldn’t be discounted that this residue can cause problems. That is third hand smoke. It hasn’t been disproven and is therefore a totally possible threat.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Considering that I recall when I was a child and my mom went through and cleaned off my grandmother’s ceilings for her…and the rags reeked of cigarettes and the ceilings went from brown, literally brown to bright white. Yeah it stays places, forever until it’s cleaned and then of course there’s some left behind because even bleach doesn’t clean up everything, as forensics will confirm!

          1. blink14*

            Yup, it’s disgusting. Imagine all of the particles in old radiators, behind appliances, etc. Yuck.

          2. What day is today?*

            We had neighbors who were a family of heavy smokers. When they finally moved after 20+ years, the new owner had a company come in and tear out the carpets and drapes, scrub the walls, paint with Kilz, etc. They rented it out and the new renter had to move due to asthma attacks from the residual odor. In the end they had to tear out all the wallboard and start over.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Yes, it seeps into the walls because walls/baseboards are full of pores that lock that nasty inside.

          3. Temperance*

            Yep. The previous owners of my house smoked inside. I’ll never, ever forget all the gross, sticky tar that came out of the walls as I scrubbed the paint down.

          4. Jaydee*

            I took a fabric wall hanging that had been in our living room growing up but had then been in my parents’ basement for many years. It went with the retro-fabulous decor of my non-profit office at the time. Both my parents were smokers, and I washed the HECK out of that thing! So many years of stinky brown smoke residue came out of that thing.

          5. MistOrMister*

            I can’t remember where I saw this, but I ran into am artcicle full of picutes of empty rooms where people had smoked for years. It was amazing. I never realized so much tar and whatever else sticks to the walls, floors, etc of rooms like that. In many cases it looked like someone had painted white outlines of picture frames and furnitue on walls that were various shade of off-white to tan/brown. Blech!!

            1. pandop*

              There is a historic pub in a town near where I grew up where the tobacco stains were so well establised as part of the way it has always looked, that now people can no longer smoke in there, they have had to resort to painting the walls that colour!

      4. Pennalynn Lott*

        Vomiting because I’m nauseated from the smell definitely hurts. So does not being able to breathe and racing to find my inhaler.

        I don’t care if people want to poison their own bodies — heck, they can drink bleach and eat lead paint if that’s what floats their boat — but smoking *definitely* affects other people.

      5. Nesprin*

        Yeah, but that tiny concentration of chemicals is still very very toxic. Thirdhand smoking is in fact a thing that is associated with higher cancer risk, and the younger you’re exposed, the worse.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I mean, people debate science/research all the time. That’s part of science is that it’s ever evolving and up for debate at times, especially when you can’t have absolute controlled studies. There are essentially no people who have only ever been subjected to third-hand smoke, so you cannot draw absolute conclusions.

      This is like the “facts” that were spread around about vaccines that caused the anti-vax movements. The people who deny climate change is happening. Etc.

      Powerful, intelligent researchers even disagree a lot of the times.

      I agree, I walk away from smokers, I don’t like it, I don’t want it. But there’s a world full of stuff I don’t like that I still have to share the world with. I don’t like being behind diesel trucks or people who don’t turn off their engines when a draw bridge is up either. Sadly you can’t get away from that kind of thing either.

      1. ZB*

        “This is like the “facts” that were spread around about vaccines that caused the anti-vax movements. The people who deny climate change is happening. Etc.”

        That is deliberate denial of known facts, whereas this is debate over an unknown. If it were proven that third hand smoke has no effect, you would have a point, but it is not. Additionally, you’re ignoring the points others have made about third hand smoke having negative effects besides cancer.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I wrote this comment before others had made their points.

          Also no, you are completely ignoring the fact that my point is that people deny facts all the time. There are also fake reports and sources that people don’t know better than to avoid.

    3. ...*

      total agreement, and people act like I’m an antisocial and intolerant jerk. Nope. I DONT WANT TO BREATE POISION!

  9. Amethystmoon*

    Congrats on the baby! Also great news that the temp is gone and there is a better replacement.

  10. mrs__peel*

    Most people I know who smoke started in their teens. I don’t think it’s all *that* common for people to suddenly take up smoking for the first time later in life. Although maybe that’s more common now with vaping….?

    I’ve known some “social smokers” who will just have one occasionally (e.g., during a night out if they’re being offered), but who don’t smoke regularly every day. I find that more baffling, frankly, since I think it tastes and smells so gross that you’d have to really *need* the nicotine and be inured to the taste to do it.

    1. mrs__peel*

      (Whoops, that was supposed to be a reply to a comment above re: people taking up smoking to fit in at work).

  11. Old Cynic*

    re the part about having a better way to do something:

    In an early part of my career (and having a rudimentary calculator) I was calculating 25% of a series of numbers. I divided the numbers by 4. My colleague who was supervising the task insisted I multiply by .25 and would achieve more accurate results. Ugh.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      This comment made me stare at the screen for a while. I understand people having different calculation processes, but more accurate results? Wow. Was this an in-the-moment thing but they later realised what they’d said? Or was it an ongoing insistence that you had to do it their way?

  12. ellex42*

    To address the actual reason this temp was let go:

    I call this Sinatra Syndrome: “I did it MYYYYYYY WAAAAAAY!” I am looking at embarking on yet another round of checking former coworkers’ work for errors, mistakes, and endless repetitions of “why did they do that?” Somehow I get roped into training new people at every job I’ve ever had, and there’s always a few people who do things “their way” no matter how many times you tell them how to do it correctly and why it needs to be done that way.

    And then they wonder why they don’t last past their probation period.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      Just a little rant here: I hate, hate, HATE it when people who are new to an industry or a workplace insist that their way of doing things is better despite having no knowledge of the long-term implications of their actions.

      I deal with that quite a lot in my industry as it can sometimes take 9-12 months for the results of any particular action to show up in the product. By the time you find out, they’ve been doing it wrong for 9 months, so you’ve got another 9 months of mistakes working their way through the system to look forward to.

  13. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Congratulations on your baby! So glad everything worked out for you and thank you for updating us.

  14. Vote: 151 Walker*

    I have to wonder if your temp was an ex-coworker of mine because wow….

    Congrats on the baby and the new temp!

  15. PW*

    How is it that no one suggested an e-cigarette, like a juul or something? They don’t smell and they are a great risk-minimizer for smokers.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Except now they’re being banned due to their side effects that are coming out. So that wouldn’t work in a lot of places now.

      1. Veronica*

        It may have been better for fumes at work if the temp switched to an e-cig – the steam doesn’t seem to soak into clothes like smoke does.

  16. Flash Bristow*

    Hey, that’s great – fab update!

    I’m so sorry it was needed I’m glad you had the support here, actual action from your boss – and, of course, a healthy baby. Congrats!

  17. Laura*

    As someone who finds the smell of smoke nauseating and cannot be near it due to a history of ear/sinus issues, I would be extremely bothered if someone at work smoked! Everywhere I have worked does not allow smoking, so I’m curious how the temp was able to do so in the first place. Anyhow, I’m glad she was let go before you went on leave.

Comments are closed.