will smoking hurt my promotion chances?

A reader writes:

The further I advance in my career, the more I have noticed something: people at the higher levels are much less likely to smoke.

I’m a smoker, and I have lots of desire to quit but am not quite there yet. When at lower levels of my career, I had lots of colleagues who smoked, and smoke breaks were a way to meet people and get to know them and build relationships. Honestly, it was almost like networking. But the higher I’ve gone, the less of the case that is, and additionally I start to wonder if being a smoker actually hurts my professional reputation.

I take care not to smell like smoke and have had people I’ve worked with for years (who aren’t smokers) see me outside one day and be shocked that I smoke because they say they’ve never smelled it on me. But as a smoker, I take breaks throughout the day, whereas a lot of my other colleagues (we are salaried) skip breaks. When scheduling meetings, I will sometimes try to make sure to leave a gap here and there so that I can take a smoke break. On particularly heavy meeting days, there are times I’ve actually proposed new meeting times with people so that I can squeeze a smoke break in, although I never do that for anything of particular importance or when the meeting is with someone of a higher level. But I have started to wonder if it hurts my reputation if I do that type of thing and then someone sees me out on break.

If it matters, I’m also not a heavy smoker and don’t take frequent breaks — just the normal two breaks and lunch that is technically the law in my state, with the occasional extra break when it’s slow or I’m running a report tying up my machine for a long period of time and I know I can’t do anything for a while.

I was wondering if you have ever found this type of thing to hurt someone’s professional reputation, and if so, if it was enough to prevent upward movement. I don’t actually have a desire to go into management, but I do want to ask my boss for a promotion to a senior position in the near future. I have never gotten a bad performance review and no one has ever made comment that I shouldn’t be taking smoke breaks, but I don’t know if anyone would actually say something and might still hold it against me.

Yep, I think it could matter.

There are two different pieces of this that can affect you professionally: the smoking itself and the smoke breaks.

The smoking itself may hurt you because many people are biased against smokers in the same way there’s data showing bias against people who are significantly overweight. (Actually, the most recent data I could find shows the bias is worse against smokers. A quarter of Americans say they have less respect for smokers, twice the level who say that about overweight people.) So, while smoking is an addiction, some people will think it reflects on your judgment and decision-making. Plus, because smoking rates are correlated with lower income and education levels, some people will see it as a sort of … low-class thing to do. (This is tied up with hugely problematic beliefs about class in general, but you’re going to get people who think that way.)

The smoke breaks, though, are likely to be the bigger problem. Rightly or wrongly, people tend to see smoke breaks as slacking off and as you prioritizing smoking over work you’d otherwise be doing. That’s especially likely to be true if anyone realizes you’re changing meeting times so you can smoke instead. Plus, as you become more senior, you and your peers are more likely to be exempt, which means that formal breaks won’t be A Thing That’s Done in the same way (it sounds like that may already be the case for a lot of your colleagues) — and in that context, insisting on multiple smoke breaks a day risks coming across as out of sync with the culture and work expectations.

This all depends on your workplace though. If you’re the only smoker, this is more likely to stand out. If your company has a lot of smokers, it might not be a big deal at all. Also, if you take work outside with you so you’re clearly still working while you smoke, that might ameliorate some of these concerns — as opposed to if your CEO sees you just hanging around the entrance with a cigarette multiple times a day. (It’s also worth noting that there are some companies that won’t hire smokers at all these days — mainly in the health care field, but it’s spreading — or charge them more for health insurance.)

So, to answer your question about whether it will hold you back: Maybe. It could. It’s unlikely that anyone is going say “We shouldn’t promote Jane because she smokes.” But it could be “Jane doesn’t seem that interested in her work; I always see her outside smoking.” And there’s a decent chance that it will play into how you’re perceived in general, even if only unconsciously, which can affect whether you get thought of as promotion material.

Or not. It might not matter at all at your particular company or for your particular work.

But if you’re wondering if these are things that should go into the Additional Incentives to Quit Smoking column: Yes.

{ 607 comments… read them below }

  1. Dust Bunny*

    I don’t think I would go so far as to refuse to hire or promote based on the smoking (in real life, I’m not and have no intention ever of being in a position to do so, anyway), but if I were your coworker and found out you were futzing with my meeting times so you could smoke, or that I was missing out on networking because I was working while you smoked, I’d be pretty damned annoyed.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Yeah, the meeting time thing was the only thing that really jumped out at me as being problematic. I know that when I’m scheduling a meeting it’s because it’s during periods where I know I will have absolutely no interruptions or no other calls to attend to, so someone coming back and asking me to change the time better be because they have something way more pressing than my 10 other calls to contend with at that time – smoking would not qualify as pressing in my book.

    2. Arctic*

      Arranging meeting times so you have a quick break is absolutely acceptable. Regardless of the form of the break.

      1. Mbarr*

        Agreed… Ish. There’s a whole different set of optics between arranging meeting times to go to the bathroom vs. going for a smoke break.

        And going to the bathroom is a lot faster than a smoke break. I’d hope.

        1. awesome*

          Yeah, the issue is that the optics are different. But having a break between client meetings so you can go to the bathroom, in case the meetings run long, so you can take a beat between meetings to clear your space or take a breath is fine and probably healthy.

        2. Not a Blossom*

          Also, if you have back to back meetings, it’s a normal thing to ask to steal 5 minutes from the beginning of one to go to the restroom. That would go over much better than needing a smoke break, especially if people are on tight schedules.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Nah, it’s not when you’re talking about pushing back meetings that have multiple people who also had schedule conflicts that needed to be perfectly aligned in order to get a meeting arranged in the first place. Take your smoke break after the meeting’s over.

        1. Arctic*

          No way am I doing back to back meetings without a quick break for something not very important (he only does it when it isn’t urgent) because other people think they are more important. My schedule does NOT align. I need a break.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            If it’s a one-to-one meeting, you may have more leeway to ask for it to be moved (I do this all the time). But a large meeting? If I’m the scheduler on the other end of this, I wouldn’t move the time – you can take your break when you want and join when you get back from your break. But expecting people to completely rearrange large meetings for one person’s habit is not reasonable.

          2. Oryx*

            But how is he deciding what’s not very important and do the other people in the meeting agree with him?

          3. annony*

            If it isn’t important, cancel the meeting. OP has no idea whether they have had to decline other meetings because of this one. I fully understand not scheduling meetings back to back, but once it is on the books you should only move it if it is urgent. It is telling that the OP would not do this to someone higher up than them. It’s still rude to do to those below you, they just have less ability to push back.

          4. One of the Sarahs*

            A smoke break usually isn’t a quick break, though, unless the meeting is held just by the door that people can smoke outside. In most offices I’ve been in, it would involve a floor change and a move away from the door, as it’s really unfair to non-smokers to smoke around doors, or to pedestrians if the office opens onto the street (and can also be really bad for optics, for anyone from health-related businesses to anything where seeing people just hanging around doing nothing, or chatting, would give a bad impression.

            So let’s say smokers take 3 mins to get out, 3 mins to get back and 5 mins to smoke at the fastest – and still might need to use the bathroom/have a drink etc – that’s unfair on colleagues to have to hang around for 10-15 minutes minimum just because someone’s got an addiction.

            1. Not a Blossom*

              I had a college professor who told us it takes 7 minutes to smoke a cigarette, so she made sure breaks were long enough for people to get out, smoke, get in, go to the bathroom, and be back to the classroom. It can add up.

        2. cat socks*

          I have to schedule conference calls with people across multiple time zones, so I would definitely be annoyed if someone asked me to reschedule due to a smoke break.

          It’s common at my company to have back to back conference calls, but if I need to take a break between calls to use the bathroom or refill my water bottle, I’ll IM the host of the next meeting letting them know I’ll be a couple of minutes late.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            That’s exactly what I do, and no one minds. In fact, that’s the company culture here because we too have large meetings with people all over the world in different timezones – you ping someone to let them know you’ll be hoping on the call in a bit, and you go about your business to use the restroom, refill your drink, whatever.

        3. Aquawoman*

          But he didn’t say that they were meetings with multiple people whose schedules had to align perfectly and did say that he takes the need for the meeting into account.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            Even then there’s still some judgement as to what constitutes “need for the meeting” from someone else’s perspective. One person may think it’s a general check-in that doesn’t need a lot of time or that can be postponed but another may have been planning to use it as a chance to raise a more pressing issue. Whether or why a meeting is necessary isn’t always uniformly interpreted, and that second person will not be pleased if they have to reschedule and put off discussing their important item only to then see their co-worker standing outside smoking during their original time.

      3. Ted Mosby*

        Some places it is and some places it isn’t. A lot of days I have meetings from 10-330 (one is a working lunch). You can’t really take a break. If you have to pee you sneak out for a minute. You have to be an adult and suck it up, because no one wants to be in meetings from 10-5 and then start actually working at 5. Demanding breaks would be very counter culture on my team and seen as whiney. If I found out someone was scheduling 20 or 30 min breaks (not really long enough to get anything done), I’d be really annoyed. I think it’s acceptable in some cultures and with some schedules but other places have a faster pace and it would be ok.

        1. Cora*

          I guess it depends what your meetings are about, but a 10 – 3:30 meeting without 5 minutes for a break to clear your head seems excessive to me.

          1. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

            This is honestly pretty common in my world too. There are often days where it’s back to back from 8:30 until 5:00. Maybe there’s a break at lunch there, which is when I’d go to the bathroom, but heck, if I don’t remember to book travel time in my calendar my meetings can have me running from one end of downtown to the other and back again throughout the day. It may seem excessive, but I think it’s pretty common.

        2. Aquawoman*

          That is actually counterproductive. People should have a 5-10 minute break every hour or hour and a half to function well.

        3. Zil*

          This sounds really unreasonable to me. 10 – 3:30 without a five minute break? That’s not healthy for anyone, smoker or non-. IMO if you’re not working in a life-or-death industry and someone is regularly unable to find time for a 5-10 minute break once in the morning and once in the afternoon, the problem isn’t the smoker, the problem is the company culture.

            1. Artemesia*

              LOL — no kidding — I had 4 minutes to gather up all my materials for the next class then hoof it to another classroom at the opposite end of a sprawling complex several times a day. I was expected to be at the classroom greeting students when they entered. AS a new teacher I didn’t get my own room so was lugging my stuff as well as myself. There was literally no possibility of a pee break until lunch, which was 30 minutes.

              I would not hire someone whom I knew was a smoker; I have spent too many years in the workforce working while smokers took long smoke breaks several times a day. It isn’t a good look; it isn’t productive; it stinks; and it is never ‘5 minutes’.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                But that level of rush isn’t always because their school environment/culture itself is unhealthy, though – sometimes it’s just due to the structure of the daily schedule or because a student unexpectedly needs something during passing time or during your free block and there goes your chance to walk around the block/get water/pee. There are certainly plenty of schools that make terrible demands of their staff but sometimes your morning coffee hits you right in the middle of three back-to-back-to-back classes, yanno?

      4. Snark*

        The thing is, though, everyone needs to take bathroom, email, and lunch breaks, and only smokers need to take smoke breaks. And smoke breaks are always in addition to any of those other breaks.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Yeah, the “it only takes 5 mins” types really have me raising my eyebrows. A colleague and I used to take “non smoking breaks” of a 10 min walk around the block in an old job, because it felt unfair that we were expected to be cooped up all day, but smoking colleagues could take 15 mins every hour, have a nice chat etc.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                It was something that we started doing ourselves in a “if you can’t beat them, join them” way, because some breaks were OK, but others weren’t. It was petty of us, and I’m sure it annoyed other people too, but it was better than stewing over the fact we were stuck answering the phones/queries/taking on extra tasks just because we didn’t smoke.

        1. Zillah*

          Yes – this is a really good point. The smoke break isn’t instead of other breaks, it’s in addition to them and likely takes longer than the universal breaks.

      5. Yorick*

        Thinking about having a break while scheduling a meeting is acceptable. Changing an agreed-upon meeting so you have time for a smoke break is not.

        1. aebhel*

          Yep–there absolutely should be breaks, but any smoking should happen during the same breaks that everyone else has.

      6. Zillah*

        I think that “quick” is the key word here, though. A break to run to the bathroom or get a cup of coffee or whatever is generally going to take less time than leaving the building – at least in most places where I’ve worked, the round trip could have easily been ten minutes all on its own.

        1. Kate*

          Especially as more and more buildings/states are implementing “no smoke” zones. Where I currently work, to smoke, you would need to take the elevator down 13 floors, walk through a mall to an outdoor area, and then walk a block to get to an area that doesn’t violate at least one “don’t smoke here” policy. This walk, one way, takes AT MINIMUM 5 minutes. Going back you also need to go through security.

          1. aebhel*

            Yeah, that’s the case at my library; there’s no smoking on the grounds at all. You’d have to walk across the street or all the way to the other end of the parking lot.

            Theoretically, you could do it in a 15-minute break–it’s not a large library–but the optics of staff hanging around the edge of the parking lot smoking is also… discouraged.

            FWIW, I’m an occasional social smoker, but I’d still have a problem with someone who changed meeting times and potentially inconvenienced people so that they could have a cigarette.

    3. Moi*

      Yeah me too. As an ex-smoker I’d advise you to take nicotine gum with you. That helped me manage cravings in the professional world.

    4. Letter Writer*

      I think I need to take this more into account re: meeting times. I DO hate back to back meetings, even if it has nothing to do with squeezing in a smoke break, because it’s exhausting and I like to have a few minutes to go back to my desk, immediately follow up on my action items, etc. I am also frequently the one scheduling the meetings and so I try not to do back to back meetings for anyone when I’m scheduling, whenever that’s possible. But if someone else is sending me the meeting, particularly when it’s not just the two of us, I will be more aware that I’m inconveniencing them for the purpose of me taking a break.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Are you taking the smoke break on top of your desk breaks? Because that will really add up.

      2. blackcat*

        So I’m coming at this from a different angle–for 10 months at work, I regularly pushed around meetings so that I could pump breastmilk.
        And people got pissed off about it at first! Particularly when there’d be back to back meetings. But you know what? After I stopped pumping at work, people continued to schedule a 30 minute break after 3 hours of meetings. As it turned out, *everyone* liked the break. I think we were actually more efficient on those meeting-ful days if everyone got a recharge break.
        I think if you propose the break with an emphasis on everyone benefiting from a 15-20 minute recharge time, it might be better received.

      3. wb*

        Try one of the higher strengths of nicorette gum. I’ve been an ecig user for a few years now, but before that was a frequent nicorette-at-work user. It gets it done, even if its not ideal. If you find yourself missing the ‘break’ part of the smoke break, try scheduling (for yourself) a walk around the office once an hour. Get up and get a drink, or hit the bathroom, or just do a lap. When I stopped smoking i noticed after a while that I’d just power through until my bladder shouted – nicotine had been the most frequent ‘hey move around’ flag my body had.

        And as for back to back meetings and such, a quick “hey I need to run check something at my desk real quick/my doc is on my case about getting up and moving around once an hour i’ll be right back/etc” isnt that outrageous. There’s tons of reasons why people take a few moments between meetings, or pop out quickly in the middle – perfect for a quick circle of the office and popping a nicorette out of sight.

    5. Big Bank*

      My boyfriend works for a national company that will pull an offer if you are a smoker. They will tell you to come back and apply after you’ve quit. Current smokers are grandfathered in, for now at least. So although I’m not sure if this kind of stuff will hold up in court if someone pushes back, there are definitely companies you can’t work for as a smoker today.

      1. boo bot*

        Do they actually pull the offer, potentially after the person has given notice at their current job, or do they ask before they make the offer? The first one seems unnecessarily cruel, but I can definitely see somebody deciding that it’s a “good incentive.”

        1. Big Bank*

          I’m pretty sure they ask you upfront about it and ask for you to confirm before they actually hire you, but I’m not positive. It’s a relatively new policy, and my bf is a smoker that’s been working his way up the management chain for some time. Neither of us is sure what happens if he gets laid off and reapplies there. So far promotions have not come with this caveat. Overall it seems like quite a lot of overreach for a company, even though I’d be happy if he quit smoking. The fact no one has challenged the policy yet says a lot about general feelings about smokers, and certainly comments here cement that. There’s just not much sympathy for smokers, right or wrong, and the LW should consider that. My boyfriend uses a product called Snuss when he can’t smoke for long periods, so that might be an option in back to back meeting days, though it’s got all the same mouth cancer warnings as chew.

          1. Someone On-Line*

            Some states, like mine, have specific protections in place prohibiting workplace discrimination based on tobacco use. I understand why a company looking at their bottom line would not want to hire smokers, but it just seems awful on a human level.

          2. Anon55*

            Mind you, the ADA can (rightly) protect people with other addiction issues from losing their jobs while in rehab, but companies are apparently perfectly free to fire people for smoking. I’m an ex-smoker and I can’t see how losing access to gainful employment is a fair “punishment” for being addicted to a (legal!) substance. As for the people who will say it’s fair because of the insurance costs…I certainly hope they never eat unhealthy food, drive too fast, participate in extreme sports, sunbathe habitually, drink too much, or skip exercising, because that would just be hypocritical.

      2. HRAwry*

        I’m hoping this is not in Canada as that would be a Human Rights violation. I’d pay to see that play out btw.

    6. Meredith*

      To be honest, I have and had coworkers who are SO beholden to their schedules that they won’t help me out by scheduling anything that interferes with their afternoon nap break, yoga class, etc. I have one coworker who is salaried who comes in at the same time on the dot every morning and leaves at the same time on the dot (you can seriously set a clock to it) every single day, and has refused on several occasions to flex that schedule, although we are ALL salaried and we all routinely come in early or stay late or sometimes take a client call over lunch because that’s the only time we can (and then eat lunch earlier or later). It really annoys everyone, including management, to be inflexible. It shows that you have a skewed sense of priorities and that things like your 12:45 lunch time (or in this case, smoking) is more important that your coworker’s work needs, or a client, or what have you. (Obivously, companies that abuse this by requiring employees to be always on are not what I’m referring to, so if the OP has 4 out of 5 afternoons per week with 4 solid hours of meetings, then that’s a bigger issue.)

  2. 123456789101112 do do do*

    To be contrary, I will point out that Obama is/was a known smoker and he still made it all the way to President. So it doesn’t kill your chances, just makes it harder.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Lots of politicians do things that are outside of average workplace norms, so this isn’t really the positive data point you probably meant it to be for OP.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Other things acceptable from politicians but would be weird in most workplaces:

        1) Loudly opining on your political beliefs
        2) Bringing your wife and kids along with you to meetings
        3) Wearing a small flag on your lapel
        4) Perpetually smiling, or alternatively, looking grave and serious
        5) Justifying a practice by explaining you’re just doing it the same way a respected man 250 years ago did it


        1. [insert witty username here]*

          7) Extorting funds from people for things they don’t necessarily support under threat of life, liberty, and property

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          Walking out of a meeting to attend to something more important
          Receiving and reading notes from a co-worker during a meeting
          Signing forms by writing each letter of your name with a different pen

    2. Dr. Doll*

      Reading “Becoming,” I was kind of relieved to know that he had a flaw. He sounds like the incredibly smart driven educated always thinking person that we’re all “supposed” to want to be like. Plus being nice. And tall. –I am joking here, really, not intending this to take any kind of turn into politics.

      1. MtnLaurel*

        Yes, he was, but that criticism didn’t stop him from being elected twice. It was a thing but not a dealbreaker.

        1. Meredith*

          There are always exceptions to the rule. There are women and people of color who have become CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. There are people under 6′ who have played professional basketball. There are pregnant people who have served in the US Congress! But when you look at the data, it’s always an outlier.

        1. lilsheba*

          yeah I never got that, who cares what color suit he wears or whether he smokes? Or if anyone smokes? I used to smoke for 40 years and just recently quit, but I still stand by people’s right to smoke if they want to, as long as they don’t bother you leave it be.

          1. Veronica*

            As a person who is allergic to cigarettes, I care. The smoke is harmful. Many people get sick from it. Smoking in a building inflicts the smoke on the people in the floor above as well as the vicinity of the smoker. Smoking on the street inflicts it on the people behind the smoker, and anyone downwind. Smoking in a doorway leaves a cloud of smoke for others to pass through.
            Please don’t try to say smokers are hurting only themselves. If that were the case, no one *would* care.

            1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

              This. Smoke triggers my asthma, and too many people don’t care, and will smoke in areas restricted by law. (and on top of that, they are +90% of angry customers I get, since they hate getting ID’d)

    3. JoJo*

      ? Obama first ran for president more than a decade ago, which is eons in terms of developments re: smoking — bans on it (25% of the states still do not ban smoking in the workplace or at bars and restaurants), public perception of stars even holding cigarettes, the rise of vaping.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      Bad logic. This is succeeding “in spite of”. It did hurt him but he had enough talent in other areas that it didn’t impair him much.
      The question was “could it hurt my chances”. The answer is yes unless you have other talents to compensate.

  3. league.*

    The odor is a huge factor here. Even if people don’t know you smoke from seeing you, they know it from smelling you.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, I doubt the OP is as successful at hiding the smell of smoke as she thinks she is – and that can affect whether people want to work with her.

      1. Sparrow*

        I wondered about this, as well, since I’ve never known a smoker who was completely successful in avoiding/eliminating the smell, no matter how careful they were. OP could be right that most people don’t notice, but I think it’s more likely that there are people who do and just don’t say anything. Personally, I wouldn’t be thrilled about meeting in a boss’ (or colleague’s) office if there was even a mild odor of cigarette smoke, and I don’t even consider myself to be particularly sensitive to smells.

        1. Nessun*

          I have never commented on the smoke scent on a person I worked with (I would consider that rude), but I have definitely noticed it. A manager of mine back nearly 20 years ago had a distinct smell of cigarettes on her at all times, and while I appreciated her skills and the time she took to mentor me, it took an act of courage to ask her for help each time because I had to use my inhaler afterwards.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yeah, my last chain smoking boss absolutely reeked. She sat directly across from me, too, and there was no real barrier between our desks, so I got to inhale her fumes everyday. It was highly unpleasant and her inconsideration of others was one data point for why I ultimately ended up not liking her and leaving that job.

          2. Mystery Bookworm*

            I will agree here. I’m not speculating on wheather OP smells, per se, but there’s some bias in the data here. OP is more likely to hear from people who are surprised that she smokes than from people who think she smells – but the latter group might still exist.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              And honestly the people who don’t know OP smokes might still notice the tobacco fumes. I smell the fumes on people who have a smoker in their family, and sometimes on people who were just hanging out with friend on smoke break.

            2. I’m Telling HR!*

              Every smoker thinks that they have no odor, they are only fooling themselves. I remember the day the low odor smoker lent (forced) me her sweater, yuck, that stuck with me until I went home and showered.

              1. wrotethiswhilesmoking*

                How did someone force you into their sweater?

                Honestly the hysteria here is amusing. If you don’t like the way a person smells… tough luck. I hate patchouli oil and it swells my sinus’ shut instantly. Guess what…I deal. I certainly wouldn’t let someone who smelled like it ‘force’ me into their sweater.

                1. Snark*

                  You don’t seem amused. You seem affronted.

                  That said,there are enough people who are acutely senstitive to the smell of cigarettes – athsmatic, allergic, or they just plain loathe the reek – that arrogantly failing to take them into account is likely to be a professional liability. If a majority of the public intensely disliked the smell of patchouli, and there were a significant minority who doused themselves in enough patchouli to smell from 20 feet away and misted it into the air on sidewalks, the dynamic would be precisely the same.

                2. wrotethiswhilesmoking*

                  @Alison the person I was responding to didn’t mention that she was having an asthma attack. Only that she had to go home and shower.

                  Maybe I missed a previous post?

                3. Aquawoman*

                  Even without asthma or allergies, I have to disagree that someone not liking the smell of smoke and taking a shower to get that smell off her own body is “hysteria.”

                4. Veronica*

                  You have a rather severe reaction to patchouli, and you are entitled to ask people not to use it or to stay downwind of you. There’s no reason for either you or people with tobacco allergy to suffer.

                5. le sigh*

                  @wrotethiswhilesmoking the person you were responding to didn’t, but multiple people in this thread have. your comment sounded like you were referring to the hysteria of the thread in general.

                  and part of the discussion here is if smoking could have professional consequences. the point is, it might — others are trying to point out that LW might have more of a smoke scent than they think. i don’t have respiratory issues, but i do get headaches form smoke and heavy perfume–people go nose-blind to both and don’t always realize how it comes across. so yeah, i might not want to be in close quarters with coworkers who gave me headaches. and if they told me tough luck, i would avoid them even more if i could.

                6. I’m Telling HR!*

                  I’m cold, smoker notices and flings their sweater over my shoulders without askingfelt pretty forced to me.

            3. HQetc*

              But there is bias in the data the other way too: you will only smell the smokers you can smell, so you assume all the people you can’t smell don’t smoke, not that they are non-smelling smokers. (The general you, not You specifically, Mystery.)

                1. HQetc*

                  Literally how could you know this without knowing the smoking/non-smoking status of everyone you encounter?

                2. Sleepless*

                  I’ve worked with a few smokers who just barely smelled like smoke for a few minutes after they got out of their cars. And I have a fairly sensitive nose (and despise the smell of cigarettes.)

                3. SarahTheEntwife*

                  @Sleepless, same here, and I’m pretty sensitive to the smell of smoke. I don’t know what the non-stinky smokers are doing differently, but it does seem to be possible!

                1. HQetc*

                  Super easy to forget! I am really trying to train myself to notice when I do it, but how can I know if I am succeeding if I can’t tally the times I don’t notice? Argh, data bias upon data bias!

              1. Cora*

                Interesting! I always assume I can smell smokers, but then again how would I know? My boss smokes a few a day and rarely smells of it – she is also v. active and athletic, so not at all what the stereotype would suggest.

                1. Mystery Bookworm*

                  I used to work with a smoker who was also a vegan teetotaller, which ran counter to my stereotypes at the time.

                2. N*

                  Honestly, I always assumed the same. I recently found out two (!) people I interact with EVERY WORK DAY in close proximity – are, and have been, smokers. I never thought it’d be possible for a smoker to not smell, but it is indeed. Rare, no doubt. But not impossible. I’m genuinely shocked at how many people in this thread are 100% convinced that it is impossible, and that every single person they’ve encountered that doesn’t smell like smoke – is not a smoker. Le sigh.

              2. Engineer Girl*

                Not true. I’m severely allergic to tobacco. My sinuses will shut down before I can detect the smell of the smoke. So even if you can’t smell smoke it still can have negative effects on those allergic.
                And allergy is choking can’t breath not merely stuffed up. I think the people minimizing the allergy don’t get the difference. There’s levels of allergy from sniffles to full on lungs filling with liquid anaphylactic shock.

          3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Yeah, my last manager at OldJob was a smoker and I hated having to ask her to come look at something on my screen, because it meant her leaning into my space and stinking things up. She was a fantastic manager in a lot of ways, but uf at the smell. I’d consider it very discourteous to say anything, though.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          This. I notice smoke smell on people all the time–my coworker does not smoke but her husband does, although not in their house–but have never commented on it and would not unless I was specifically asked if I could smell it. The fact that nobody has mentioned it really only means that nobody has mentioned it.

        3. astrellegy*

          I will say that I had a boss who smoked, and I was floored when I found out. I’m usually extremely sensitive to smells, but I really had no idea. I still don’t know how he managed to do it. That being said, most people aren’t successful at hiding it even when they think they are.

          1. N*

            Yup. As far as I can tell the vast majority (like 99.99999%) of smokers definitely smell, even if it’s just faint – or even worse, hidden beneath perfume etc. But it’s not 100%. I’ve had two people blow my mind when I found out they were smokers. One of them shared with me that they have a smoking ‘outfit’ that they’d keep in their car to change into prior to smoke – jacket, gloves, apron to block their pants. No clue with the other one.

            1. Nyltiak*

              I always had a “smoking jacket” which was a hoodie that I’d zip up over my clothes and use to cover my hair, and I always washed my hands and had a mint or some gum. I also never smoked in my home or my car. That is were people really absorb the smell of a cigarette, honestly. I won’t pretend I *never* smelled like smoke, but it was pretty rare. People used to even comment things like “How is it that you can go for a cigarette with Coworker and she smells like an ashtray and you smell like nothing?

        4. smoke tree*

          I have actually known a few people who were fairly successful–at least, I wouldn’t have known that they were smokers, and I have a fairly acute sense of smell. I think the key is to always smoke outside. However, I imagine it would likely still register for someone with asthma or allergies or some other sensitivity to smoke.

        5. Farrah Sahara*

          Thankfully, my office has separate coat closets- one for smokers and one for non-smoker to hang their jackets and coats. This way the smoke smell doesn’t trafRrnsfer between garments.

      2. Alli525*

        My former employer once hired a temp, and when she showed up for me to train her, the smell was SO bad that I could barely work with her. She smelled like she’d been chainsmoking in an unventilated closet for a week. I was honestly relieved when we learned she really didn’t have the skills or the temperament for our industry and let her go for those reasons, because it feels icky to make “smells like a 30-foot-wide ashtray” doesn’t seem like a good enough reason, even for a temp worker.

        On the other hand, my former roommate was a daily pot smoker, but our apartment never smelled like it – we kept the windows open all the time, especially when smoking, and somehow the couch never took on that signature funky smell.

      3. Justin*

        Yeah for someone who really loathes the smell, unless she is bald (hey, she could be, no judgment, just saying because she is female it is less likely), it’s in her hair, and likely to be noticed as she passes. But only if you’re really sensitive to it.

        My colleague moved desks because a neighbor smokes (outside, not here). If she were hiring, I can’t imagine she could fully block out that sort of revulsion, even if it’s not fair.

      4. Zil*

        Strongly disagree. My husband is a smoker and I’m very sensitive to smell. He is able to control the smell enough for MY standards, and those are very high.

        Y’all just don’t realize how many non-smelly smokers you’ve come in contact with, because you only remember the ones who do smell.

        1. N*

          Yup. Once upon a time a would have bet every dollar I’ve ever made that it was impossible for a smoker to not smell…. but, I was proven wrong on two occasions. Still blows my mind and seems implausible, but it is what it is!

        2. Goose on the loose*

          I agree! My coworker smokes and I was shocked when I found out because I have a very sensitive sense of smell and I’ve always been able to smell things others have missed, but I’ve only smelled smoke on him once. And we sit right next to each other in an open floorplan. I don’t know how he does it but he doesn’t cover it up with cologne either, he just doesn’t smell like smoke.

      5. Peaches*

        I had a coworker who had a short stint at my company. She was a smoker, and did not smell like smoke. Instead, she REEKED of perfume. It wasn’t the scent itself, necessarily, but the ungodly amount that she wore. I assumed it was her way of “covering up” the smoke smell, but the perfume wasn’t a whole lot better.

      6. ...*

        100%. You can always smell a smoker and people may politely say “oh its ok” or “cant really smell you” but what they mean is you stink and I will stand far away form you but dont want to hurt your feelings. I worked next to a smoker in an open office and had to ask to be moved, luckily it wans’t an issue.

      7. Goose on the loose*

        This is what I’ve always thought as well, but I actually work with a smoker who almost never smells like smoke! I don’t know how he does it. We sit right next to each other in an open floor plan and it took me a very long time to realize that he was a smoker. He takes regular breaks (on average three a day including his lunch) and the breaks vary in time, but we all take breaks. He’s never once pushed a meeting and the only time I’ve noticed a smell was when he was rushing back into a meeting and we were in close quarters.

        His habit is very much at odds with the rest of our workforce. He’s excellent at his job and he handles the habit well. I’ve never noticed his breaks being an issue but I do think he ends up working later than the rest of us because the breaks add up during the day so he ends up being gone for probably an hour a day total.

    2. stitchinthyme*

      I’m also a bit skeptical of that claim. Even if you only smoke outside, I’m wondering how it’s possible to prevent the smell from clinging to your hair, clothes, and skin. It’s not like you can get away from it when you’re the one exhaling it. I’ve never known a smoker who didn’t smell. Heck, when we visit my husband’s aunt, WE end up smelling like smoke even though she herself no longer smokes or allows anyone to smoke in her house…but it still carries the odor from years of people smoking in there, even though no one has in several years.

      1. the_scientist*

        Before we moved in together, my now-husband lived in an old house that had been converted into bachelor apartments. Everyone else who lived there smoked, and clearly all of the previous tenants of his apartment smoked. It didn’t matter that he’d lived there for three years and never touched a cigarette, every time I left I’d have stale second-hand smoke clinging to my hair and clothes. When we moved in together I basically vetoed him bringing any upholstered furniture to our new place because there’s no way to get literal years of stale smoke out of upholstery. So all to say that it is an incredibly…..persistant….smell.

      2. Door Guy*

        I’ve worked with a large number of smokers, and most of the time I can only tell RIGHT after they come in from their break.

        That’s not a universal though. My mil smokes and everything she touches ends up just reeking.

      3. JSB*

        Agree. I suspect OP is underestimating the odor impact.

        My sister is (now) a light smoker, very considerate. Always goes outside. Never smokes in the house or a car. I don’t really notice any smoke smell on her when I’m with her. And…then I get home and notice the odor on everything I was wearing – even if I didn’t step outside with her while she smoked. Somehow it still translates and becomes more obvious when I’m back in our totally non-smoking environment.

        Years ago, when she lived alone and did smoke in her house (a different house) – I’d have to wash every article of clothing once I returned from a weekend visit. Even extra items that never left my suitcase – stored in a separate bedroom – absorbed the smell.

    3. CynicallySweet*

      This. I don’t know if you have an office or not. But I work w/ someone who also takes care not to smell like smoke. When he was in the cubical farm I never noticed the smell, but the other day I was in his office and it reeks…I don’t think that’s something you can do something about

    4. Ted Mosby*

      Some people likely can’t tell, but I think OP makes a mistake thinking no one can because a few people can’t. I have a strong sense of smell and bad asthma. If my boyfriend has one cigarette standing outside at a party chews gum, washes his hands, and drives home, I will know by the time he’s a foot away from me I’ll know. People who think they’re great at covering the smell usually aren’t in my experience. I also hate being in closed rooms with them. It leaves me wheezy for hours.

      Sorry OP. This isn’t to be mean. Just an FYI that you’re probably not the most objective source of if you smell like smoke.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Yeah, I don’t even have a severe nightshade allergy, but that and asthma means that if someone’s merely been in the vicinity of secondhand smoke I have to stay on the far side of the room from them or use my inhaler to be able to breathe. Someone who’s an actual smoker? Nope nope nope.

      2. Snark*

        Yep. I’ve got an incredibly strong sense of smell. If they’re upwind, I can smell a smoker a full city block away.

        And smokers have burned otu a bunch of their olfactory acuity through, well, smoke inhalation. They might not smell it, because they’re inured to it and because they don’t smell anything all that well.

      3. Rainy*

        My first husband smoked, in the house, and for years after he finally quit, occasionally I’d open a drawer that didn’t get used often or take a book off the bookshelf and get a whiff of smoke. The first time we went to a bar after he quit, when we left he was like “ugh, what’s that smell?” because he’d literally never been able to smell it before. I told him that was cigarette smoke, and he was like “but I didn’t smell like that, right?” Yes. Yes, you smelled like that all the time. AND SO DID I.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          The number of books we have to throw away after they’re returned to the library because they’ve spent the last several weeks in a home with a smoker is considerable. We’ve tried every possible method to get the smell out, but nothing can fully override it.

        2. N*

          yuuuuup. When I moved into my first apartment after graduating, I was ‘gifted’ a couch from friends that were upgrading. I knew they smoked indoors, and was never a huge fan – but oh well, free couch! It’ll air out! Nope. I had it for TWO YEARS before finally throwing in the towel. I vacuumed, hand scrubbed, shop vacced – and still it would have a faint smell every so often. I was convinced it was smoke lurking in tiny pockets of the cushions.

          1. Rainy*

            Also the nicotine and resins that collect on the walls of houses people smoke in. :( TSP and a fresh coat of paint will really work wonders, but it’s so much effort to control an issue that would so easily be avoided.

      4. T3k*

        Yeah, I don’t have a severe reaction (I have a more milder form), but even just smelling the smoke further off starts making my eyes water after 5 mins if I don’t move away to a spot with clean air. It’s actually made it where at some outdoor networking events I’ll have to excuse myself and move to another group further away if someone starts smoking in the current group I was talking to (and even then can still smell it on the other side of the plaza).

      5. aebhel*

        Yeah, I can’t usually tell unless someone is absolutely reeking of it, but I don’t have a particularly strong sense of smell. People vary widely on this, and some will definitely be able to tell.

    5. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

      I’m just going to say it: With the exception of people who can’t smell very well, *every* non-smoker that the OP works with absolutely knows or strongly suspects that you smoke. Cigarette smoke (and pot smoke, for that matter) are smells that get into hair and clothing and persist for quite a while afterwards. And they get in your breath, too.

      I don’t know what’s up with those people who’ve told you they didn’t realize you’re a smoker, but I can promise you that it wasn’t because you’ve discovered a way to be a smoker and yet not smell of smoke. Maybe they don’t smell very well, maybe they smelled the smoke but thought it came from someone else, maybe they’re afraid of hurting your feelings? I don’t know. But what I do know is that it’s simply not possible for you to take a smoke break and not smell of smoke a few minutes later.

      So as you consider strategies to increase your chances of getting promoted, don’t include “Hide the fact that I take smoking breaks throughout the day” among your tactics. You might be able to pull this off if you don’t smoke at work, but if you can’t do that, you’re either going to have to decide not to worry about how smoking affects how people perceive you or you’re going to have to quit. Which is much easier said than done, I realize!

      1. Anononon*

        Eh, I’m a non-smoker who works with smokers, and if I haven’t seen them smoking, I wouldn’t know.

          1. N*

            Cool, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s someone saying they wouldn’t. Why are we all wasting our time on blanket statements? NONE of us can say for certain that all non-smokers can detect smokers, or that all smokers do smell etc. etc. Regardless of our individual opinions, we literally do not know across the board. It’s distracting from the actually points people are making!

      2. HQetc*

        This just isn’t universal. I was genuinely very surprised to discover that one of my colleagues was a smoker. I have literally never smelled it on her, I’ve had long meetings in her office and it does not smell, I’ve been in cramped elevators standing next to her, and I didn’t know until I was told. And I have a pretty good sense of smell (frequently irritated by smells most other people can’t smell).
        I’m not saying not a single one of OP’s coworkers has smelled it, just that these hyperbolic EVERYONE KNOWS responses are not necessarily accurate.

        1. Oof*

          I enjoy the everyone knows responses because they also prove the reverse, teeheehee!! There is something very funny to me when I hear these opinions in person. Because that just really proves that people could not identify me by their excellent noses alone! I’ve never outed myself either – it would feel rude to directly
          contradict someone’s belief when it does me no harm.

        2. N*

          Yup! I don’t know why everyone’s wasting their time on blanket statements. We know better than that. News flash in case some people have forgotten, none of us know the experiences of every other person on this planet. It just distracts from the real points being made. So unnecessary, it’s been surprising to read!

      3. Truth teller*

        I hate smokers. It has nothing to do with taking breaks — everyone needs to do that. It has to do with:

        (1) their rudeness and arrogance in exuding second-hand smoke, which harms non-smokers
        (2) the smell of cigarettes on their clothing (and getting onto my clothing)
        (3) the assumption that they can light up around me if they ask permission, whether when taking a break (“one quick thing”) or in my car
        (4) their disrespect for their own health, which also increases everyone’s premiums

        I would absolutely be biased against hiring smokers. OP needs to quit or switch to vaping, which current scandals notwithstanding is much safer than smoking.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Wait, how is there an assumption that they can smoke around you if they are asking first? Also–disrespect for their own health? We all do things that aren’t good for us. Aside from that, while your statement that you are biased against hiring smokers is relevant to the OP’s question, your list of things that make smokers The Worst and worthy of being hated is not so much relevant and really just taking jabs at the OP. It’s unkind and not relevant.

          1. ...*

            Perhaps its because most people ask “do you mind” while already doing to preparing to do the action. (doesn’t just apply to smoking). And out of politeness people say no I don’t but they do. I speak up and say YES I do mind. Or if someone lights up while I’m near them I will say sorry I need to step away. I don’t need to purposely breathe poison just because they are!

        2. Bagpuss*

          I’m asthmatic and very sensitive to smoke, and have hate being around smokers because of that and the smell, but I don’t agree with your 3rd point – if they ask, then that’s your cue to say no – and unless they then ignore that, or make a big fuss over it, then I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that they are all making the assumption that you will or should say yes.

          Also – point 4 – they get to decide about their own health (quite apart from the issue of addiction, which mean that a poor choice made while young and unwise is hard to shake!) and I am not entirely sure you are right about the premiums. Smokers, on average, die younger, and are less likely to suffer from Alzheimers and some other forms of dementia than non-smokers- which means their health care may well cost more short term, but not necessarily over a life time. (also, don’t smokers usually pay higher premiums than non-smokers? I’m in the UK so admittedly don’t have personal experience of this, but I think for private health insurance premiums are higher for smokers, is that not true in the US?)

        3. N*

          Wow. This is extreme. I don’t like the smell of cigarettes either, but holy moly. People that are addicted to nicotine aren’t all some kind of monsters. And while there are certainly the jerks who don’t consider those around them, there are also plenty that do. You just don’t know it…. because they are keeping it away from you/the public etc.

          Also, almost everyone (I’m purposefully staying away from saying everyone because I don’t believe in blanket statements or assumptions) falls under #4 in some way shape or form. That’s a trojan horse you’re sitting high up on.

        4. Anne Elliot*

          Wow, your shit-list must be enormous in light of No. 4! You may as well add me to it, and if you’re annotating it so you don’t forget the health-related grounds for your hatred, put down that earlier today I ate a Snickers bar and now I’m drinking a glass of Chardonnay.

      4. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

        Well, OK. But I do think the chances are really small of the OP having a workplace in which most of the non-smokers can’t smell that smoke are really small. I don’t think I have an abnormally acute sense of smell, and I can nearly always smell it.

      5. N*

        You *cannot* speak for everyone, nor can you know this to be true. I actually agree with you in general, but it’s distracting from your main point to claim blanket statements like that.

        Not to mention I’ve had two people in my life that I am in close proximity to (and my ability to smell is just fine, actually fairly sensitive to cig smoke) that I learned were smokers several years after starting to work with them. So it’s definitely possible, although I assume extremely rare. Still an assumption though, I certainly don’t claim anything beyond that.

    6. Ermine*

      I think it’s possible. I have a friend who I didn’t know was a smoker until they told me they were trying to quit. Apparently they smoked a pack a day and were incredibly fastidious about ensuring their house, car, self didn’t smell like smoke. It was shocking and I didn’t believe them at first!

    7. pleaset*

      Yeah, if someone is smoking a couple times a week, it may be be unlikely to smell unless the person was just doing it.

      But smoking multiple time daily – yeah, sensitive people (and maybe more people) will notice it.

    8. QCI*

      Some brands absolutely reek from a mile away, other aren’t as bad, and can be mitigated further with good hygiene. It’s pretty bad when I can smell a cigarette 3 cars away in stopped traffic.

    9. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I have a nose like a bloodhound, it’s my gift/curse. I know exactly which of my coworkers smoke and try to spend as little time as possible with them in confined areas/not sit next to them in meetings (though the same is true for coworkers who don’t wear deodorant or who have musty clothes).

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

      My first thought was that the OP uses an e cigarette and doesn’t have the traditional “smoke” smell on her. Or, some smokers seems to sweat out the odor even when they haven’t had a cigarette in days (like someone who takes a garlic pill) and others don’t. Even if the OP doesn’t reek of smoke, she likely has some scent that people have gotten so used to they no longer “smell” it.

      1. Rainy*

        I also think how often you do laundry makes a big difference. I definitely notice when I’m around some smokers more than others, and I think laundry is a factor in that.

    11. Yorick*

      Yeah, the smoke smell really does cling more than people think, especially during the winter. And it is sometimes physically painful for me to breathe in that smell. If someone smells like smoke, I’m not gonna consciously exclude them from work things, but we’re not gonna socialize or make much small talk or whatever, which could end up harming smokers in some way.

    12. YarnOwl*

      I was going to say this too. There are a few people I work with who smoke who seem like they think they’re pretty good at hiding it, but they’re not. If you smoke, people can smell it, especially right after a smoke break.
      That being said, a couple of people I work with who are pretty high-level are smokers, so it’s obviously not limiting their potential.

    13. JB (not in Houston)*

      Not necessarily! I have a coworker who smokes, and I’ve only picked up the smell of cigarettes on her once, and then only faintly (and I am generally very sensitive to smells). I used to work with and was friends with/socialized with a guy who smoked, and I never noticed even a hint of it on him. I don’t know how he did it, but he really didn’t smell like smoke. Ever.

      But I will agree that most of the time, smokers are detectable by the smell.

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah, I think it varies, and people’s ability to smell in general varies! I used to smoke, and I eventually developed a whole routine (which I no longer completely remember) – I’d pull my hair back, put on a designated, frequently-washed sweater (except in summer), wash my hands afterward like I was scrubbing for surgery.

        Eventually, I quit because I couldn’t stand the smell myself, but I did get “I didn’t know you were a smoker” pretty regularly.

        1. N*

          Oh gosh, the memories lol. I had a similar routine – and ultimately it was what got me to quit. One day as I was smoking a cigarette with long kitchen gloves on over my ‘smoking’ sweater and blanket, hunched over like a gremlin, I realized the habit had gone too far.

    14. What's with Today, today?*

      Yep. Try as you might, I promise that smell is coming through. What’s worse is the smoker that puts on a gallon of fragrance (trying) to cover it.

    15. KevinCantWait*

      Just chiming in to say that I can think of three people in my life who smoke daily (a close friend, a family member, AND an acquaintance) who don’t smell like even a small whiff at all. I don’t think it’s that unlikely.

  4. Jamey*

    I get why this could be the perception, but it’s kind of frustrating! I’m not a smoker, but I desperately need a few minutes between meetings to grab a coffee/use the bathroom/get mentally prepared for my next meeting. Not having hours and hours of meetings in a row without even a few minutes between them feels to me like it should be the standard. Taking a couple minutes to step outside and smoke in between meetings feels like it falls under the same category of “I need a short amount of time to clear my head before I jump back into this” and it feels unfair to me that that’s perceived as “I’m not interested in my work.”

    1. LadyL*

      When my friend worked in food service he noticed that all the smokers got breaks when he didn’t, so he started taking “fresh air breaks.” He would just go outside and hang out for about the time it would take to smoke a cigarette. I copied him a few times, and I have to say even just a few minutes of standing outside, away from the stress and chaos, really helped me keep going during long shifts. Later on when I had a desk job and I was feeling stressed or stuck I would go outside and loop the building once or twice while listening to music, and again, I always found it invigorating and helpful. However, all that aside, I always felt extremely guilty and afraid of being accused of slacking, so I only took my “fresh air breaks” every once in a while.

      This is all to say that I wish they could invent a form of smoking that doesn’t smell and doesn’t hurt your health because I really do better when I get regular short breaks. I think we all need “smoke breaks” and its a damn pity that our work days are so tightly scheduled.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I’m in graphic design/document production. It’s a feast or famine department. We moved from the 20th floor in the city to a three story buildings in the outlands. We discovered the norm here is to take a “walk break.” People walk the perimeter of the building, 15-20 minutes twice a day.

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          My current job is the first time in decades I’ve had a place with structured “blow a whistle” breaks. I didn’t know anyone when I first started, so I walked around the block by myself for the 15 minutes of first break. Then another guy joined me. Then another one. Then another one. Agreed that it’s a nice breather and it’s also a way to get to know people.

      2. twig*

        I used to take what I called “second hand smoke breaks” with my smoking coworkers. I’d stand up-wind and get ACTUAL fresh air while we chatted.

        1. Door Guy*

          I’ve taken some of them. You’re on break and you just go out with them to unwind a few minutes. Nice if available to do (and you can be upwind).

        2. QCI*

          That was every break I had in the army reserves, which there were many because there wasn’t much to do

        3. Melly*

          Yep, I did this at a former job where my co-workers smoked. The break was needed and the time to chat was nice, too.

        4. Truth teller*

          You still inhaled second-hand smoke. This is one reason I hate smokers. They assume you’re OK chatting with them during their smoke breaks.

          1. LadyL*

            …I mean if you go outside and join them for their smoke break like twig described then I think that’s a fair assumption for the smoker to make

          2. N*

            Yo, you really need to talk to someone about this anger because you’re dropping it all over the place. I don’t even mean that in a snarky way, you just really seem to be holding onto a surprisingly intense amount of animosity. I don’t like cigarette smoke either, so this isn’t a smokers defense.

            And more specifically to this comment, if a non-smoker follows a smoker outside so they can chat…. what on earth is the smoker doing wrong? Is your judgement now extending to those that associate with or around smokers?? This level of extremism is not healthy. Truly, I hope you find peace or something.

      3. The Original K.*

        I absolutely take short walks to clear my head, usually a walk around the block. One of the reasons I hated a previous job was that it was in an exurb so there was nowhere to walk aside from the parking lot (there weren’t even sidewalks in the immediate area around the office), and doing a lap around the parking lot didn’t feel the same.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          In an ideal workplace, I’d take a few of those “walk around the block” breaks a day. I am way more productive and able to concentrate on my work when I do it. My current job has had a heavy “butt in chair” culture for the last few years, and I am now trying to get a feel of whether it has changed after the recent org changes – but it feels so frightening to take a 10-minute walk outside after several years of being told that you need to spend every minute of your work day on worklike activities. I feel like I put my whole career on the line anytime I step outside.

      4. SI*

        I use to work food service as well. We had smokers taking 3-4, 15-20 min breaks to smoke on top of a 30 min lunch. One day, we had enough and started taking “water breaks.” We’d grab something to drink and go outside for 15 mins. After that, the manger started cracking down on how many breaks the smokers could take and let us have our “water breaks.”

      5. Manders*

        Ooh, this is making me feel conflicted because I do agree that encouraging small breaks throughout the day is a great idea, but I also do think being seen smoking could hold someone back in my area.

        I think the work culture where I am puts a huge focus on appearing to be healthy. Business casual leans heavily toward athleisure, diet talk is usually about “optimized” or “anti-inflammatory” diets rather than weight loss, and so on. I know a few of my coworkers smoke on occasion but being seeing as someone who needs to take regular smoke breaks would be out of sync with the culture in a way that’s not necessarily fair, but definitely something to keep in mind.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I think it’s funny that you phrased it as a “huge focus on appearing to be healthy.”

          We want to appear to be healthy, but not if it costs us in productivity and profits, ha.

          1. Manders*

            Yeah, it’s partly about the appearance! I work in a field that’s not healthcare, but sort of wellness-adjacent. To my company’s credit, they’re also great at giving tons of time off for doctor’s appointments, sickness, vacations, etc; the insurance is great; and we get everything we ask for when it comes to ergonomics and comfort in the office. But there’s definitely an image I’m shooting for at work, and rearranging meetings for smoke breaks would not fit the culture.

          2. LadyL*

            Oh yeah, like one of the biggest ways to ensure a healthy workforce is to provide a robust benefits package and to go the extra mile to ensure they can have a healthy work/life balance (like, for example, letting people work fewer hours which studies have shown creates a boost in mental health AND productivity), but I notice those ideas aren’t nearly as popular at the corporate level as “scold employees for bad habits” and “get rid of the free snacks” are.

      6. Jaybeetee*

        I actually did the same when I worked fast food in high school! After one notable shift where I was left alone to clean up after a rush because *everyone* went out for a smoke as soon as it calmed down, I complained and got permission to take short breaks outside if I wished. I think I only wound up actually doing that a couple times, but I was proud for making the point anyway. Especially in jobs like that when a manager can snap at you for “slacking”, it really can turn into a double-standard where smokers get more breaks than non-smokers.

        1. LadyL*

          It’s great you got that result! In my experience if you complain to management about co-workers’ smoke break the result is management trying to take the smoke breaks away so everyone is working constantly, which is the exact opposite of what I want.

    2. Chili*

      I think if LW is directly saying, “I moved this meeting to take a smoke break” people will perceive it negatively, but if they say, “I moved the schedule around to allow myself time to regroup so I can put my full focus on each meeting,” most people would be fine with it, even if they notice the LW takes smoke breaks during this time. If LW could also advocate for others who need breaks (asking if anyone needs an intermission during a long meeting, purposefully avoiding back-to-back-to-back meetings), I think that could help keep LW framed in people’s minds as conscientious about breaks rather than “needing a fix” or whatever the negative connotations may be.

      1. Temperance*

        I disagree. I think that if LW poses her breaks this way, and is seen outside smoking, it will reflect poorly on her.

      2. r.d.*

        I think it really depends on the company culture and the LW’s status within the company.

        There is a senior manager in my company who always scheduled meetings on the 5, instead of the hour or half hour. Always. Every meeting she schedules either starts at 10:05 or ends at 9:55. It’s fantastic.

        It also makes it acceptable for individual contributors in her department to adjust meetings that way, but I’m can guarantee that in my last company it would have been noticed much more.

        And even in this company, which I generally feel is very good, they track the smokers. I don’t know if they are charged more for insurance, since I don’t smoke, but it’s possible. I do know who smokes, and I definitely notice who seems to take really frequent smoke breaks vs those I never see smoke, but occasionally catch the scent off them.

    3. boo bot*

      Yes! If someone were scheduling smoke breaks into their day, I can’t imagine thinking, “that person isn’t interested in their work.” I’d think, “that person is taking a break.” Everybody needs a minute to clear their head once in a while.

      1. Modern Moth*

        Exactly! Maybe it’s my background in retail/service industry jobs, but I never look at smokers as “slacking” when they’re on their breaks — but I also don’t know any smokers who break for longer than 10 minutes, which usually includes walking to the designated spots and back. Health issues aside, I don’t see how a 10 minute smoke break should be treated any differently than a 10 minute snack/water break, a quick social medial check, or even just a brisk lap in the hallway.

    4. Diahann Carroll*

      Not having hours and hours of meetings in a row without even a few minutes between them feels to me like it should be the standard.

      I hate this and push back on this every chance I get. There is no earthly reason why people should be trying to cram all meetings into one day when they see the rest of my calendar is wide open *grrrr.*

      1. Nessun*

        I actively attempt to schedule meetings with breaks between, even when my boss says it’s not necessary. I’ve heard the concept called “space for grace”, which is the term I use when explaining to anyone, but really it’s all the same – everyone needs a moment to refocus before moving on to the next task. Your notes might need tidied, you might need water or a bathroom break, or you might have to scoot down the hall to a different room/office/workspace, but regardless of all that, your brain also needs a minute to switch gears to the Next Topic. Why anyone would cram every available moment with meetings is beyond me!

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I think some people do it because they’re trying to avoid actually doing any work that day, lol. You can’t possibly get anything done with back to back meetings like that (at least I can’t).

      2. JustaTech*

        Not to mention, everyone needs a few minutes to get to the new meeting room, set up the screen, get the web conferencing working, make sure you’ve got the right slide deck, etc.
        It makes me long for school, when classes started on the hour, but were 50 minutes long so you could get to your next class.

      3. Name Required*

        Your calendar may be wide open, but theirs could not be or they may need to have discussions on a certain day in order to execute within a particular timeline the rest of the week. That is the earthly reason, my friend.

    5. Antilles*

      I’m not a smoker, but as an observer, it seems like one reason why smoke breaks happen more often than other breaks is that smokers (to their credit) tend to be a lot more willing to ask for such breaks.
      If you need a bathroom break, no sane person is going to tell you “no, we can’t take a few minutes between meetings for the restroom” (at most, they might just tell you go ahead while we keep rolling), but people don’t ask…whereas smokers often just announce “hey, I need five minutes, smoke break” and go right for it.

    6. Letter Writer*

      I think that’s a big part of it for me. Honestly, I can go without a cigarette. I do it. There are all day meetings that I have to attend, or if I’m visiting family (I don’t smoke around my nephews), and other times that smoking is straight up not an option. And I didn’t always smoke, and even then, I needed a break at work! One of the biggest reasons I started smoking again was stress at work. When not smoking I never left my desk or a meeting room. As a smoker, I have a “reason” to take a break and clear my head, to just relax, and to let my brain reset for a minute. That part is honestly helpful.

      1. Lance*

        Yes; it definitely sounds like you need to allow yourself other ‘excuses’ to have a break, to not want back-to-back meetings, etc. And honestly? Everyone could use a break now and then, for the bathroom, for water, for food, just to get out into fresh air… all sorts of reasons. There’s nothing wrong with it, and if you can find good times to fit something in (maybe even something that isn’t smoking; maybe just stepping out into fresh air for a bit, or something else that will help de-stress you), I think many people here would actively encourage it.

      2. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

        Same here. This is one of the many reasons I don’t see myself at a manager level. I have attention issues and sometimes deal with mood swings. I require breaks to just stare at my phone as a way to recuperate. I don’t take formal lunch breaks, so I don’t think I actually end up taking more time off than is allowed. I actually think I take less time, even with the multiple breaks. I’m also always on top of my work and work at a high level. But companies are all about “optics”, which I don’t feel I have the energy to maintain.

      3. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

        This isn’t much better, but I’m a coffee/tea addict, and frequently these are my excuses for taking breaks. I also purposefully drink from a small water bottle and frequently refill it as a way to take breaks from my desk. I also take walks during my lunch break (for about 10 minutes) when the weather is nice. I notice the walls invigorate me a lot better than caffeine, but I don’t always feel comfortable leaving the building.

    7. Vicky Austin*

      I know what you mean. For years, I was addicted to Facebook (and I recently quit) and to me, it seemed unfair that my coworkers who smoked got to take 10 minutes (or 15 minutes or however long it takes to smoke a cigarette) to indulge in their addiction, but if I took a quick break to indulge in mine, I was accused of slacking off.

    8. JB (not in Houston)*

      Agreed. I agree with Alison that some people will see it that way, but being able to go outside for a few minutes and do nothing but clear my head is something I wish were considered normal and healthy and acceptable.

    9. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Same here. This is one of the many reasons I don’t see myself at a manager level. I have attention issues and sometimes deal with mood swings. I require breaks to just stare at my phone as a way to recuperate. I don’t take formal lunch breaks, so I don’t think I actually end up taking more time off than is allowed. I actually think I take less time, even with the multiple breaks. I’m also always on top of my work and work at a high level. But companies are all about “optics”, which I don’t feel I have the energy to maintain.

    10. Anon.*

      At one of my first jobs out of school, my coworker got fired for taking too many smoke breaks. The CEO got really annoyed with always seeing him outside having a smoke break, so he found out who he was and told the manager to let him go. I also notice whenever they would do layoffs, the people who frequently took smoke breaks were often the first ones they let go. That place was all about looking busy and having your butt in your seat, so they tended to target the people who took frequent breaks.

  5. Points for anonymity*

    I think I probably take more ‘making a brew’ breaks than smokers take smoke breaks, but, weirdly i’ve only ever worked with smokers who don’t like hot drinks. I’ve always wondered if i’d notice the disparity in those who partake in both. Overall though, I wouldn’t judge your work on taking smoke breaks.

    I would be annoyed if I found out you were moving meetings for this. It would probably affect my professional opinion of you in general.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Nicotine’s a stimulant, so it probably gets weird if you combine it with caffeine. Unless you mean hot drinks as in “a drink that is warm” and not just “coffee/tea/hot chocolate” in which case I’ve got nothing.

      1. Zephy*

        My mom has pretty much been running almost entirely on coffee, cigarettes, and takeout for the last thirty or so years. It’s absolutely the opposite of healthy, for sure, but people do it.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Oh, yeah, my maternal grandma was supposedly like that (never met her, wouldn’t know). I just remember taking adderall with tea once, and how horrid I felt that whole day.

          1. Caffeinated anon*

            For some people, they work well together: I use both Ritalin and strong black tea, and would need significantly more Ritalin to stay focused if I wasn’t also using caffeine. (When my doctor prescribed the Ritalin, I reduced the amount of caffeine significantly.)

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Fair enough! I’m glad you’ve got a system that works for you.

              (and, to be candid, I am not actually ADHD, so the prescription for 40mg of adderall was making me feel pretty horrid anyways)

    2. TheAssistant*

      Have you never moved a meeting because you were back-to-back-to-back and the meeting was not time-sensitive? Because it’s really the same concept of going nonstop for hours – with smokers, there’s that extra “when will I smoke” element, but I think the underlying desire to avoid that as much as possible is understandable.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily the number of breaks that’s the issue here, as long as you’re getting your work done and you’re not always missing when others are looking for you. Outside of a bathroom break or coffee break, most of us will chit chat if we have down time from our jobs. The thing that stood out to me is the asking to reschedule a meeting. Nobody wants to be in back to back (to back to back, etc.) meetings, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil. And when you’re trying to coordinate schedules, it’s difficult enough without someone asking for another time so they can take a smoke break. And realistically, smoke breaks generally take longer than running to the bathroom or grabbing some water between meetings.

  6. Marie*

    My sister smokes and I love her dearly. I don’t smoke, but still feel entitled to have time to pee and grab coffee between meetings. I can do that in 5-10 min without leaving the premises. I think the average smoke break runs about 15-20 min *once you’re outside*. It shouldn’t be an issue to take 25 min to yourself twice a day, but it very much can be. Sometimes I wish I was paid hourly so I could take the time I needed at my own expense, instead of taking a smaller fraction and feeling guilty.

    1. Jamie*

      I hope you don’t mean you’re feeling guilty for going to the bathroom and grabbing a beverage while at work.

      You’re human, those are basic human needs. It’s the very reason workplaces have bathrooms and coffee makers.

      1. Ted Mosby*

        I’m in a job where long days of meetings are part of the deal. You bring your beverage with you in a water bottle or thermos. Everyone regulates their own bathroom use like the adults we are. Full longer breaks of the sort that would require meetings to be moved aren’t possible. Not that anyone needs to feel guilty for drinking or peeing, but you also don’t need to schedule around them.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s our culture as well. It’s also hard to get non-meeting work done in teensy intervals between meetings; I’d rather block the meetings together and have a bigger non-meeting block.

          1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

            Ours as well. That said, I’ve also worked for leadership where the importance of being On Time to be respectful was drilled into us. So we made sure to schedule 15 minute breaks to allow leadership to be, well, human.
            But then, that was at a level where we very rarely got scheduled-at. We scheduled-for so we had discretion.
            Outside of that dynamic, back-to- backs are certainly a thing I deal with just by excusing myself discreetly as needed.

        2. Aquawoman*

          I’m curious what the diversity is like in these meetings. It seems undoable for people with certain health issues and nursing mothers, and also prizes a “tough guy” attitude over caring for people’s needs.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah if you work on the 18th floor and you have to go all the way downstairs and then walk around to a designated smoking area, smoke breaks are much longer than it takes someone to grab a fresh coffee from a break room or use a bathroom on the same floor.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup. My last boss and her work BFF (my teammate) would regularly take 20+ minute smoke breaks three or four times a day. This annoyed the hell out of some of our team because when they’d need to ask our boss a question, she was almost always away from her desk.

        That being said, she didn’t seem to suffer any work-related blowback for this – her work BFF was also recently promoted. The company was also pretty small with some lax-ish standards (even though it was technically a corporation, it was the least Corporate place I’ve ever worked), so that probably worked in their favor. I don’t think it would have flown at all at the company I worked for prior to joining them.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        Especially, as people have said upthread, the smoker is probably also grabbing a drink, going to the bathroom, and with OP upthread, checking their emails etc too – so it’s not an either/or situation here, and it certainly adds up. It would be super-frustrating to me to have to stay 15-20 minutes later than I should, because my colleague wanted 15-20 mins between meetings.

    3. Colette*

      Yes, I think it’s common for smokers to underestimate how much time they are actually taking, probably because there are different activities involved. (Put on jacket, walk to the door, go to the smoking area, smoke, walk back to the door, go to desk, take off jacket)

    4. okayokay*

      Ex-smoker here, just jumping in to say that it took me max 10 minutes to smoke a cigarette – on average more like 6-7 minutes. I don’t know a lot of smokers taking 15-20 minute smoke breaks – it just doesn’t take that long to smoke a cigarette!

      That said, I can confirm that I feel MUCH better not disappearing a few times a day and coming back almost certainly smelling like cigarette smoke… I thought it would be impossible to quit, but you just have to find the right methods.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        In some cases, it might end up taking 20 minutes *total* – not just the actual smoking a cigarette, but getting your coat, waiting for the elevator, going outside to some designated smoking area, waiting for the elevator again…

        I live in a northern clime, and I think it must be a real *project* for anyone who needs a smoke break in winter to bundle up, go out, stand in the middle of a blizzard with their cigarette, get back inside, un-bundle, and get back to work.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yes, if you work some place where all that’s is necessary to get outside. Many of us do not!

        1. okayokay*

          Even when I lived in the midwest, people generally toss their coat on (takes 15 seconds, literally) and walk outside (30 seconds on average). I can’t really imagine how putting a coat/hat/gloves on would take longer than 30 seconds.

          Sure, if you work somewhere where you have to take an elevator and walk a block, it would obviously take longer. But every place I’ve worked, across food service and offices, we’re talking a minute or two to get outside maximum (usually less).

    5. aepyornis*

      Most of my employees smoke (I’m not in the US) and their smoke breaks hardly ever last over 6-7 minutes without rushing. Unless there is a very long trip to a smoking area, I don’t think people would actually need 1 hour for 2 smoke breaks a day. As a manager I would very much mind if my employees were taking this much time per day, though.

      1. TL -*

        I worked at hospitals where you had to get off the property and remove ID to smoke. And in some places, you can’t smoke within a certain distance of the doorway of a public building.
        Finally, it’s not really socially acceptable to smoke as you’re walking down the sidewalk – most people will go a little bit away from foot traffic

        1. Clisby*

          Yes, where I live there are a couple of hospitals where there’s no smoking anywhere on the hospital property. There’s a college campus downtown where no smoking on college property is allowed. It’s not necessarily as simple as just walking outside to smoke – you might have to walk for blocks to get to an OK place to smoke.

      2. JamieS*

        Yeah it’s not usually really necessary to take 15+ minutes for a smoke break. People still often do though because they’re also chatting, playing on their phone, or otherwise extending their break.

        1. aepyornis*

          But then the issue is not really the smoking itself, but the taking multiple long breaks, no? I’m based in a country where smoking is much more socially acceptable than in the US (smoking on the sidewalk is not frown upon for instance) and yet I’ve always seen my colleagues and employees be super mindful of not taking smoke breaks longer than the time it actually takes to smoke a single cigarette (and thus successfully avoid being seen as slackers because they smoke).

    6. Rose Tyler*

      Two 25-minute breaks in addition to a lunch break feels like a lot to me, especially if the person is still only on-premises the same number of hours as their non-smoker colleagues and this is their daily routine rather than the 25-minute break taking the form of an occasional Starbucks run.

  7. Marny*

    I think the biggest problem LW will run into is that it comes across that smoking is more of a priority than some of his work (not all, but some). If you’re scheduling meetings in a way that builds in smoking time, then you’re implying that your smoke break is a higher priority than whatever the meeting is supposed to accomplish. Even if you don’t do it for Very Important meetings, the fact that you do it for some makes it seem like work has to fit in around your smoking schedule.

    1. Yorick*

      It might actually look pretty bad that LW only does this with meetings with peers or coworkers lower in the hierarchy.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Yes, 100% this. The fact that it’s a choice who to do this to is really disrespectful. Admittedly, I’m a person who would hate having to have a 15-20 min break between meetings, because it’s too short to get back to a desk and do any meaningful work. To find out someone was *choosing* to make me mess my calendar around so they could do something that’s essentially leisure would annoy me anyway (it wouldn’t be socially acceptable for me to move meetings around to have a casual chat with a friend on the phone, or watch a video on YouTube, or do some knitting, eg, so why is it ok to do it for smoking?). But if I realised they were choosing to do it to me, but not to someone senior, I’d be really annoyed.

        It just smacks of disrespect, and screams “my pleasure is more important than your time” – especially because it’s clearly not an issue of “my addiction is so bad I can’t help myself”, because they can help it when it’s someone who they see as important.

  8. Jamie*

    The changing meeting times would be a significant issue for me, the message that you’re prioritizing your need for a cigarette over work and the schedules of others is a really bad perception to put out there.

    1. Cat*

      I think it depends on the meeting. Changing an external meeting or one that’s complicated to arrange is not great. But there’s plenty of times I say to a co-worker “can we talk about the TPS report Monday afternoon? Maybe at 1:30?” And if they say “how about 2?” it’s fine and I think nothing of it.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s not changing a meeting though, that’s just scheduling one at a time convenient to both.

        If I had a meeting on my calendar and someone asked to move it 20 minutes, and I figured out they wanted me to change my schedule so they could smoke I’d be irritated because I have my day scheduled also and they don’t know if I had to move something to accommodate them.

        1. Letter Writer*

          I should clarify, it’s definitely the former and not the latter. I get a meeting request for 1:30 and see that I’m booked for 3 hours solid before that and I respond with “would 2 work?” after checking the calendar and seeing if it’s open for the person asking to meet. (If they’re slammed for the rest of the day, then yes, I’ll meet with them when they’re available, period.) I won’t ask to move a meeting I’ve already accepted. I just try to avoid back to back meetings for hours on end. This accommodates not only smoking, but lunch, using the restroom, etc.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Thank you for clarifying!

            If it’s during the scheduling process, it’s not changing the time! It’s just the standard procedure for setting up a meeting. I don’t care why you need me to start at 2 instead of 1:30, as long as it’s done in advance.

            So this makes a huge difference.

          2. annony*

            That’s totally fine. If it isn’t on the books it isn’t rescheduling. It’s just scheduling.

          3. PolarVortex*

            I do think it’s good to hear it’s the former, but one thing I want to give a word of caution is: if that person would wander by and see you smoking then during that 30 mins you shifted the meeting, their first thought will be that you shifted it to smoke. It’s true, and it’s no different than you shifting it to grab lunch or something, true, but as Allison pointed out, many people will associate it negatively and it could impact you.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Meh, I wouldn’t even remember that I suggested 1:30 and they said “How about 2?” unless it was within the same day maybe? Most of us have such busy schedules and meet/talk with so many different folks, it’s weird to keep that close of tabs on someone.

              If I saw someone smoking before our scheduled time, I’d just assume they had a free moment. Maybe their earlier meeting was finished earlier, maybe their earlier meeting flaked on them or changed all together. It wouldn’t make me think “Stinker, I thought you were too busy to meet at this time and you scheduled me at 2 instead of 1:30 because you wanted to schedule a smoke break!”

          4. A*

            My gut reaction was – that’s not ok. But honestly, I do the same thing just because I need a few moments to catch my breath/go to the restroom/make more tea etc. so I guess it’s not really that different – unless you’re also doing all those things on top of taking a smoke break in which case it might eat up a notable amount of time.

  9. INeedANap*

    I would also add that just because some co-workers can’t smell it, doesn’t mean it’s true you definitely don’t smell of smoke.

    I have a colleague who smokes and is very careful to smoke outside, wash his hands, etc., and yet still I can smell it. It definitely makes me want to avoid any meetings in close quarters because I’m sensitive to it, although I would never say anything because it’s obvious he takes special care to try and minimize the smell and I mean, what more can the guy do?

    1. EPLawyer*

      If you are going for smoke breaks during the work day, your co-workers can definitely smell it on you. It gets in your hair and your clothes in ways that smokers don’t notice. Your co-workers might not realize its cigarette smoke smell because they don’t smell it that often with how smoking has gone down over the years, but they know they smell something different. If you smoke at home, it is in your clothes, even the ones hanging in your closet. It is on your coat, your bag, everything. As someone who lived with a smoker, you learn how much it gets into everything.

      If you are really concerned that smoking might be holding you back, that might be the nudge to get you to quit. My sister a smoker since high school used e-cigs to help her eventually quit. I know the press they are getting lately, but unlike regular cigs you can use different levels of nicotine so you can gradually cut back the addictive nicotine instead of going cold turkey and going through withdrawals.

      1. MsSolo*

        Yes. We’re in an open plan office, an a colleague I don’t sit near regularly came back from lunch and it genuinely took me a couple of minutes to place the smell. In some respects, I was grateful she hadn’t tried to cover it with body spray, which would have been much stronger, but knowing we have several vapers in the office it’s surprisingly noticeable how much more cigarette smoke clings. Depending on the vaper and the vape, it’s possible to discount it as a particularly sickly perfume, I suppose, which you can’t convince yourself cigarette smoke is (though honestly, after walking through far too many vanilla scented clouds on the way to work, I’m baffled why no one’s created a “roast chicken dinner” or “fish and chips” vape yet – there’s got to be a market for savoury scents!)

  10. wrotethiswhilesmoking*

    I think it depends on a lot of circumstances. Unless you are working for the American Hear Assoc. or something like that, it probably won’t be that big of a deal. You will be an anomaly but if you are otherwise outstanding you would likely not be passed over for promotion solely on your smoking habit.

    Be mindful of the bias against smoke breaks though. For some reason non-smokers complain about smoke breaks while either martyred at their desk (Why yes, non smokers can and do go outside to see the sun or clear their head) or while they spend copious amounts of time in the break room. Make your breaks quick and not too frequent. Try to tag them on to times you are away from your desk normally. If it’s possible answer email, take notes (I do my best thinking and have had many a breakthrough when I’ve walked away from a problem to smoke), or use a conference call as a way to do double duty as it where.

    1. JustaTech*

      Or at a company that works on cancer.
      My company makes a cancer treatment. Most of the businesses in our immediate vicinity work on cancer research. My observation has been that there are fewer office-worker smokers in our area than in other areas (tech-land a few block away). I don’t know if this is a straight-up “you can’t work here if you smoke” or a self-selection thing, or subtle (or unsubtle) peer pressure, or just that lab work isn’t always compatible with frequent outdoor breaks.

      I also noticed that when there was only one smoker here he cut way back (because he was lonely?), but when there were more than two smokers they seemed to go out more often. Either that or they were just more noticeable heading out in a pack.

    2. Door Guy*

      The only time I’ve ever really complained about smoke breaks was my very first job, where smokers could go out and smoke whenever they wanted (all the managers and most of the full time employees smoked in my area, the rest of us were typically underage). Anyone who wasn’t a smoker was told to get back to work if they were seen taking a break, even if the person telling them was physically on a smoke break at the time. Even if we came outside to talk with one of the smokers we’d be shooed back inside. One of the workers actually started smoking the day he turned 18 just so he could take breaks.

      Once, myself and another student lit off a few novelty colored smoke bombs out back and called it our smoke break.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      Might there be a regional bias here?

      Having worked in offices in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, I do think there would be a bias against tobacco smokers even in non-health related fields. Curious to hear if others feel that as well or if other states/countries might be different.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yeah, I work in Seattle where we have some *super* strict smoking laws. No smoking in any business, period. No smoking in restaurants or bars (because they are businesses). No smoking 25 feet from the door to any business. No smoking in bus shelters (thank god!). I think these laws apply to vaping as well.
        And no smoking weed in public anywhere.

        So it can be challenging to find a place where you are allowed to smoke (although I can see our designated spot from my desk), which might discourage the casual smokers.

        1. Door Guy*

          I absolutely LOVED when the city I worked in at the time went non-smoking in all restaurants. I used to get odd tingling/feeling in my fingers whenever I had to wash an ashtray (and gloves weren’t a good option in the dish pit, they just ended up trapping water against your skin unless you are cutting off circulation to block off water infiltration)

          1. LDN Layabout*

            I come from a smoking culture. My stepmother literally can’t visit the country during winter because of her asthma. People very easily forget how bad it used to be in places pre-smoking bans unless to go to places that don’t have them.

            1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

              Some years ago when I visited Italy, the amount of smoke/number of smokers on the streets brought me back to what it was like growing up, when seemingly all adults smoked.

      2. cheeky*

        That’s a good point. I live and work in the Bay Area, which I would say is pretty hostile to cigarette smokers. As a non-smoker, I like it that way.

      3. Spreadsheets and Books*

        I work in NYC and I have seen a clear bias against smokers among my coworkers (things like commenting on the smell in the elevator, talking about how they’re so glad on one on the team smokes, choosing not to walk through the diamond district due to all the smoking salespeople hanging around outside the doors, etc).

        Smoking is crazy expensive here, though, so it kind of screams irresponsible financial practices to spend $100+ a week on cigs. The city-mandated minimum price for a pack is $13.

      4. CheeryO*

        I’m in a not-particularly-progressive rust belt city, and there’s definitely a major anti-smoking bias. I figured it was just society in general at this point.

      5. Jules the 3rd*

        US South, tobacco country – mild bias against it in the largest cities, but almost none outside them. Definitely a chance of it being seen as ‘redneck’, but not overriding other cues like clothes or car.

      6. Archaeopteryx*

        Yeah at least in the PNW in my experience I do think smoking has a kind of lower-class stigma. Now, things being associated with low socioeconomic class ideally *wouldn’t* be as looked down on… but they are. And subconsciously, I do associate it with the fact that most smokers I’ve known who weren’t elderly were less-educated.

      7. Tara R.*

        Yeah, I’m on the west coast (Canada) and I’ve actually never worked with someone who smokes regularly and have only known a few people with the habit. All of them were in their late 40s and older, and they’d all made big efforts to quit. There’s definitely a social stigma here. (Which doesn’t seem to apply to smoking pot, interestingly! Although I guess if you were lighting up 4-10 times a day it would.)

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      I have a bias against smoking breaks.
      My manager smokes and one team member vapes. They go on breaks together so
      1. Coworker gets lots of extra face time with manager 2 x or more a day. We never have 1 to 1 meetings so this is really important.
      2. When staff hang out talking in the break room, we can all easily find them if they are needed. If I need a supervisor, it takes a lot more to find my manager.
      3. They NEED to smoke, like don’t function well if they dont get enough smoke breaks. So it means they often get breaks at a time when the rest of us don’t.

  11. Triumphant Fox*

    I think smoking is one of those things that really compounds other problems. In and of itself, it’s not a deal breaker, but if anything goes wrong – your health declines for a bit, you have to take care of parents or another relative, your car breaks down or you have to handle an emergency at home – I have found that people are less sympathetic to smokers than non-smoker, because there is already this underlying level of irritation at being unable to find you/of you getting special privileges – even if that isn’t the case. I’ve known a couple people whose work wasn’t stellar and the smoking I think really hardened upper management’s perception of them as lazy or taking advantage. In one case I think that was true (2 hour smoke breaks are ridiculous), but in another I think it’s really an unrelated trait that gets lumped in with laziness, irresponsibility and poor decision-making.

    1. DJ*

      I agree. For the most part, I think smoking will only impact you negatively in that if someone doesn’t like you or if you do something that annoys/inconveniences others the smoking will add to that. On the other hand, a lot of people probably won’t care if you’re an otherwise stellar employee who smokes (unless it impacts them in some way, like if you share a small office with someone sensitive to smells).

      I do think that quitting smoking will probably only be a good thing as far as the impact on your job, but I don’t quite think it rises to the level of stop immediately because you won’t ever advance if you don’t. I imagine that if you’re a good employee, you should still be able to advance. The only exception is if you end up with someone above you who absolutely hates smoking, but I think most people won’t hold it against you if you’re good at your job.

  12. Jinkies*

    Just because some people were shocked and never smelled it on you does not mean you don’t smell like it. No matter how much you take care not to smell like smoke, if you smoke you do smell like smoke. Its the nature of smoke to permeate. People who are sensitive to smoke can tell no matter how careful you think you are.

  13. G*

    Ugh, call me old fashioned or whatever but I think people should treat smoking as a personal choice that isn’t anyone else’s business. I have family members who proclaim an dislike of anyone who smokes just because they smoke. If someone has a discreet smoking habit (not taking loads of time of to smoke, not smelling of smoke) that’s their problem and it’s not anyone else’s business to bother them about it, no matter how unhealthy it is.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      Totally true! For the LW, though, the reality is that it’s often not seen that way – as evidenced by your family. The smoke breaks and the smell of smoke can also impact co-workers in tangible ways, which can make it hard to ignore and impact the LW’s standing at their company.

      1. antismoker*

        I see it as a personal choice like being a heroin addict is a personal choice. You can do it, but there are prices to pay — like sickness, disability, early death, stinking all the time, losing respect, etc.

        1. G*

          This is exactly what I was saying. People need to let go of obsessing over how other people live their lives.

          1. No*

            Live your life how you want IF you keep your cancer causing substances to your self. Impossible to do with smoking.

            1. A*

              Impossible? Wtf? That’s not true, and I don’t know why people are throwing blanket assumptions/statements around like they can speak to everyone or every situation. It’s unnecessary and undermines the real point you’re trying to make.

              Aside from that, what about people who live rurally (I have two different friends in mind, we’re talking farm house in the middle of their own farm on tons of acres) who only smoke at home, and only on their porch? How on earth is this not keeping it to themselves? They don’t even smoke around me because I’m a non-smoker.

          2. Colette*

            Smoking affects other people. Smokers outside the door or walking down the street force people to walk through smoke. The scent of smoke affects people with respiratory illnesses (like asthma, which is very common), even if the person is not actually smoking. The litter (because many smokers drop cigarette butts everywhere) affects non-smokers.

            No one is obsessing about it, but we are observing it.

            1. J. N.*

              I dunno — I kind of obsess over the smoking issue. I’ve lived in a mega-city in a developing nation for most of the last ten years, and you just *can’t* *escape* the cigarette smoke. I’m sure the general air pollution is taking a toll on my health, but I’m convinced that the smoking has really exacerbated it. I spent two years back in the U.S., and then came back here, and the change both times was astounding. My chest just *hurts* these days when I’m around smoke — the streets are crowded, I’m stuck at every café table and every few steps on the street behind crowds of people whose charred, used-up breath is blowing back all over me, and it’s really, really unpleasant. If I hang with a smoker for a couple of hours after work, and I’m on the wrong side of the table, I’ll feel it for days. Much as I love this city I’ve called home for ten years, the smoker population has been added to my list of reasons to eventually leave. Add that to the general health, financial and litter concerns, and I wish Marlboro and company would just go belly-up already for the sake of the planet. I say nothing to my smoker friends; respect choices etc., but it really takes a toll on me.

            2. Yorick*

              And people just smoke everywhere, even if it’s clearly a place where smoking would be rude because tons of people are gonna have to breathe it. Once I did a very casual 5k fun run and came up behind someone who was smoking. wtf?

            3. ...*

              Yup even if you’re outside in frnt of a building I still have to breathe it if I walk by you. Also that means I can’t stand outside and wait for my uber or enjoy my coffee or whatever. Why does the person whose purposely putting poison into the air get the benefit?

            4. A*

              It absolutely can – and often does – affect other people. But not always. If someone lives in a remote area without neighbors in the immediate area and wants to smoke on their porch, with no kids etc on the property – more power to them. Live and let live. Not all smokers are walking around subjecting the general public to second hand smoke. Many do (seems to me like the majority), but not all.

        2. Violently Allergic to Cigarette Smoke*

          You know, I wish that the group of smokers who cluster in the corner of the parking garage right next to where I have to go to get into my building were doing heroin instead of smoking. Then I wouldn’t come close to vomiting every single morning and afternoon when I am forced to pass through their nasty-@ss cloud of smoke. I try to hold my breath, but most mornings I’m hit with it the moment I open my car door. At least heroin users keep that sh*t to themselves and don’t force me to share in their gross, incredibly unhealthy addiction. I have far more compassion for heroin and opioid addicts than I do for cigarette smokers. [I have exactly zero for smokers. They could use a patch or suck on nicotine lozenges. There is literally no reason for them to muck up shared air and make others sick while indulging in their addiction; just like there’s literally no reason for drunks to get behind the wheel and endanger others.]

          And based on my experience of cigarette smokers thinking it’s just dandy for them to force non-smokers to breathe their filth, and based on the hundreds of cigarette butts I see on sidewalks and roadsides, there’s no way I would hire a smoker, let alone promote one. And I’m in a position to hire and promote people.

          1. KC without the sunshine band*

            Yep. I worked for a company that had a no smoking policy on the premises due to the ignitable gases we used in our work. Interviewees were told they could not smoke on property, and that the neighboring business also did not want them coming on their property to smoke. One was a wedding dress shop, who also had a smoke free policy for obvious reasons. I only had one smoker who smoked before and after work, but never during. We had a temp once that tried smoking “across the street” in the bridal store parking lot, and I got a phone call about that. Since then, I’ve changed jobs. Now I work somewhere that has a smoking area right outside the front door so I get to walk through it every freaking day. I hate it.

    2. Sandy*

      I’m with you, actually.

      I’m trying to imagine AAM ending a column with “ But if you’re wondering if these are things that should go into the Additional Incentives to Lose Weight column: Yes.” and I can’t.

      1. Temperance*

        Well the chief difference is that being overweight only impacts *you*, whereas secondhand smoke has some significant impacts on other people.

        1. wrotethiswhilesmoking*

          umm…trying not to go into derailing territory but being overweight does have impacts on others. Just from the stories and letters here… Higher travel costs for larger plane seats or multiple seats , lost time due to mobility issues, coworkers being asked not to bring in food or have food available as it might be a temptation, increased health care costs, etc.

          1. Name Required*

            You being overweight doesn’t make me *sick*, though. You smoking right outside the shared entrance of our building absolutely can. That’s the big difference.

          2. A*

            There’s also a very notable difference between overweight and morbidly obese. What you are describing is on the extreme end of the spectrum. Most people who are overweight (not obese) are not going to be impacting those around them as a result.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          At a certain level of overweight, not really. It’s also a public health issue, and it can have work-related impacts that have been discussed here when some employees may need different chairs or have issues with travel. Depends if you’re talking day-to-day or big picture.

          1. Megan*

            Being overweight doesn’t cause cancer in the people around you, though, so I think we can safely put it in a different category.

      2. wrotethiswhilesmoking*


        I’m actually laughing out loud at some of these comments here today on the subject (they were totally expected but amusing to me on several different levels)

      3. Amber Rose*

        People who are overweight don’t need to take fat breaks though. We don’t particularly stink and we aren’t giving people cancer with second hand fat.

        It’s not remotely the same. :/

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        They’re not the same thing.

        And frankly, I will never be able to talk about smoking without being influenced by the fact that it is the reason my father died a horrible death when I was 27. So yeah, I think there are a lot of reasons to stop smoking.

        1. Justin*

          Same with me and my grandmother, and my godfather, and my aunt (I am not comparing, I am agreeing).

          The stigma against weight is unkind and unfair. It ain’t the same.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          Sorry for the loss of your father. My grandfather died due to smoking years before I was even born.

        3. A*

          I’m so sorry for your loss, and as someone that is actively on their journey to quitting (2 months without a cig!) I appreciate you sharing that and take it as additional motivation.

        4. PlainJane*

          I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my father to lung cancer when I was 19. Before that, I spent almost every winter with some kind of lower respiratory illness, because he smoked 2 packs a day–in the house, in the car, everywhere–and he’d become irate if anyone suggested secondhand smoke was harmful. When he finally quit, I stopped getting sick all the time. Smoking absolutely affects other people, and it affects the smoker’s loved ones the most.

          I try to be understanding about smoking (and other other addictions), but I can’t get past the idea that starting smoking now, when we know so much about the damage it does, shows really poor judgment and even selfishness. I know that’s not entirely fair of me, and I’d like to think I wouldn’t let it affect my decisions around hiring and promotion, but there it is.

      5. KoiFeeder*

        I really don’t know how to say this in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m trying to pick a fight, so please understand that I don’t mean to be vicious, I’m just having trouble wording this better. Someone existing while overweight next to me is not risking my life and health. A person smoking next to me is. (and no, “just walking away” isn’t an option for me. my mobility is degrading fast, and I would like to be able to still use the bathroom unassisted at 40. gotta save my steps.)

        1. Sandy*

          Perhaps some clarification is in order. I am overweight, and I am a non-smoker. But where I live (continental Europe), being fat is very much considered a worse health risk than smoking. You’d think it was contagious or something. I have some definite THOUGHTS on that approach, for another time.

          I do think that AAM’s response is very much representative of how far we have come re: fat acceptance (quite a ways) but also re: smoking (quite a ways in the other direction).

          I don’t like the arguments being used here because they are precisely the same arguments that are regularly used to justify increasing my health insurance premiums and/or tolerating fat phobia in the medical establishment. Either I am choosing to do it deliberately, or I am an addict with no self-control; either way I unacceptably drive up the costs for everyone else.

          1. Always late*

            Obesityvis the second cause of cancer behind smoking so Europe sounds like it has a very good perspective. In the medical field a doctor has to tell the truth. Just like they tell a smoker they can die a horrible death because of their addiction they have to tell an obese person they can die a horrible death from their addiction. It is just facts and we cannot let facts scare us into making up terms that are not and should never be real. Should we accept people for you they are and not shame…yes shame has been shown to not be effective in creating change. Should a medical professional hold off on talking about weight because an adult might get their feelings hurt…no. Any addict told that they have to stop the thing(s) that release the good stuff into their system will have an emotional response and try to justify why they need to: smoke, play video games, do drugs, eat to excess. Food, smoking, booze, drugs, soda, tv, games can become addictions. When they do your doctor should be your first point of contact. A doctor or nurse is not smoke phobic for telling a patient they need to quit. Nor are they “fatphobic” for telling someone who is obese that changes need to be made. I would want my doctor to discuss my weight if I was not in the healthy range rather than leave it until my bmi is above 30 and I’m obese and at risk for more issues? Just like a smoker has to contend with the discussions about quitting before they get things like copd and cancer. It’s not fat phobic, its compassion to not want to sign another death certificate for an obese person before their time. The same for smokers. Why die at 50 with a host of issues when you can live healthy until 80? Health premiums should be based on life style. If you are a smoker, drinker, or obese then yes you should be charge more than people who do not fall into categories like that? Why should others bare the burden for others addictions? Most countries provide programs for addictions both formal and informal (support groups). People just don’t want to put the cigarette, drink, or fork down.

      6. Tin Cormorant*

        An overweight person standing next to me does not have an immediate and negative effect on my ability to breathe or any of my other bodily functions for that matter.

        Smokers choose to smoke. Sure it’s a personal choice, though a very stupid one to choose to spend so much money on a disgusting habit that is proven to make you die significantly earlier rather than… not doing that, and I am free to choose to judge them accordingly for being the type of person who would make that choice.

        Most overweight people did not choose to be that way, their size is a result of genetics and environment and many other things we do not yet fully understand. It’s not solely a lack of willpower. You cannot equate them.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, unless they started smoking as a child, at some point smokers made a choice to start something universally known to be deadly and addictive. Even setting aside that genetics, income (aka time to exercise), and tons of other factors go into someone’s weight and body shape, the imaginary fat person who got fat 100% through gluttony is still just misusing something essential for human survival- food. Smoking is not necessary to survival at all so deciding to start is a rightly-stigmatized choice.

          Yes it’s your personal choice, but people having opinions about it doesn’t infringe on your rights.

      7. Vicky Austin*

        Keep in mind, not all fat people are unhealthy. While overeating and not exercising enough can certainly cause weight gain, other factors can as well. For instance, I’m on medication that causes weight gain. As a result, I’m slightly overweight, despite working out nearly every day and eating a low-sugar diet. The only way for me to be skinny is to stop taking my meds, and that is not an option for me. So it’s incorrect to assume that someone has an unhealthy lifestyle just because they are fat.

        However, it is impossible for someone to regularly smoke and be as healthy as someone who never smokes.

    3. LDN Layabout*

      Yeah, but regular smokers smell of smoke. It permeates. Yes, even those who don’t smoke indoors.

      I’ve yet to meet a regular smoker who doesn’t smell of it. I’ve met a lot of them who claim they don’t though.

      1. Jamie*

        I actually have. I’ve worked with people for years and have been shocked to learn they smoke, it’s the minority by far but it happens.

        My current officemate smokes and for months I barely noticed it when he’d come back from a smoke break and last few weeks it’s so strong it makes me a little nauseated at times. He hasn’t changed brands, so Idk what’s changed, but just saying there are people who can hide the smell better than others IME.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          People have varying senses, though. Just because one person says they can’t smell someone does not mean everyone can’t smell that person. Similar to pets, I think. No one thinks their house smells like pets, but it does (I’m a dog owner).

            1. VictorianCowgirl*

              Second and third hand smoke isn’t just annoying, it’s unhealthy and can trigger asthma attacks and migraine and can lead to cancer.

            2. Morning Glory*

              But people pretty commonly (and in my opinion, reasonably) form negative judgments about people who often smell strongly of something unpleasant.

              And, since the OP was asking about whether smoking would impact potential future promotions, it’s reasonable to point out that odor could be a bigger issue than they think.

        2. pleaset*

          It depends how much.

          Smoking a couple times a week, at times of high stress or for relaxation: I’m not sure an average person would notice the smell.

          Smoking multiple times a day – so much that ‘smoke breaks’ are needed: yeah, that’ll smell.

    4. Door Guy*

      It is their personal choice to smoke, and it’s my personal choice to choose not to want to associate with them whenever possible. If I see someone I would consider attractive light up, they are immediately no longer attractive to me.

      Part of that is likely that just as I reached that age where kids start thinking about maybe trying smoking or that it’s “cool”, my dad, a light to moderate smoker who started in his 20’s, had a heart attack and it completely turned me off to any thoughts of cigarettes.

    5. Cranky Neighbot*

      No. Tobacco companies have been caught using child labor. There are children in tobacco fields experiencing the effects of exposure to it.

      Smoke is foul, it killed several of my relatives, and being locked in while they smoked gave my mother and aunt asthma.

      There are multiple alternatives to smoking and multiple methods to quit. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible. The effects of smoking have been known for decades. Anyone who chooses to continue smoking has weighed their options and chosen this one.

      1. Door Guy*

        My wife always thought she got carsick on trips over about 30 minutes. She got all prepared to be sick and took precautions before the first time we took a long trip. Got to our destination (7 hours later) and she hadn’t had so much as a twinge.

        We figured out it was because her mother smoked in the car while they went on trips, and as her mother never had much money they would take day-trips and drive around the countryside stopping in small towns and seeing touristy things (back when gas was <$1.00/gal) on the weekends she was with her. Her dad hates driving and would only go to work, the store, and her grandparents unless he had to. (Her parents divorced when she was 5)

    6. Manders*

      But the LW isn’t asking how they *should* be perceived in an ideal world, they’re asking how people are likely to perceive them in the real world. And a ton of people do dislike smoking on a level that they may not even be fully aware of or willing to reexamine.

      Plus, a significant chunk of the population has watched a loved one die from a disease caused by smoking. That’s a pretty hard association to ignore, and it’s likely to color your perceptions even if you’re trying very hard to convince yourself it’s none of your business.

      1. CheeryO*

        Yes, this. I have empathy for anyone with an addiction, but it’s hard to be neutral toward someone who chooses to smoke in 2019.

    7. cheeky*

      Second hand smoke, smoke in clothes or hair, smoke that lingers in a room all make me wheeze. It impacts my life negatively when I’m around a smoker. So it’s more than a personal choice.

    8. JamieS*

      The issue, or potential issue, isn’t that OP smokes. The issue is that they’re taking excessive breaks (for their workplace) and moving meetings around to accommodate their break. That has the potential to impact advancement regardless of what’s done on the break.

      In general yes smoking is a personal choice that’s none of my business right up until it impacts me.

    9. Meepmeep*

      You can’t not smell of smoke if you smoke at work. The smell will stay in your clothes and hair. If anyone at the workplace has respiratory issues, it will set them off.

      Also, where is this smoking taking place? If it’s anywhere where nonsmokers can smell the smoke, it’s not victimless.

  14. Turquoisecow*

    At my last company, two of the four managers in my department smoked. One was a light smoker who didn’t go outside that often, but the other was noted for frequent breaks. One of the other managers complained that there would often be meetings where the VP would present the managers with an important task that was a kind of all-hands project, and as soon as this meeting was over, the heavy smoker would go outside for a smoke break while the other three would immediately begin to discuss how they were going to handle the project. When he returned from his smoke break, the others had already worked out the details and assigned work, and he accepted whatever their plans were. Even though he pulled his fair share of weight, the others were annoyed that he essentially left the decision making and discussion up to them.

    I’ve worked with some smokers who leave the building quite regularly and it’s hard to find them when you need them because it seems like they’re always smoking. I’ve worked with others who seem to be always in the building. As a salaried employee – or even an hourly employee – most people didn’t take scheduled breaks. They might walk away for a few minutes to have a chat or get coffee or smoke, but formal 15 minute breaks weren’t a thing in the offices I worked at – just lunches. (And many higher ups don’t take formal lunches, just squeeze in a sandwich between meetings while working at their desk.) So if you were insisting on formal breaks, OP, you might look odd at my company as a director or senior manager type. The optics might be different at other companies, though.

    1. Marny*

      Also, it often seems like the smokers all take their breaks together so they can smoke together, resulting in the non smokers having to hold down the fort. I worked in a cafe a little while back and 3 or 4 of our 6 staff members would all go out to smoke together. The 2 of us left to handle everything really resented them for it. So while LW remembers the olden days of smoking with coworkers, many of us hated that and judged you for it.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Oh yeah, that too. They go out for a short smoke break and the shit hits the fan for the non-smokers, who usually don’t get a bunch of random breaks during the day.

      2. Spreadsheets and Books*

        I waited tables temporarily after college and basically everyone else smoked. All the smokers knew I didn’t, so they’d incessantly ask me to watch their tables for them while they went out to smoke. When I was new, I did it, but after I’d been there a while, I’d agree and then just… not. Do your job. I’m not watching your tables three times during dinner rush when I’m not getting those tips just so you can take a smoke break.

        1. Spreadsheets and Books*

          I want to clarify that I did try saying no there for a while, but the badgering was incessant.

  15. Qwerty*

    Rescheduling meetings so you can smoke is a problem that can and will follow you. Simply put, it shows that you prioritize smoking over working and expect other people to adjust to your smoking schedule. The fact that you only do this for people who are ranked lower than you is a sign that you know you shouldn’t be doing this.

    1. Tuckerman*

      Yes, I’ve also worked with people who get really antsy and irritable if their smoke break is delayed, which was disruptive to my own day.

    2. LilySparrow*

      LW clarified above that they don’t reschedule set meetings in order to smoke.

      They build in a break between meetings when responding to a request. Which is a perfectly normal way to manage your schedule – most people try to avoid back-to-back meetings, because you need to check messsges, use the bathroom, grab a snack, mentally prep, etc.

  16. Ro*

    I think another factor will be- did people know you were a smoker from the beginning?

    As an example, I have a wonderful co-worker who is amazing at his job and very well-respected. Only after working with him for over a year did anyone realize he was a smoker. (We have jobs where it’s very common for people to pop in and out of the office and at his job level, nobody is monitoring his comings and goings. We’re all professionals and the only thing anyone cares about is the work getting done.)

    Learning he was a smoker didn’t change my opinion of him and I hope I wouldn’t have held a bias against him if I’d known earlier. I have to think that because he’d already established his work reputation and respect, that other people also haven’t been turned off by him being a smoker. He has had plenty of promotions in the time he’s worked here and he’s close with the head of our division. So the fact that he’s a smoker is just a small personal data point about him, his work is what really defines him here in our division.

  17. TootsNYC*

    Times have sure changed!

    Jayson Blair was protected from criticism at the New York Times because he was a smoking-break buddy with one of the top editors, the one who would have fielded any complaints from his colleagues about his professionalism (and apparently there were some).

    1. league.*

      I can’t be the only one who read this and thought of the episode of Friends where Rachel pretends to take up smoking because her boss gets to chat with her fellow smokers when they’re all on a smoke break….

        1. The Original K.*

          Second thing was an episode of Family Guy where Peter takes up smoking solely for the breaks his smoking coworker gets, but of course gets hooked.

          1. YetAnotherNerd42*

            First thing I thought of was the episode of The IT Crowd where Jen and her smoking partner go outdoors to a remote location in the extreme cold for their smoke breaks, and the whole thing is a parody of Dr. Zhivago.

          2. Door Guy*

            I posted this elsewhere in the comments, but I actually worked with someone who started the day he turned 18 just so he could take smoke breaks.

            The break situation at that job was not-okay, but aside from the obvious one with smoke breaks, I was too young and inexperienced to realize it. It was a restaurant in a small town that hired a lot of high school kids. I enjoyed the job very much (before it got new owners who ran it into the ground while blaming everyone but themselves) but looking back on it with mature/experienced eyes there were lots of issues.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I thought of this and also the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine goes on a date with Keith Hernandez and breaks up with him when she finds out he smokes.

    2. JSB*

      You are absolutely right! Time have changed….
      I can remember years ago when we shared a building with a completely unrelated group. There were different entrances and little interaction except for a few matters like some noise and parking issues. The SMOKERS were our communication channel. They all knew each other and acted as liaisons. I’ve also seen situations (again – LONG ago) where if a top decision-maker smoked, others would casually join him on smoke breaks to forge a business connection. Literally at least one of the people only smoked to be near this VIP. He kept a pack of cigarettes in his desk but otherwise never touched them.

  18. antismoker*

    I am in a part of the world and in a field where smoking has become very rare. Smokers are looked upon with some combination of horror (imagining a needle going into a vein — what is smoking but a formerly socially acceptable form of drug addiction, and a very damaging one at that?), pity (same drug addiction view applies), and what Alison notes, as a reflection on one’s judgment and decision-making. A smoker in my office would not fit in, merely by virtue of being a smoker. It would be very hard to overcome that one thing, even with a host of positive qualities to offset it. I confess to being prejudiced against smokers — knowing someone was addicted to smoking would strongly affect my inclination to hire them.

      1. wrotethiswhilesmoking*

        No, not in the case of smokers. Any other addiction gets a pass, understanding, and encouragement… smokers are lucky it’s not legal (yet!) to publicly stone them.


        1. TootsNYC*

          wait until people think they’re paying their hard-earned tax dollars for other people’s medical care (instead of their hard-earned premiums charged by a for-profit company)

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Nicotine patches are a *lot* more socially acceptable than methadone, and in most places carry less stigma than a Fentanyl prescription (also patches).

      2. antismoker*

        Sure, and I hope that the pity I referred to above is tempered with compassion. But it’s not an illness like flu, or Parkinson’s. One finds one’s own way in, and we’re surrounded by people who have found their way out of the smoking illness. And even more than heroin addition, it leads to serious physical illnesses like lung cancer and emphysema. Recognizing it as an illness and feeling all appropriate compassion doesn’t equate to choosing to employ someone who’s afflicted with it.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Also, if someone has the flu and goes out in public knowingly spreading the flu to other people, they’re going to be quite understandably upset with that person. That’s why people (ought to be able to) stay home when they have the flu. If secondhand smoke was not a thing, via magic or human-sized hamster balls or whatever, my opinions would be very different.

        2. Joielle*

          I’m no fan of smoking myself, but this is a really bad take on addiction. “One finds one’s own way in” could be said about a host of illnesses, and it’s no less offensive here.

        3. okayokay*

          If you recognize that addiction is an illness, isn’t refusing to hire them on the basis of a health issue a kind of discrimination? Also, “one finds one’s own way in” completely disregards the way that addiction works. Generally, people aren’t thinking “I don’t care about myself or others, so I’m making this choice with fully sound logic and from a place of mental well being”. Generally, people suffering from addiction of some kind also have mental health struggles, a history of trauma, or other issues. Or – they made one mistake and found themselves addicted. Or – they were teenagers, as someone else noted below. Whatever the reason, it’s not compassionate to judge people on the basis of being addicted to something.

        1. smoke tree*

          However, a large proportion of smokers become addicted as teenagers. And there are socioeconomic factors that predispose people to smoking. I don’t think it’s either very compassionate or very realistic to see smoking as an individual failing, as we have a tendency to do for addiction. I realize the issues that smoking presents, but I think it would be more productive to shift the blame toward tobacco lobbyists and away from low-income teenagers.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      This is, I think, the heart of the matter. Smoking is now, in much of the US, a class marker for low class. It didn’t used to be, and the transition is not complete, but it is well on its way there. Perhaps there is a conservation law involved here, since tattoos no longer serve that function.

      So to answer the LW’s question, yes, smoking is quite likely to inhibit their career–not necessarily for the direct reasons, but because it marks them as Not Our Sort of People.

  19. Hope*

    Changing the meeting times is the thing that would really bother me, because it affects everyone’s schedules, not just the smoker’s. It’s not a big deal to schedule things initially so that you have breaks, but to *change* already established meeting times for that is bad. Smoke breaks in general are no big deal unless someone is being obnoxious about it–smoking in entrance ways where no one can avoid the smoke, throwing cigarette butts on the ground, that sort of thing.

    I think part of the bias against smokers these days is because there’s been so much information for decades now, it seems like a stupid habit to have opted into (I would bet there is less judgement of older people who took up smoking and got hooked before there was overwhelming evidence). Also, smoking (unlike a person’s weight) directly impacts the health of those around them if those people don’t have a way to avoid the smoke.

    That said, it’s everyone’s choice, and generally I don’t think it should affect your job–except when you start doing things like shuffling already-scheduled meetings so you can have smoke breaks. That honestly *should* have an impact on your job if people figure that out.

    1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

      Please do try to remember that there was once a time when doctors were on television espousing the benefits of cigarette smoking. Some of us grew up in an era where that “stupid habit” was endorsed by medical professionals. Yes, there has been a lot of information about it for decades, but it wasn’t until the 80s (when some of us already had well established nicotine habit) that it became all bad information.

        1. automaticdoor*

          Yep, so no offense, but I think Destroyer/their peers would fall into the “older people” category Hope referred to, assuming they took up smoking before the 80s as a teenager or older long enough to have a “well-established” habit…

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I was a teenager in the 90s, and while there was a Surgeon General’s warning and all that, smoking sections in restaurants and malls were still a thing and it was still socially acceptable in the youth culture. I get that the 90s were still a long time ago, but you may need to be ~late 50s-60 to have taken up smoking before it was a publicized health hazard, but only around 40 to have grown up surrounded by tobacco company ads and a culture that accepted it.

      1. TootsNYC*

        that’s why Hope said there’s probably more tolerance for older people who smoke.

        1985 was 34 years ago; if you were 15 then (an early-onset nicotine habit), you are 49 or 50 now.

        1. Jamie*

          And we knew it was bad for us then – it’s not like we weren’t well aware of the cancer risk, but teenagers can think they’re invincible.

      2. Hope*

        That was exactly the point I was trying to make–taking up smoking today/since the 90s is a different thing than people who took it up 40+ years ago. There should be less judgement towards people who legit didn’t know better.

        1. PlainJane*

          Eh, people knew better by the 1960s. I was a teenager in the 1980s, and we certainly knew better. Some just chose to start anyway.

      3. Yorick*

        Sure, but that was still 30-40 years ago. That’s plenty of time to understand the health risks and try to quit.

    2. anna green*

      I would agree. I think smoking is a stupid habit, but I am 39. So I consider anyone older than me that smokes…well.. they didn’t used to know how bad smoking was and its addictive, so I get it. If there are people younger than me that smoke, I judge them more harshly, because the fact that smoking is bad for you was drummed into ours heads hard in the 80s and they still made the choice to start. So I do think age makes a difference.

      1. Jamie*

        Right? I’m not sure why people are giving older people a pass because we didn’t know better. Unless we were teens in the 50’s we’ve all known about the risks long before the 80s came around.

      2. mark132*

        In fact in the US, it’s been required by law since 1965 to place a warning on cigarette packages. So not a new thing.

      3. PlainJane*

        Exactly. I’ll give my dad a pass for starting, because he started in the 1930s (he’s long dead–of lung cancer–in case you’re wondering if he managed to live to 100+ while smoking). But the vast majority of people who smoke now knew darn well it was bad for them when they started.

  20. Sloan Kittering*

    One exception, at least in the TV/media tropes, is if a senior person in your organization smokes. Then you can curry favor with them by being outside networking with them while you both indulge. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this only in TV though :P

    1. NW Mossy*

      On the downside, if you do this on TV, there’s a good chance that the person you’re trying to curry favor with is corrupt, evil, or both.

  21. mark132*

    I can’t see how it doesn’t hurt. There are multiple downsides, more missed days due to higher sickness rates, higher health care costs, coworker dissatisfaction due to multiple smoke breaks a day, and to be blunt smokers commonly carry the smell of their smoke with them in the office and it can bother coworkers.

    I tried to think of positives, but I really can’t.

    1. Jamie*

      There is also the oft spoken of issue of co-workers with annoying chronic coughs at work.

      Not all smokers, but when someone does have a chronic cough it’s harder to maintain sympathy long term when they keep going out for smoke breaks despite the disruption of their cough.

    2. Asenath*

      Many smokers find nicotine a great way to manage anxiety, much as others soothe themselves in other ways. That’s often a very difficult thing to change or to find an replacement for in your life – and is probably part of the reason why smoking is more common among people who are under stress for various reasons – mental illness, poverty, incarceration. And this ties back into the fact that there’s a strong connection between social class and smoking, the reverse of the one that existed back in the “smoking is glamourous” days. Sure, people do anything from disliking to condemning smoking for any number of reasons ranging from health-related reasons to personal dislike of the smell. A lot of them also think smokers are Not People Like Us – they’re poor, they’re losers, they’re too stupid to even realize the risks (not realizing that for some people the risks are worth taking for the anti-stress result). There’s such a strong stigma these days among middle-class people against smoking that yes, I think in many, many jobs, a smoker would be at a severe disadvantage. I haven’t heard quite such strong rhetoric against people who smoke marijuana (which is now legal here), but I expect it’s coming.

      1. Jamie*

        People won’t be smoking marijuana at work though, so it won’t impact their breaks and if they only smoke in their personal time they should be able to control the smell.

      2. automaticdoor*

        I think the stigma difference is that marijuana actually has some real medicinal properties, while nicotine really does not… and as with alcohol and other mind-altering substances, people aren’t smoking marijuana at work. If they were, then sure, stigma away (I don’t want to smell pot either!), but I don’t think that’s happening at work even if it is legal where you live.

      3. mark132*

        Nicotine may manage the anxiety, but it also is often the source of the anxiety because of withdrawal effects.

  22. NeonFireworks*

    I put a lot of effort into not blaming/judging smokers, but I’m asthmatic and multiple times a week have to cross a street or hold my breath and run ahead to avoid a smoker (vaping and weed are also a problem, though on a smaller scale). My workplace banned smoking in and around our multiple buildings, but compliance is poor plus we’re in the middle of a large city, and it’s getting really hard not to resent someone lighting up on the sidewalk, which occurs two or three times a week. I understand that addiction is complex and physiological rather than some kind of character flaw, and I certainly don’t want to start giving dirty looks or coughing passive-aggressively, but everyone around me who used to smoke in my path and then quits is improving my quality of life a bit. I can’t imagine how much worse things must have been in previous decades.

    1. VictorianCowgirl*

      The thing about nicotine addiction, though, is that it has many vectors. One can chew nicotine gum. So my tolerance is zero due to the problems cigarettes cause via second and third hand smoke and the ethical concerns surrounding their manufacturing.

      I find anyone smoking in public to be boorish and inconsiderate.

    2. J. N.*

      NeonFireworks, you said this very kindly, and I wish I could also be so kind! Where I live, smoking is so prevalent that just standing on a street corner waiting for the light to change means I’m around, on average, three to four people lighting up in those few seconds. I love where I live for the most part, but I find myself actively changing my lifestyle to avoid smoke — I don’t go to bars anymore, only hang out on café terraces in off-hours and at tables as far as possible from other people, and barely go out on weekends, when the crowds are so thick that I’ll probably be ill from all the smoke inhalation of spending a day out and about town — not exaggerating, I’ve experienced it. The resentment creeps all the time. I would be so endlessly grateful if people were more conscious of and conscientious about how their addictions affect complete strangers.

  23. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    OP, if you are on the fence about quitting and looking for a push, let this be it. In 20 minutes there are nearly 40 comments about this. It’s definitely an issue. Good luck!

  24. Amber Rose*

    I have a strong bias against smokers. Somehow, despite every smoker I’ve ever seen saying they are polite and careful about it, the entire outdoors is full of thousands of people who are the opposite. I’ve seen enough smokers leaning against No Smoking signs that I’ve started to wonder if there’s a correlation with blindness.

    This is one of those things where the inappropriate actions of others are going to poison people against you, whether it’s deserved or not. I understand it’s an addiction, but there are many resources out there now for that.

    1. Jamie*

      Courtesy is so important if they are going to do it.

      I worked in a place with multiple smokers and some would go out several times a day and smoke exactly 15 feet from the door per the law. But this was a passageway everyone had to walk through to get to the door. I did appreciate those who stood further out and didn’t contribute to the wall of smoke we had to walk through to get to work.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This was my last workplace, and I hated that. Thank the good lord I work from home full-time now and my building bans smoking anywhere on or near our premises.

      2. Yorick*

        At my workplace, there is a designated smoke area that is not by any of the main entrances. But smokers don’t use it, instead they sit out at the nice picnic tables close to the main entrances so no one else can enjoy them.

        There was an email reminding everyone of the smoke area and directing employees to tell smokers to use it if you see them smoking elsewhere. But you can’t just go up to someone and say, “You can’t smoke here! Go around to the loading dock! (or wherever)”

    2. MsChanandlerBong*

      I used to volunteer at a hospital, and if I had $5 for every time I had to tell someone that it was a no-smoking campus WHILE they were standing in front of a no-smoking sign, I’d be a rich person. I especially loved when I had to tell patients that they couldn’t stand in front of the hospital and smoke while hooked up to oxygen.

  25. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    I actually find the use of smoking to build relationships and network problematic – when you do that, you’re excluding people who dislike smoking (I’m very sensitive to smells and can always tell if someone has just smoked if I’m sitting next to them at a meeting, so I avoid our building’s smoking corner as widely as I can) and pregnant people or those with asthma and other health issues, which seems like a huge discriminatory problem. If I saw one of our higher-ups smoking with other staff regularly, I’d be pretty pissed that they had a level of informal access I didn’t.

    If you have a bunch of coffee drinkers who tend to relationship/network-build in the kitchen, I can still pop in there to refill my water bottle, rinse out a mug, grab something out of the fridge, just say hi etc without worrying about my health, so it’s not the same thing.

    1. Hallowflame*

      I worked in an office where the smoke break networking happened a LOT! The top manager and most of the department managers smoked, and many of the team leads and employees smoked as well. It wasn’t long before I noticed a correlation between which employees were more friendly with the managers and which were smokers. And getting raises and promotions almost always came down to your relationship with your manager.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      Yes, exactly. I’m always surprised when people use “But networking!” as a *positive* thing about smoke breaks, because it’s inherently exclusive. When the letters come in about ‘mandatory’ happy hours that letter writers can’t attend for different reasons, or the men getting to go for golf days and the women to the spa, most people can see why it’s an unfair to the excluded people – and smoke break networking should be seen in exactly the same way, IMO.

    3. TheWomanInHR*

      I am in a workplace where smoking is not a huge issue, but during one company party, folks went to smoke cigars. The CEO was there, and I was relatively new (and a lifelong NONSMOKER), so I decided, ‘What the heck? Just puff, don’t inhale, and chit chat.’ I even took one of the “guy cigars” instead of the smaller “ladies” ones. Later that evening, when my heart started to race and I began sweating, I realized that nicotine can enter your bloodstream through the inside of your mouth (cheeks, etc.). I took two showers and still thought I smelled like smoke. Never again.

  26. See no evil*

    I had a direct report who smoked and was firm about taking her breaks no matter how busy we were. While I could directly see her work and knew she was one of the fastest and most accurate employees I had, others outside of our department had a much different view of her work because they would see her outside reading a book while the rest of us were scrambling. To some degree, I was ok with it (and definitely elaborated on her skill when anyone mentioned her breaks directly to me), however I did find it occasionally frustrating (maybe once every couple of months) that she would see the volume of work that needed to be done, but would elect to try to take her break anyway (she was salaried) putting me repeatedly in a position to have to say “No, I need you now. Please wait a bit before break.” I would have promoted her to a team lead position, but she definitely would not have gone much higher than that.

  27. CupcakeCounter*

    The meetings portion of the letter is the most concerning to me. When you are scheduling lots of meetings, leaving a gap is a good idea for many reasons (pee break, snack & water run, insurance in case things run over, etc…) so people aren’t going to be looking at that too closely.
    However, proposing a new time for a meeting so you can go smoke is going to get you a little side eye. This is especially true if the meeting is with higher ups (which you say you don’t usually reschedule those), a large group, or people who are possibly just visiting your location/calling in from another time zone and people notice you outside smoking at the original meeting start time.
    IF you continue doing this, propose the meeting a fairly decent time out, such as an hour or more, and include a note along the lines of “Would it be possible to push this back to 2pm? I have back to back meetings all morning and am really going to need a break to eat/decompress/process that information before changing tracks to Project W.” If there is a deliverable you need to complete before the meeting also include that information in the note. “I will also need a few minutes to get X materials together and unfortunately won’t have time until after the morning meetings since Y report doesn’t come out until 9:30.”

  28. cheeky*

    I’m sorry to say that I think, because smoking is an addiction, people will judge you for it, because many will see it as an avoidable habit. I’ll be honest, I don’t like working with smokers- even if you don’t think you smell, you might to a non-smoker (you can be smell-blind to yourself, especially as a smoker). The breaks are not great, from an optics standpoint. My company and many others actively discourage smoking and offer incentives for people to quit, and I would expect that to be an issue for higher-ups.

    1. Door Guy*

      It really does not take too long to become smell-blind (as long as other things aren’t also in the odor that irritate or cause reactions)

      I worked in a factory that processed cheese (not making cheese, but taking existing cheese and blending/cooking/modifying to meet a customer’s standard. We made all the cheddar cheese for PF Goldfish Crackers as well as a few others, like the cheese in Subway’s Broccoli Cheese Soup, the cheese sticks in the Slim Jim packs, etc) and when I got shown the floor during orientation (it’s noticeable but much less in the office where I interviewed) I found myself wondering how I’d ever manage. 3 days later and I’d forgotten all about it. Sometimes after a long vacation I’d have to get re-accustomed but that was usually only the first day.

    2. Joielle*

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the addiction vs. habit viewpoint. Personally, I think smoking is disgusting, but if you’ve never been close with someone who smoked a lot or (especially) was trying to quit, I think it’s hard to understand the magnitude of the addiction. People do successfully quit all the time, and I agree that more should be encouraged and supported to quit, but it’s not like stopping biting your nails or something.

  29. Green Lantern*

    So I’m incredibly sensitive to smell…. I HATE smokers, they give me a headache. If I had to choose someone for a job and they gave me a headache, I wouldn’t choose them. As a side note, I always thought of it as having poor personal self control.

    1. ...*

      It also might cause good employees to leave. If I had to share an office with a smoker and no other arrangement could be made I would be job searching asap.

  30. Mimi Me*

    I’m going to be honest here…I’ve worked with smokers who were a lot like the LW – no extra breaks, minimal smell, etc – and hated working with them. In my state the 15 minute breaks are paid and not required to be taken, so when work volumes increased during our busy season most of the team would forgo the breaks to avoid mandatory OT. There were always at least three people on the team who would regularly clock out for their smoke breaks and who never understood why the rest of us simmered in resentment. And on any shifts where mandatory OT was required, they were always the people sneaking out for a smoke. I’ve also worked with smokers who have taken the extra breaks all in the name of their habit, but then have gotten upset when someone takes an approved longer than average lunch for a medical appt. Frankly LW, if you can quit, you should do so.

    1. Sharon*

      I once had a job where a bunch of us would go to the gym together after work. Our hours were 8:30AM – 7PM (we got overtime) and most of us would take 5 minutes to change into gym clothes at about 6:45 before shutting down for the night. We had to stop because the smokers complained! The same people who kept taking the elevator down to the garage multiple times a day to smoke!!!

      1. Mimi Me*

        One of my first management jobs was at a Blockbuster Video. I worked with this horrible little troll of a manager who used to make me work later to finish the work she couldn’t get done in her shift because of her frequent smoking breaks. It came back to bite her in the butt later on down the line. The owner of the franchise had fielded multiple complaints from customers who complained about the haze of smoke outside the location, so he instituted a no smoking policy on the property. She assumed I complained as I was a non-smoker and tried to frame me for stealing. She was fired soon after. My husband likes to joke to this day that she’s the only example he knows of that perfectly illustrates how smoking can bring a person down. (He’s very anti-smoking and to this day, I’m not sure if he wasn’t the one who filed the complaint with the owner.)

      2. Aurora Leigh*

        Eh . . . if this was a position that required constant coverage (phones or front desk type situation), I would definitely be giving side eye to people cutting out in the last 15 minutes of the shift. That’s way worse than a middle of a shift break in my opinion.

  31. AndersonDarling*

    I don’t think smoking would prevent a first level promotion to a manager role. That is considered a bridge between the front-line staff and the executives, but it may come into play after that. Just based on general perception, you don’t see a director, VP, or divisional executive standing outside for multiple smoke breaks anymore. Even I would give a sideways look at a director that was spending so much time outside smoking. (It’s amazing how quickly the perception of smoking has changed in just 15 years!) Executives are also aware of the additional healthcare costs the company pays when an employee smokes, and these executives are the ones who will be voting on promotions.
    If I wanted to climb the ladder, then I would work a non-smoking program into my 5-year carer plan. But if I just wanted to get to middle management, then everything may work out as it is.

  32. Rainbow Roses*

    It’s all about how many breaks you take. In my workplace, we get an hour lunch and one 15 minute break. They have no problem with us getting up for bathroom, snack, walk, etc. when needed.

    However, I have noticed a lot of the smokers take a smoke break at least twice an hour. You’d see the same people outside every time you glance out the window. They are the ones who are never at their desk when you need them. Of course they are the same ones who complain they have soooooo much work and have no time. Well, if I take 5-15 minute breaks once or twice every hour, I’d never get my work done either!

    So no matter how nice they are, I do have….thoughts…..about them as smokers.

    It sounds like you smoke during official breaks and a bit here and there. That sounds fine to me. The only thing concerning is moving meetings so you can smoke. That may be noticeable especially if it happens often.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      They are the ones who are never at their desk when you need them. Of course they are the same ones who complain they have soooooo much work and have no time. Well, if I take 5-15 minute breaks once or twice every hour, I’d never get my work done either!

      OMG, THIS! Was my last job, and it annoyed me listening to the endless whining about how my boss and coworker were always “too busy,” but they were often MIA from their desks as well. How people don’t see the correlation between these things is beyond me.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This happens with more than just smokers.

      It’s those “wanders” who can’t seem to sit still for an entire hour or two at a time. The ones who are constantly up, fussing with the coffee maker, taking the long way back to their office once they get a cup and meandering, chatting along the way.

      That’s a personality type, you’re just drawn to the fact that you notice that they’re outside smoking verses being at the water cooler and finding excuses to stretch their legs every 30-60 minutes.

      1. CheeryO*

        Everyone should be able to get up and stretch their legs every hour, at the barest minimum. It’s not healthy to sit all day. I know the type you’re referring to and agree that they take it too far, but let’s not malign people for making an excuse to get up now and then.

    3. Polaris*

      Yeah, I get kind of salty about the smoke breaks my co-worker takes. Particularly when they take a 15-20 minute smoke break (and they take about four a day)… and then come back and ten minutes later leave on their one-hour lunch break. I was actually thinking of posting about it in the Friday free-for-all post so I could get a sense of whether I was just being petty (which of course I still may be) or if it was something to be legitimately annoyed about.

  33. Sharon*

    The president of the company where I work, a medium-sized, publicly traded company, chews tobacco. We will be in meetings and he’s spitting into a cup. I think that’s way grosser than actually smoking, which is gross in itself, and it certainly didn’t hold him back.

    1. Arctic*

      A guy I went to law school did this in class, which was so so gross but he always sat in the back (in those stadium style seating) so professors never really noticed it. But once he got cold called and he had to spit before he could answer. The professor was visibly disgusted.

    2. The Original K.*

      I just said “UGH” out loud. That is disgusting. I honestly am not sure I could stop myself from looking repulsed if I saw him do this.

    3. Cranky Neighbot*

      Haha, I had classmates who did that in high school. It’s accepted in some cultures.

      I have the same criticisms of it as I do smoking, possibly more because have you ever seen what it can do to a tongue or jaw, but it doesn’t produce second-hand smoke.

    4. JustaTech*

      I had to sit next to someone chewing (and spitting) on a plane. It was gross. And just recently I noticed that chewing tobacco is now banned on planes, presumably because it’s so gross for the people around the spitter.

  34. Stacey*

    I’m going to be the party pooper and just say it: Smoking affect everyone you work with. They will smell it. I think they people who said they can’t small it on the OP are fibbing. Depending on where you smoke (even if outside) some will inhale it. Second hand smoking is a legitimate concern. I can understand people making poor choices (and yes it is definitely an addiction) for themselves, but smokers make that decision and it impacts far more people than just themselves.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The smell is going to depend on a lot of variables. So they may not be fibbing.

      It depends on the individuals sense of smell and what they find offensive odors and such. It also depends on the smoker’s body as well. The stench sticks to oily or damp skin.

      I can smell it one day and not smell it the next, depending on who it’s attached to. I can smell some people a mile away and others I wouldn’t have known they smoked unless I saw it personally.

      1. wrotethiswhilesmoking*

        It also weirdly also depends on the weather outside.

        Hot humid days the smoke will sort of hang around and cling… same with super cold (below freezing) days.

        1. Yorick*

          Yes, I’m in a cold area and the smokers smell so strongly during the winter. It’s the cold air for sure, and it’s made worse by the fact that people don’t wash their jackets after every wear (or every couple of wears) like they do with regular clothes.

    2. VictorianCowgirl*

      You are right, and they can choose to chew nicotine gum, which greatly reduces the impact on everyone, and when they don’t, that is where my intolerance comes in.

  35. Oxford Comma*

    We had at least two university presidents and a couple of provosts who smoked. It was fascinating in a way because I think it brought them together with some staff members who ordinarily would never have had regular face-to-face contact with them.

    But changing meeting times around your smoke breaks. That could definitely be a problem.

  36. Temperance*

    I’ve worked in many jobs with smokers, and they’re allowed breaks that others simply aren’t. There was a lot of rancor when my current office switched to a timekeeping system for all hourly employees, and they didn’t require smokers to clock out for smoke breaks.

    I do think smoking will hold you back. It sounds like it has much more of an impact on you than you realize if you move meetings to get a cigarette in.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      +1 about breaks.

      A few years ago, a few of us tried to take a 20-minute “health break” (e.g. stair-climbing), but the smokers pushed back on the grounds that (1) allowing non-smokers to take breaks would undermine the “privilege” of smoke breaks and (2) non-smokers had to stay behind to do the smokers’ work.

      The non-smokers won, eventually.

      1. Meepmeep*

        I would totally be agitating for a “health break” if others are taking smoke breaks. Getting outside on a regular basis is very healthy (unless you’re poisoning yourself with nicotine at the same time). Everyone needs some time to see the sunshine and take a breather. Why only limit it to smokers?

  37. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It will depend on the industry as well, some don’t care much others are more about appearances. Also there are regions that are more smoker friendly than others.

    But really I’m one of those concerned by the fact that you’ll push a meeting off to sneak in a break. That’s pretty dismissive of other people’s time and will be a mark against you. I wouldn’t think favorably of promoting someone who’s known to push and change meetings randomly. They don’t know why you’re doing it most likely, so you just look like you cannot manage your schedule.

    It’s also telling that you say you’re not a heavy smoker but you do make sure to get in your breaks. The higher up you get, the higher the stress levels tend to be. So you’re going to probably end up smoking more and it being more of a visible thing. Which leads to the respect being lost in some ways to people who see it as a form of slacking lazy behavior.

    1. Jamie*

      Also there are regions that are more smoker friendly than others.

      Just an observation but I was shocked when I went to LA a few years ago and saw so many more smokers than Chicago. I figured the Midwest would out smoke California but absolutely not. (no stats to back this up – just observation.)

      My personal theory is Chicago weather makes it a hell of a lot harder to commit to smoking outdoors year round so people quit for winter and just don’t take it up again.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I personally observed the opposite, but I still like your weather theory. I have never been so grateful to not be a smoker as in the midwest in winter.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        We noticed the difference between smoking in Portland verses smoking in Seattle even, so it’s not even that spread out or a climate thing. They still sell smokes in bars in Portland, you just have to take it outside. So that plays into it a lot, I’m sure.

      3. blackcat*

        LA is also different from the Bay Area. I grew up in the Bay Area, and even in the late 90s/early 00s, the question “do you smoke” was almost always in reference to pot, not cigarettes. Not true in LA, though.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s standard for NorCal in general. I’ll blame it on Humboldt forever and ever.

      4. CMart*

        I’m a Chicagoan who worked in the restaurant industry both pre- and post-indoor smoking ban.

        It was astonishing how many people dramatically cut back on smoking or quit altogether after they were no longer allowed to smoke indoors in public. I thought it was genius that the ban went into effect on January 1st rather than in the summer when it was ratified.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s been illegal in this area for over a decade and I haven’t noticed a decline at all. Especially among service working individuals! So that’s an interesting tidbit.

          However again, you can’t smoke inside bars anymore but lots of them still sell cigarettes and have cozy smoking areas to go to. Outside patios started popping up like crazy originally for smokers until the dogs took over, lol.

          Granted now places are making no-smoke zones in cities last I heard. Which is will indeed cut down on people’s consumption since they can’t just go outside, they have to go all the way outside the downtown region in certain places.

  38. Rivakonneva*

    There is another reason to stop smoking: Medical Insurance. My university will be charging smokers and extra $100 per month on top of the already-high premiums starting January 1. They will also offer free tobacco-cessation help to incentivize people to quit. If you can get help from your doctor to quit smoking you’d be saving yourself a lot of money in the long run just on insurance alone.

    And to answer your official question: Yes, smoking may hold you back. Our upper admins do not look well upon smokers at all. I don’t know if they’re blocked from rising above a certain rank, but seem to get less unofficial ‘perks’ than some other people. Like flexibilty of schedules.

    1. Door Guy*

      My last job had a $50/check premium on your insurance if you smoked. Non-smokers didn’t get a discount (unfortunately, as their premiums were through the roof) but every open-enrollment we had to remind everyone that they needed to go in and elect out as the smoking waiver defaulted to smoker every year and you COULD NOT change it until the next open enrollment the following year. Still had at least 1 guy every year who forgot.

  39. ellis55*

    Anti-smoker bias is so real. As someone who used to smoke, I noticed 2 things:

    1. How often people express anti-smoker bias in front of me now that never did before because they assume based on my age/gender/current job that I never smoked and
    2. How well I was definitely NOT hiding it. The things I can smell smoke on now but never could before are numerous! I cringe at the times I thought I was slickly hiding it and I definitely wasn’t. Even if people register surprise when they see you smoking, there are many more who likely know or suspect – or they aren’t being honest with you.

    All of this to say, I’m not going to weigh in about quitting but I did eventually stop smoking during the workday and in the mornings after my shower. I noticed a huge difference in how people would respond to me when meeting new clients and I never had to worry about someone spontaneously seeing me or about smelling like smoke if an impromptu meeting popped up. For me, I noticed enough benefit to phase out smoking entirely – first to only on nights out and then eventually to not at all.

    I think, if you can, it’s worth confining to an after-hours activity – much like drinking or smoking (if it’s legal in your state) marijuana would be. It’s incredibly doable and was my M.O. for years! Just a thought.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      because they assume based on my age/gender/current job that I never smoked and

      This is a thing!? Everyone is shocked and refuses to believe that I’ve never smoked a day in my life. [By 15 I had lost all my grandparents to lung disease, nope nope nope.]

      It really depends on someone’s addiction if they can adjust their smoking schedule. I’ve never known anyone [probably because they were hiding it well like you are] who only smokes at home. I only know people who get incredibly aggravated and grouchy if they haven’t had a smoke on their schedule. My dad was a pain in the butt to travel with, he had to pull over every 2 hours to “stretch” and chainsmoke because we had a rule against smoking inside a car or the house. He would become an utter brat until we pulled over and he could spring away to get his nicotine fix.

      He had to quit cold turkey and that was unfortunately only after he was laid up in the hospital post cancer surgery and it was impossible to smoke given it was a smoke-free hospital campus.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      A bit OT here, but your #2 point reminds me of people who “secretly” take up smoking, or re-start smoking, trying to keep their families from knowing. It kinda fascinates me when they can keep it under wraps for awhile, because you’d think your SO or whoever would be able to smell it on you right away.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I had a colleague who was bummed out that when she started with us, she could smoke in her office. She used the “you can’t smoke in the office and I’m too busy to go out for a smoke break” to discipline herself into smoking less.
      Once she didn’t have that outside crutch, she found it harder to resist smoking during the day.

      (I’m sort of proud that she told me she’d decided to quit because of me–I invited her to a party, and her first thought was, “I wonder if I can smoke in her house,” and not “I wonder what she’ll cook” or “I wonder if Pete will be there.” She decided she didn’t want to be that centered around her smoking habit, so she quit.)

    4. ...*

      I love your response but I have to wonder is it bias? Or is just them having a natural reaction to something that smells bad and is known to cause cancer and harm to others around it? That doesn’t seem like a bias that just seems like a reaction to a negative thing.

      1. ellis55*

        Could be a little of both! I definitely don’t like to be around smoke smell now and I used to think non-smokers were SO dramatic – because I was raised by smokers and never realized how it get into everything until I stopped. But there are a lot of unhealthy things that don’t have the same veneer – alcohol is harmful, for instance, but no one looks askance when someone mentions drinks over the weekend or happy hour after work. Lots of factors and decisions impact our overall health and arguably our family’s health also – how active we are, what and how much we eat, how much sleep we get, how much we work, etc. Smoking is one of many and people are much more comfortable expressing negative judgment about it than other similar habits, I think because it’s become a primarily lower-class habit. When I say bias I mean that people make certain assumptions about folks just because they smoke that they wouldn’t if they had other equally unhealthy habits.

        1. ...*

          That makes total sense. You definitely don’t see the same judgement towards drinkers I think there’s just something so in your face about seeing the smoke rather than knowing someone drank. FWIW I used to smoke too and I’m aghast now that I was even capable of it!

    5. Seriously?*

      Anti-smoker basis is real and obnoxious. Someone posted here that they HATE smokers. Really? You hate someone who has an addiction?

      I’ve never smoked at work. It’s not out of courtesy or fear but because my work clothes are fancy and expensive, and I’m not paying to have them cleaned every single time I wear them. As a teacher, I’d have to leave campus completely, and we don’t get enough break time for that anyway. I do smoke at home, out on my deck. I’m not going to quit because I don’t want to, but nobody I work with knows I smoke. Frankly, I enjoy smoking and like how it relaxes me. If someone else doesn’t like it, that’s their problem, not mine.

      I knew when I saw the headline the bashers would be out in force. It’s too bad they don’t realize that once they’ve successfully bashed all of the smokers into not smoking, there’s just going to be another group of people targeted, maybe those who drink (I don’t drink).

  40. Ellen*

    The smell of cigarette and beer, to me, smells like poverty. I’ve been there, I’m still pretty broke. But the smell of cigarettes is the smell of not being able to afford the breakfast cereal that I want, or the stupid little gizmo that I didnt need- the answer was always that we couldn’t afford it, but we could afford a carton of cigarettes. Through college and the rough times, unreturned bottles and uncleaned ashtrays. It isnt fair of me, and I certainly dont judge, but that’s the association the scent has for me.

  41. JKP*

    A huge part of my job is helping smokers quit, so I have a lot of smokers come through my office each day. One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of high level employees still smoke, they just don’t do it at work. They tell me no one at work knows they smoke because they only smoke when they get home at the end of the day. Because they don’t take smoke breaks at work, no one smells it on them. So I’m not sure whether people at high levels are less likely to smoke, or if they’re just more likely to hide it.

      1. JKP*

        Strangely enough, my experience has been that the people who smoke regularly had an easier time quitting vs the people who smoked intermittently. I would have expected it to be the other way around. And the people who always seem to have the hardest time quitting are the ones who only smoke 1 or 2 cigarettes a day. That’s just been my personal experience over the last 15 years.

  42. Hallowflame*

    The thing about the smoke breaks is that, even if you’re only taking two a day, if you’re taking them at roughly the same time ever day it can have a significant impact on people’s perception of you. People generally are creatures of habit and routine. So if you go on your morning smoke break at 10am every day and Bob from Accounting passes by your desk on his way to the coffee machine for his daily refill around 10:10am every day, he’s going to see your empty desk on a regular basis and think “Wow, OP is never at their desk! How do they ever get anything done?” It’s not actually true that you’re never there, only that you’re never there when Bob is passing by. But the perception is there.
    The same can happen with someone who passes by the smoking area at the same time as your smoke breaks. While their routine just happens to align with your smoke breaks, in their mind you are always on a smoke break.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      I hate to quibble, however that really depends on your line of work. Some offices have set break times (9:15 and 13:15 around here). So yes, in an unstructured break environment, there are those possibilities, but it is far from the only way.

      1. Hallowflame*

        You are absolutely right about how this wouldn’t necessarily play out the same way in a structured break environment like you mention. However it doesn’t sound as if that’s the situation in OP’s workplace. The way they describe their situation, it seems as if they take breaks as they have time available and sometimes make the time by rescheduling meetings.

    2. lemon*

      Do people really think that when they don’t see you at your desk? My immediate thought wouldn’t be, “Bob doesn’t get anything done.” My thought would be, “Bob must have a regularly scheduled meeting during this time,” or “Bob must be in the bathroom.”

      But maybe it depends on culture. I’ve always worked in places where everyone works pretty independently and people are frequently in meetings.

  43. Can I retire yet?*

    I would like to recommend one of my favourite books – a novel by Connie Willis called Bellweather. Part of the plot revolves around the treatment of smokers at work. I won’t say any more in case anyone reads it, cos I don’t want to spoil the plot.

  44. Moi*

    Yeah me too. As an ex-smoker I’d advise you to take nicotine gum with you. That helped me manage cravings in the professional world.

  45. aepyornis*

    I fully understand why people would be unhappy about you scheduling meetings around your smoking habit but to be honest I don’t think it is wise to schedule meetings back to back anyway, unless they are very short. Whether the time in between is used for a coffee/cigarette/comfort break or for mentally preparing for the upcoming meeting, I think at least a few minutes between meetings are necessary anyway. And maybe the break time is more important than the cigarette for you LW?

  46. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

    I refer to myself as a “secret smoker”–I never smoke at work or around my family. Zyn gets me through the day. They’re these small nicotine salt packs that you put between your gums and mouth, but they’re very discreet unlike chewing tobacco. (No noticeable bulge, no spitting, etc.)

  47. Lilith*

    Two of my kids wanted to quit tobacco use. One was a smoker, the other a chewer (ugh!). Anyway, they both were successful with chantix. The caveat being they wanted to quit. Both found it pretty easy .

    1. Dino*

      Many smokers have mental health diagnoses that makes Chantix contraindicated. I’m glad your children benefited from it, though.

  48. Agnodike*

    Allison briefly mentioned the class issue, but it’s one I would be careful not to gloss over, OP. It’s unlikely anyone will think or say “Ooh, Jane’s a smoker, so we won’t promote her,” but “Jane just doesn’t quite seem like management material” or “I just can’t picture Jane in that COO position” are, I think, much more likely. So as long as you smoke, I would take great care with how you present yourself otherwise: how you dress, your professional demeanour and your language choices, what other personal information you do or don’t share about yourself. It SUCKS that class bias is a thing, but it’s a huge thing.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      If you’re in the kind of workplace where people try really hard to hide working-class accents and origins, smoking will probably count against you even if you went to some snooty private boarding school.

  49. Sleepy*

    I think the class bias against smokers is the biggest issue you’re likely to run into here.

    I know plenty of people who smoke quite a lot of pot, or drink alcohol heavily, and those are seen as acceptable or natural vices, while smoking cigarettes is seen as a personal failing. It’s not at all fair. Yes, cigarette breaks happen during the workday, but between evening work events and conferences, plenty of drinking happens adjacent to work too.

    It may be one of those things which sucks but which you may just have to work around.

      1. voyager1*

        And it isn’t a issue of class or race or whatever excuse smokers want to use. People make choices, someone wants to commit suicide slowly that is their choice just don’t light up your cancer sticks around me sparing me your second hand smoke.

        1. jimmy john*

          How strange. Living is also committing suicide slowly, isn’t it? I’ve always found this argument nonsensical, as if there’s some acceptable rate of decline (and because fat people and smokers choose the accelerated rate, they are awful. Those who have the accelerated rate thrust upon them by genetics or unknown circumstances are to be sympathized with, and those who experience the accelerated rate as a result of circumstances correlated with socioeconomic status should just make more money! But if they don’t, they’re also awful).

        2. Colette*

          I think there is a class element to it. I know very few people who smoke, but my dad’s whole blue collar family smoked. And many of them died horrible deaths due in part to smoking.

          But even now, it’s (anecdotally) more common for people to smoke if they have blue collar jobs.

    1. tape deck*

      I think partially it’s because people smoke during the work day. They generally don’t smoke pot or drink during work (and if they did it would be a big deal). If OP was only smoking after work I don’t think she’d deal with most of the drawbacks we’re discussing here.

      1. Joielle*

        I agree. Perhaps there would still be some lingering smoke smell, although if there doesn’t seem to be much of one now I don’t think that would be a problem for OP. If OP could cut down to only smoking after work (and maybe nicotine gum or something else discreet during the day), I think that would mitigate any issues.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      100% drinking at lunchtime in an obvious way can impact a career. I once had an external partner tell me that a colleague often smelled of wine in meetings, and could I let her know, as partner liked colleague, but other partners had commented on it. She was only having a glass at lunchtime, but it really made her credibility plummet.

      I think regular drinking at lunchtime is (in my UK, urban experience) something that in a lot of industries is seen as shocking and out of touch, and would definitely impact on promotion opportunities. I know there are industries where this isn’t the case, of course, but I’d say it’s the majority.

  50. Budgie*

    This doesn’t apply to OP, but in the overall column of, “Issues that can arise from smoking”: A former coworker of mine was recently looking to hire an entry level person for her niche department. The organization is located on a huge university campus that recently went smoke-free. One of the applicants was very qualified, but one of the reasons my friend didn’t hire her was because she smoked.

    In their specific circumstances (which are admittedly unique), a smoke break would require getting in your car, driving off-campus, smoking your cigarette, driving back to campus, fighting to find a parking spot, and getting back to the office. The organization wasn’t able justify hiring someone who would be spending that kind of time away from their desk.

    1. Paige*

      It’s not as unique as you might think. Many, many universities are going smoke–or even tobacco–free. Largely for health insurance reasons.

      And I’ll be honest, campus is much nicer now that I’m not walking through clouds of smoke and seeing cigarette butts littering everywhere. Even the people who chew tobacco are less gross because they’re trying to hide it instead of spitting out in the open.

  51. anonager*

    I have a direct report who smokes. She smells. God help me when we’re going to be stuck in a conference room together for a meeting. She also takes at least 5-6 breaks a day, at least 10 minutes a pop – and to the people upthread who mentioned that it’s noticed when you’re not at your desk when people need you, yes, it sure is. That’s the practical/objective issues I have with it – but I will absolutely admit that I also find it mind-boggling that anyone smokes anymore. I’m not going to go so far as to say I think it shows questionable judgement, I’m just bewildered by it. I know it shouldn’t be any of my business, but there you go.

    OTOH my boss is an ex-smoker and loves to go outside and get secondhand smoke from my direct report on her cigarette breaks. So maybe there is an element of networking there – but again as was pointed out upthread, it’s really not fair to people who don’t smoke!

  52. Wednesday Addams*

    I saw one of my direct reports leave to go smoke during a break in our yearly staff retreat, which is when I found out he was a smoker. I was surprised, and admittedly my initial reaction was negative and judgemental – my mind jumped to thoughts of him as unprofessional, unhealthy, not serious about his work, etc.

    I took a moment to think about why I had those thoughts (internalized classism, etc.), but it was a pretty immediate response on my part! My point here is that our assumptions and associations can be pretty automatic, and we don’t always take the time to check them. If others see OP smoking, they may have, and begin to internalize those assumptions, which could have a cumulative negative effect on their overall reputation or standing at work, as Allison pointed out.

  53. lemon*

    Agree with Alison’s advice. Also agree with other commenters that everyone probably knows you smoke because they can smell it on you. There’s no way to keep the smell off of your clothes and hair. I have a roommate who occasionally smokes outside (like, once a month) and I can smell it when I walk by her bedroom, because the smoke lingers on her.

    If you’re not ready to quit cigs completely, you might want to consider e-cigs in in the interim. Setting aside the issue that the long-term health effects are unknown, they can help with some of the issues you’re concerned about. People are far less likely to smell vape on you than they are smoke. It’s also easier to take a very quick e-cig break on meeting-heavy days– you can just pop outside, take a puff or two to stave off the nicotine cravings, and rush back to work.

    Also, I think it can help to be discreet about your smoke/vape breaks and keep them short. I usually combine my breaks with my late-morning and late-afternoon coffee runs, so my co-workers just assume I was getting coffee and not smoking/vaping. And definitely don’t reschedule meetings based on your smoke breaks. That won’t be an option as you move up in the organization.

    Almost every middle and senior manager I’ve ever known has been in back-to-back meetings all day long– they’re lucky if they get a lunch break, let alone a smoke break, so scheduling breaks when you reach that level will make you seem pretty out-of-touch with the culture.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Your last paragraph is true of nearly every place I’ve ever worked (except for the last place).

  54. Dino*

    Ugh, I hate when AAM answers letters about smoking. The comments become a race to see who can clamber onto the highest horse and air judgments that are patently offensive if one truly understands that smoking is an addiction.

    1. Snark*

      Smoking is absolutely an addiction, but let’s not pretend that smoking or any other addiction doesn’t come with some behavioral and social side effects that have real effects on other people, even if it’s properly understood to be an addition and not a moral vice.

      1. Dino*

        People saying that they view smokers as having bad decision making skills that makes them less competent at work is offensive if you actually understand why/how/when people become addicted to smoking.

        Wanna complain about smokers taking too many breaks or prioritizing smoking over working? Go ahead, that’s fair. But to cast aspersions on people for what amounts to their social class and mental health history is problematic.

    2. cheeky*

      People understand it. But that, frankly, is not a great excuse when you don’t need to smoke a cigarette to consume nicotine.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Yeah, and I think in the UK, where multiple smoking cessation options are free on the NHS, I find it weird that nicotine addiction and smoking are seen as synonymous. It’s not a black & white issue of smoking v not smoking, there are a ton of options in between.

        (Plus as I’ve said upthread, it’s clearly *not* an issue of addiction, if LW only rearranges meetings to smoke when it’s people on the same level and lower, but when it’s a senior person, who’s time they respect more, they can cope quite easily without that cigarette)

    3. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      As someone who is dependent on caffeine to legitimately improve my attention and mood, I totally sympathize with the dependency aspect of smoking. However, I hate the smell of cigarettes, and get annoyed at smokers who blow smoke in my direction.

  55. voyager1*

    I have a coworker who vapes. She goes on breaks, maybe 2-3 times a day. We all notice. We all get annoyed by it.

    1. lemon*

      Don’t non-smokers/vapers also take breaks, too, though? Coffee breaks? Or even a stretching-your-legs break by walking around the block?

      Maybe it depends on the workplace. When I worked retail and jobs where coverage was very important (like customer service), there was no way to take any smoke breaks. But in most other office jobs I’ve had, it seems like most people are trusted to manage their own schedules/workload and take breaks as they see fit, whether that’s to go chat with a co-worker in another department, run to the store to grab snacks, or smoke. It’s definitely understood that if you want a break, and it doesn’t negatively impact your work or anyone else, you can go take a break.

      1. Colette*

        Where I work, people sometimes drive in and, instead of paying for parking, go out every couple of hours to move their car. It ends up being a huge amount of time. (Put on jacket, walk to car, drive around to find another parking spot, walk back to the office, take off jacket).

        And those people still ate lunch or went to get a cup of coffee.

        Similarly, most smokers are going to take other breaks throughout the day to eat, get coffee, or chat with their coworkers.

        1. lemon*

          I think it depends on the smoker. I know a lot of very conscientious smokers who make sure to only smoke during their lunch break, or to limit the other breaks they’re taking to account for the smoke breaks that they are taking. Going off of that, I think the total amount of breaks that someone takes in general depends more on their level of conscientiousness, not whether or not they smoke.

          1. Colette*

            I think smoking is one of those issues where the large number of inconsiderate smokers (who light up in non-smoking areas, throw cigarette butts on the ground, and take longer breaks than their colleagues) tarnish the whole group.

            1. lemon*

              You could say the same about non-smokers, though. I know plenty of non-smokers who take lots of breaks, play on their phones instead of working, talk really loudly and interrupt others who are trying to concentrate, leave early, come in late, call in sick all the time, don’t clean up after themselves in the kitchen, never replace the empty water bottle at the water cooler, etc, etc, etc. But in that case, you probably wouldn’t use those individuals to make a broad generalization of how all non-smokers. You’d just see those people as individual, non-conscientious employees instead of using it as evidence to support your bias against a group of people.

              1. CMart*

                Well, if they had something in common I bet people very well would start using individual behaviors to grumble about some “group”.

                Millennials with their thumbs glued to their phones being too distracted to work. Women with their brazen online shopping and men with their constant fantasy football tabs open, not getting all their work done on time. The Widget Group with their incessant Game of Thrones chatter. The Customer Service department drinking all the coffee and not making a new pot. The Sales Guys being drenched in cologne and stinking up the floor. Parents always skipping out of work to go pick up their kids. Runners taking too long lunches to get in lengthy runs and never shutting up about their race times on Monday mornings.

                Blah blah blah. When there’s a pattern to be found, humans love to latch onto it. It’s not some vendetta against smokers in particular vs. any other identifiable subgroup exhibiting annoying behavior.

    2. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      I have a coworker who goes outside pretty regularly to vape. However, she is a stellar analyst and has managed to get promoted twice. She makes it to all relevant meetings on time and without issue. I don’t know about super upper level roles, but if you’re excellent at your job and the smoke breaks don’t noticeably interfere with the workday and your interactions with colleagues, it should be fine. Idk about bias though.

  56. Richard*

    OTOH, I’ve had co-workers who did their best networking out in the smoking area. Everyone’s an equal out there, so it’s an otherwise rare chance to get the ear of higher-ups that happen to be smokers. It’s a tiny check in the plus column, but a real one.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      But only for smokers! This is direct discrimination against people with asthma/breathing issues who can’t be around smoke, and anyone who doesn’t want to smoke. It’s no different to the companies who think it’s fine to have men-only golf events, or happy hours that exclude people with caring responsibilities/long commutes/religious or health reasons that mean they can’t drink alcohol.

  57. Someone On-Line*

    I agree with others who say rescheduling meetings is probably taking things too far. Maybe speak with a healthcare provider/pharmacist about nicotine replacement therapy gum. On days when you have back-to-back meetings, popping a piece for 20 minutes can calm the nicotine cravings. Or a lozenge, if you don’t want to be seen chewing.

  58. Just another lowly peon*

    My mom, who worked for a large international organization headquartered in the States, likes to tell the story of when some external VPs were visiting and one of them thought the people outside on smoke breaks in the middle of winter were sex workers. This was in the late 1990s. Honestly, the story says more about the VP’s mind than smoking per se, but I do think that cultural norms about who does/doesn’t smoke can have a big impact on whether this is professionally acceptable.

    My grandfather, to whom I was very very close, was a smoker, so it’s absolutely not a personal value judgement, but smoking absolutely has a negative impact on your health as well as your career.

  59. PolarVortex*

    People will notice you disappearing to smoke, particularly when you’re salaried you know some days are going to be light days and some days you’re putting in 12 hours full of meetings. I would also frame it in your head as a coffee break. I wouldn’t ever move a meeting to get my caffeine fix – that’s not my coworkers’ problem that I need caffeine to stave off headaches when my dependence gets bad. I also would never depend, as a salaried person, that I’d be able to jump away for 5 mins to run down to the nearest coffee shop and back. (And it actually takes me less than that, I’ve timed it.) I find ways to handle it instead: go cold turkey when it gets bad, bring coffee with to work, always have an emergency soda stashed somewhere…

    It would annoy me if I saw one of my peers doing this 3 times a day and it meant I had to cover for them because without fail, there goes EquatorHurricane off to smoke again when I haven’t even been able to leave the floor to acquire lunch or coffee yet and I’ve already been here for 6 hours. I do have one person in my office area who is noticed as running off to smoke multiple times a day, she doesn’t smell of smoke, she’s nice, but her coworkers definitely notice how often she’s gone and definitely get frustrated. When someone asks where she’s at, they all look for her coat to see if she’s out smoking.

    Smoking is an addiction, and a rough one to beat, but even if you can’t go cold turkey on it, you could try ways to contain the nicotine fix while not heading out – patches or gum. I know the physical act of smoking is half the battle, as much as the first sip of soda is for me, there’s a physical response of immediate relief. But it’s a first place to start.

    Good luck

  60. Lily in NYC*

    Huh, I’ve never really thought about this before. I just did a mental check and we have 600 employees and none of our senior staff smokes. The only people we see taking smoke breaks outside are lower level staffers, and there are only a few of them. I’ve never even seen one person who vapes here. So yes, I think smoking will definitely hurt your promotion chances, and not because you would need to take breaks for smoking – it’s more about optics and the stigma. But newsflash to smokers who think no one can smell it: yes we can smell it but most of us are too polite to say anything.

    1. RC Rascal*

      This is industry specific. There are industries underrepresented on this board where smoking is both common and less obtrusive, i.e. farming, construction, trades. Many of my sales reps smoked as well—it makes it easier for them to stay awake during long hours in the car. But for white collar office workers, the comments are valid.

  61. Jenny*

    I worked with a guy whose smoking habit probably contributed to his getting fired. He was a bit of a chain smoker and he was always going out to smoke. The interruptions made his work disrupted and slow. He would also be jittery and distracted in meetings. I had to take over some of his work when he left and it was a disaster. That alone probably didn’t kill his job but it certainly didn’t help.

  62. D'Arcy*

    Smoking breaks *are* slacking off, unless you’re limiting your smoking to during the actual break periods that employees normally take.

    1. Agnodike*

      No. Taking brief breaks throughout the workday, whether to smoke, stretch, fix a beverage, or take a five-minute walk to clear your head, doesn’t rise to the level of “slacking off.” I probably take as many minutes of break time now as I did when I was a smoker, I just use them differently.

  63. Hel*

    One small thing I’ll add: as much as people might judge you for smoking, there does seem to be an equal/greater sense of admiration for people who quit. As there should be because quitting can be insanely tough. My mother only managed to quit because she got the flu and didn’t *want* to smoke for 3 days so it gave her a head start she couldn’t pass up.

    Anyway, good luck to you, LW!

    1. antismoker*

      That was my story exactly — after five years of smoking (all of this 45 years ago now) I got so sick with flu that I was three days into quitting before I even thought of wanting to smoke. Realized it was my best chance, after trying to quit for most of those five years, and I’ve never smoked another one.

    2. CallooCallay*

      I quit cold turkey but not because of illness; I never got to a point where I didn’t like smoking. I did quit for health reasons, though! (29 years and counting…)

  64. No smoking here*

    I work on a large government campus and smoking is definitely looked down upon as it is contrary to our health related mission. Smoking is banned on campus so any smokers have to hike off campus which can take 5-10 minutes to do and then smoke and then walk back. It hardly seems worth it in the rain, snow, or humid summers.

  65. Jennifer*

    I have never been a smoker but I must admit, it annoys me so much when people complain about smokers getting “more breaks.” I guarantee you those complainers goof off at work some times in other ways, whether they are fooling around on their phones or internet surfing. Shut it. Also, quitting smoking isn’t as easy as some seem to think. Have a little compassion.

    That being said, because so many people are jerks, I think it would be in your best interests to quit, not just to improve your professional life, but your personal life as well. Best wishes.

    1. Colette*

      “Shut it” is not very compassionate.

      I also guarantee that smokers also fool around on their phones, surf the internet, and eat/drink during the day.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I can vouch for this – all of my managers/coworkers who smoked did all of these things in addition to taking long lunches and taking at least three to four 15-20 minute smoke breaks per day. I didn’t care as long as they didn’t whine about how busy they were and how swamped with work. Once they got into that song and dance, I’d roll my eyes and think, “Well, if you were at your desk actually working more often, you wouldn’t have this problem.”

      2. Jennifer*

        I don’t think their attitudes are very compassionate. I think if you add up the “goof off” time for everyone, it would be about the same. I have more compassion for people struggling to get past an addiction than I do judgmental people. *shrugs*

      3. Jennifer*

        I don’t think eating and drinking qualifies as “goof off” time since both are necessities.

    2. Reality Check*

      Totally agree. At my office everyone gets a morning break, pm break, plus lunch. The smokers will take those breaks that everyone is entitled to, and the non-smokers won’t. then get mad at the smokers for taking a break that everyone is permitted!

      1. Jennifer*

        Exactly! We all are entitled to two 15 minute breaks a day. Non-smokers are just not taking the breaks they are actually legally allowed. If it bothers you so much TAKE A BREAK! It’s legal. Good lord… They’d probably be less grumpy.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          We all are entitled to two 15 minute breaks a day.

          This isn’t true for salaried workers in many states.

  66. Veronica*

    It’s not a coincidence that smoking is seen as a working-class or poverty thing.
    Tobacco companies target low-income neighborhoods to sell cigarettes, and people who are dealing with the stresses of poverty, etc. are more vulnerable to becoming addicted, and it’s harder for them to quit.
    So it becomes most of the people we see smoking are working-class or street people, and we get this image of the typical smoker, and there you go.

    1. Rainbow Roses*

      I hate to admit it but I agree. To me, smoking doesn’t look cool or sophisticated like old movies try to make you believe. It just looks trashy even if you’re in designer clothes or driving a luxury car.
      Sorry but this is my opinion. YMMV. Of course I don’t say it out loud or make faces.

    2. Veronica*

      My first reaction to a smoker is to avoid the smoke, since I’m allergic. This often means I don’t get close enough to talk to them.
      My second reaction is to feel a little sorry for them damaging their health, regardless of what they’re wearing.

  67. NCKat*

    My campus is very anti-smoking, going so far as to ban tobacco use anywhere on the company property. So there are no outdoor smoking areas and no going out to their cars to smoke (as a lot of smokers used to). We have a smoking-cessation program, and our health plan puts a certain amount in your Health Plan bucket if you can certify you don’t smoke.

    Ironically this is located in a state that used to be a major tobacco state, but no one has complained about the restrictions.

  68. SongbirdT*

    So, this is bound to be an unpopular opinion, but you may want to consider switching to vaping. (and by that, I mean “old school” vaping not the trendy pod stuff)

    Here’s what I found when I switched:
    – I need it less often and can go longer in between vapes than I could smokes. Long meeting days and plane trips are much more tolerable.
    – I have a pleasant, vaguely fruity smell
    – No litter! Woo!
    – I can feel satisfied with just a puff or two versus having to go the whole 7 minutes of a smoke.

    It’s worth saying again though, if you consider this option: Don’t Do Pod Vapes. Stay Away From Juul. They have higher nic levels which is dumb. The original formula liquids have a lower nic content and didn’t kill anybody.

    1. CallooCallay*

      “The original formula liquids have a lower nic content and didn’t kill anybody.”
      Yet. We still don’t know the long-range health effects from vaping tobacco.

  69. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    If you want to switch fields, go into grassroots campaigning. I worked in it briefly and felt left out for NOT smoking.

    1. VelociraptorAttack*

      I don’t know many campaign staffers who haven’t done the “I only smoke when I’m working on a campaign” trick.

  70. annonforthisone*

    My parents were abusive and smokers. They didn’t have money for me to get new clothes or medical care, but they always had a smoke! They knew it bothered me so they’d specifically do it around me to annoy me and minimize the problems. I am currently being tested for allergies and asthma related to this early exposure. When I encounter smokers in my daily life I avoid them to avoid triggering both physical and psychological reactions.

    I KNOW that I would certainly have prejudice against a smoker.

        1. Jennifer*

          Of course not, but it’s also not fair to judge a potential job applicant because of something that’s beyond their control, like the interviewer’s childhood trauma. It’s a heartbreaking story but not really relevant to the OP.

        2. PlainJane*

          This. Addiction doesn’t give someone any kind of pass in my book. They’re still responsible for their behavior, and in my experience (child of someone with multiple addictions, related by blood and marriage to more people with addictions), people with addictions engage in remarkably selfish (and often abusive) behavior, because their addiction is always their top priority. I get so tired of, “but addiction is an illness,” being such a standard response, here and elsewhere, to terrible behavior.

  71. EngineerMom*

    Keep in mind, too, that many larger companies are moving towards an entire non-smoking campus. The company I currently work for is like that, which means that in order to take a break to smoke, you would have to get into your car, and drive off campus (it’s a big campus – we have comfortably hosted 5k runs without ever leaving the boundaries!).

    This situation seems like a good opportunity to quit – smoking is getting to the point where there’s a strong chance it is negatively affecting your career prospects (let alone your health). I understand that quitting is not easy, and typically takes multiple attempts, but what else is it going to take to motivate you to put down the butt?

  72. NW Mossy*

    For the rescheduling-meetings aspect of this (which I agree is the most worrisome), start putting Smoking Time on your calendar in advance. You know you’ll need it, and seeing the time blocked off already will prompt at least some people to look for a time slot that shows as free on your calendar. If it’s important enough to you that you’d bump others for it, it’s important enough to be scheduled.

  73. Maladyvaccine*

    Employees who vanish for periods of time are concerning, it’s rather like being seen lolling about chatting for hours or being an excusasaurus instead of taking responsibility.

    I’d be coaching people exhibiting these behaviours and trying to find out what’s going on with the intention of changing this behaviour (once confirming there wasn’t a valid reason for it)

    I guess it’s not so much the smoking as the extended vanishing that has been the problem. While not all smokers do this, pretty much every smoker I’ve ever worked with coincidentally has done this.

    In my previous more junior job the non smokers used to take fake fag breaks and just go out for coffee for an hour on the basis that if the smokers were allowed to slack off work, non-smokers should be entitled to that as well.

  74. GreenDoor*

    I would respect a leader less if I knew they smoked – because of all the biases Alison outlined. It’s not fair and probably not true – but humans are prone to having biases and Americans anyway hve been trained to view smokers negatively. But some advice…at one place I worked, one of the VP’s was a smoker and took smoke breaks outside. But every time, she’d bring out a pile of files or work, sit and have her smoke, while actively working (or at least appearing to). So maybe take some work related reading or something similar out with you to avoid the perception of being a slacking smoker?

    1. Morning Glory*

      There’s a pretty big difference between a poll where respondents perceive a bias against a group and a poll where respondents directly admit that THEY hold this bias; the numbers are not comparable.

      1. Brett*

        Those types of proxy questions are often used to get people to reveal bias that they hold but would not express (the smoking and overweight survey numbers are likely low for the real numbers of people who are biased).

        The numbers are definitely not directly comparable, but show that these types of biases can be widely held even if they are not directly related to perceived behavioral failings.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      Recently I heard the study that shows that even though only 3% of the US population is over 6’2 yet almost 60% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are 6’2 or taller.

  75. Ana Gram*

    I think geography also plays a part. How prevalent is smoking in your region? I’m from an area where it’s a bit shocking to see someone smoke these days. I just finished a program at a community college that’s popular with young people who, for whatever reason, smoke like chimneys and it was bizarre to me to see them smoke. If seeing people smoke is common where you’re at, you might be able to get away with it more than in my area.

  76. Nicole*

    Some fields, like mine, tend to be extremely busy and it’s kind of unwritten culture that we usually work through breaks (not unpaid lunches though) to prioritize getting the work done. So when my nonsmoking colleagues and I are working our tails off to get work done and a peer decides they want to take a smoke break in the middle of it, it looks very bad to the rest of us. And it doesn’t help that workplaces seems to treat smoke breaks as A Separate Thing compared to regular breaks (I find a person is less apt to get a “no” when they ask to take a smoke break vs an unspecified one).

    It does sound like you try to minimize the effect your habit has on others, and I think if you show that you’re a hard worker and you prioritize the work first you’ll be okay.

  77. Ashley*

    Here is the thing with the people who are commenting that:

    -It shows weakness
    -It is an addiction & they can quit
    -They smell
    -Take too many breaks and slow us down
    -Pollute the air

    I feel that you can complain about a lot of other habits too; but it just isn’t as socially acceptable. like:

    -Overweight people drive up the price of our group insurance
    -I don’t think we should have to accommodate the morbidly obese with new chairs, why don’t I get one?
    -I think it’s tacky for those that drink to mention how drunk they were, or how much wine they drank
    -Those that drink are tardy b/c they are hungover and that puts us all behind
    -Vegetarians are weaker and get sick more often causing us to cover for them
    -Frequent exercisers are prone to more injuries and are off more often

    I don’t necessarily think any of this but you could make a case for it.
    Just… Before you comment maybe think about your own “habits” and “addictions”

    1. Jennifer*

      Exactly. EVERYONE does something that affects other people negatively or that others could find fault with.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Well of course people can come up with complaints about everything and anything that people do and the world in general.

      However there’s a huge difference between a lot of your examples. Some are directly effecting others and others are simply just being rude and judgemental thinking something is “tacky” or “weak” is different than saying “it causes asthmatics to suffer and impedes productivity.”

  78. Live and Learn*

    I have been at my job for 10 years. I just told a co-worker today that I smoked. She couldn’t believe it. Never noticed it on me. But I also don’t take breaks at work. But I do smoke at lunch, usually in my car.

    2nd thing – there are some states where smokers are protected, such as Illinois. You can not fire, demote, refuse to hire, etc. because they are smokers.

    Doesn’t mean you might not be passed up if they smell it on you for another reason, but once you’re in the door, you’re fine. I never smoke before going to an interview.

  79. Youngin*

    I am torn. I am not a smoker, but I understand that everyone deserves a few minutes to clear your head during a break. Who am I to judge how you decide to do that? However, I have never met a smoker that smelled like anything but smoke. Cologne and perfumes just mix and then you smell like a musty cigarette and whatever you used to mask the smell. It’s great OP is only taking the amount of breaks hes allowed, but every smoker I worked with bolted out the door every time they felt a tiny bit of frustration, and for some reason smoke breaks were never considered an actual break, just an additional break they were allowed as smokers. Especially when I worked in food service. Smokers took a smoke break whenever they felt but when a normal employee asked to stand in the back and breathe for a second, we were shut down. I will admit that I have biases against smokers, nothing to do with their capability as an employee, just the smell and additional breaks that drive me nuts.

    1. Live and Learn*

      I’m in HR. In every place I’ve worked, I’ve made it very clear that everyone gets the same breaks. If it’s 15 in the morning and afternoon, that’s all anyone gets. There’s nothing special for smokers. If people are taking extra breaks, that’s a management issue, not a smoker issue.

      1. Youngin*

        I agree. Of course is a management issue, doesn’t negate the fact that it is often done. Good for you for keeping it fair though.

      2. PSB*

        Of course it’s a smoker issue. They’re the ones choosing to take extra break time others don’t get. It’s also a management issue but that doesn’t let the smokers off the hook.

  80. Nicorette*

    OP, can’t you just try nicotine gum or a patch to hold you over when you can’t get a break?

    1. lemon*

      Nicotine gum tastes vile. There are lozenges now (I haven’t tried them) that might be a better option. Patches are tricky and are difficult for some people to use. They come in three strengths: high, medium, low. If you’re a heavy smoker, you’re supposed to start at high, and gradually taper down to low, then none. I’m a very light smoker, so I started at low. Even that was too much nicotine for me to handle. They made me anxious, nauseated, dizzy, and gave me a rapid heartbeat and panic attacks. If you’ve never had a panic attack, know that they are about 1000x more disruptive to getting work done than a 10-minute smoke break. There’s a big difference between having a continuous supply of nicotine delivered directly into your bloodstream for 8 hours a day, and smoking 1-2 cigarettes during the same time period. There’s no lower dosage, and you’re not supposed to cut them in half, so patches are not an option. Low-nicotine e-cigs have been my best option so far.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yes! Replacement programs like the gum, patches and suckers are for people who are packs-a-day smokers, not less than a pack a day folks. They’re geared towards people who are used to chain smoking more so than people who are casual smokers.

  81. Smoker Here*

    Just going to put out there that I read all these comments and clearly no one on AAM smokes. Holy judgment Batman!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Well, one of my sons does. (Early 20s.) I warned him against trying, because he gets addicted to things easily, and I had already seen how hard it was for my friends and colleagues, and myself, to quit. He picked the habit up anyway, that was six years ago, he’s probably on his 20th or so attempt to quit since then.

      I started smoking at 19 and was very lucky that I was able to stop 20 years later. Cannot even call it quitting, because there was no willpower involved – I just started getting migraines from even a couple of hits. Not being in pain that can only be alleviated by prescription meds, that I get a very limited amount of per month, can be a very powerful motivator. Tried to quit before that, don’t know how many times, I lost count. I quit when I was pg and nursing with both of my kids (so, 9+5=14 months with one and 9+21=2.5 years with the other) and both times I counted days to the moment when they’d wean and I could have a cigarette again. One of the most powerful addictions out there. No judgment on my end. I do now get migraines from second-hand smoke too, so I’d probably not join you for a smoking break, sorry.

  82. Former Employee*

    The real problem is that the OP has an addiction.

    Once you start justifying to yourself why you are doing something that may put you at a disadvantage at work in order to feed a habit, you have an addiction.

    As Alison pointed out, breaks are for the worker bees. Higher level people don’t take breaks.

    And when people figure out that the OP is rescheduling meetings to squeeze in a smoking break, I think his reputation will be seriously damaged.

  83. David*

    I’m fairly certain I was once fired for being a smoker, or really I should say that was one of the biggest marks against me. The reasons for the firing were obviously contrived and the owner had been highly opposed to smoking, to the point of illegally requiring clocking off for mandated paid breaks.

  84. Tiger Snake*

    There’s one other thing I’ve noted, which Alison didn’t touch on; smokers get antsy and obviously distracted when they’re coming up to their smoko. That’s just the nature of an addiction. I’ve worked in places where that’s an absolute deal breaker.

    Most of the time, its not smoking that would cause you to be excluded from promotion – but people aren’t seeing the smoking, they’re only seeing frequent moments of heavy distractedness (for example, in meetings). That leads to the thinking ‘OP frequently shows distraction and lacks focus during these discussions. That’s not manager material.‘, without measuring it against the times when you’re not really craving a smoke.

    There are fields where it’s actually fair to view that as a problem that prevents you from doing the job you were hired for, but they’re fair limited. Physical security and its related fields is the big example – I’ve known bosses who will absolutely refuse to hire anyone who is a smoker or drinks coffee. Cravings make you distracted, and they need you 100% focused your entire shift. The regularity of when you smoke/get a coffee also means that there’s a standard time that an attacker could expect you’re easier to trick in those areas, so its not just a matter of proper scheduling.

  85. Elizabeth West*

    Posting before reading comments, so I apologize if someone already said all this.

    OP, I am a former smoker. I had to try quitting several times. I can never smoke even casually ever again. I can’t date or live with a smoker, or anyone who uses weed, because most people smoke it, and if I physically perform the action of smoking anything, it could set me off again. I managed not to when staying with a relative who uses both substances — I didn’t even want it, and that was awesome.

    One thing I can also never do is work someplace where everyone smokes. It’s not worth undoing all the work I did. I’ve been smoke-free for 12 years, after more than 20 years of using nicotine, and I am very proud of myself. If they gave chips for that, I’d gold-plate mine and wear it every damn where.

    So I understand how hard it is to quit. But I really think you should push through and do it. It’ll boost your health (and your finances), and your professional life, as Alison has said. Get help if you need to; it’s an investment in your future.

    In addition to that, many organizations, not just health care, have made their campuses completely smoke-free. I really don’t see this trend going away anytime soon. So unless you leave the premises, you’re not going to be able to smoke at work anyway.

    You can do this! \0/

  86. AnonAndFrustrated*

    If I find out a coworker is a smoker, I instantly have a very strong aversion to that person and my level of respect for them plummets. I’m allergic to cigarette smoke too, like many of the commenters, and just the smell of it on someone’s person can trigger me. I long for the day cigarettes will be legally outlawed and seen by all for the killers they are.

  87. Phil*

    I’ve never really considered this (probably because I’m a non-smoker). But now I think about it, I don’t see any of the big-wigs in my company lighting up. Unless they have a private smoking area away from the common folk…

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