Ask the Readers: What to Do Around Smokers?

Ask the Readers: What to Do Around Smokers?


For the most part, I’m really easy-going.

I think it’s one of my biggest strengths, and something that has kept me quite sane with all this traveling.

You just have to keep rolling with what comes along and make adjustments as you’re environment is always changing!


Sometimes, though, I wonder if I’m too laid-back and if I should speak up?

Specifically, I’m talking about staying with people who smoke cigarettes.


Do you say anything? Do you just tolerate it?


Bit of context: I don’t smoke. Never have, never tried.

It’s probably my 11 years of living in Los Angeles (where just about everywhere is smoke-free) that makes me forget how many people do smoke. I have heard that it’s still quite common in other countries.

As far as I know, I’m not allergic to it (well, not the “immediate-death” kind); I just don’t enjoy it at all, and of course, I do believe it’s harmful to breathe in.


Now staying with people who are different than you is part of what makes travel really amazing.

You learn new ideas, get fresh perspectives, and understand other approaches to life.

But what do you do when someone’s lifestyle creates an environment you don’t enjoy and find unhealthy?


Now the occasional smoker who steps outside is really pretty manageable, but what about chain smokers, or people who do it everywhere (in the car, in the house, at the dinner table).

I tend not to say anything, and just move myself out of the direct path of the smoke. I even, very subtly, exhale a strong breath if anything is coming my way.


I’m not eager to make my host feel uncomfortable in their own home, so is their a middle ground?

Is there a delicate way to broach this topic?

I do think there is an empowered approach, so that I don’t feel like I just have to take it (even if I don’t end up saying anything). Now I’m just looking for what that could be!


Again, here’s the question: what do you do around smokers you’re staying with?

I’d LOVE to hear how you tackle this one! :)


Looking forward to learning more!



P.S. As I was writing this, it became obvious there were TONS of other issues you could swap out for smoking here (what makes you uncomfortable/feel unhealthy): drinking, partying, drugs, etc. I have to imagine there’s a common approach, assuming your host is a reasonable and rational person. :) Feel free to chime in about any other topics, too!




Former life: actor/office worker/virtual assistant; lived in Los Angeles for 11 years. Since then: sold nearly everything, took a $5 flight to Hawaii, lived there for 3 months, wrote an eGuide about all of it, and still traveling. Currently: digital nomad - looking to improve myself, have fun and serve others.

10 comments on “Ask the Readers: What to Do Around Smokers?
  1. Phyllis says:

    That’s a tough one. As a former smoker, I can sympathize with smokers but now being around smoke makes my feel ill. You have to tread lightly. As you said, you are a guest. I think what you’re doing is the way to go. If you get into a discussion about your healthy living lifestyle, the hazards of smoking may come up in the conversation. As you know, you can’t change anyone who doesn’t want to change but if people are open to what you have to say, you can share your thoughts.

    Good luck!

    • Nathan says:

      First off: Thanks!!

      It’s definitely a fine line: no one wants to hear they’re unhealthy, and smokers have (usually) already heard it all before. because it’s an “addiction” issue, it gets even trickier.

      You’re right, though: if people want to stop or change their habits, I can always provide what tools or knowledge has helped me, and support them however I can, without *making* them change! :)

      My other option is just to mention: “if you smoke, I may immediately get up and go in the other room or outside. and i’m totally cool with that.” ;)

  2. An online friend offered a bedroom for a couple nights as we were traveling. We arrived, and found out she was a serious smoker.

    We stayed, and didn’t say a word, but then it took 3 weeks of washing everything and unpacking and repacking the van to eliminate most of the smell, but not all of it. I was also ill the whole time.

    In someone else’s home, I would never say a word unless asked directly. But I’m surprised when someone offers their home to a traveling family with a small child and doesn’t think to mention that they’re a chain smoker.

    We have a marvelous online friend who has offered her home, but explicitly warned us she’s a heavy smoker. We’ve graciously declined, and thanked her for the heads up.

    The other thing that floored me was the very small handful of places we stayed which didn’t meet even basic criteria for sanitation; places we didn’t even shower in the morning, just got out quick.

    Honestly, my disability to deal with issues like that played a role in our decision to live in our own home again.

    • Nathan says:

      Ah, the joys of nomadic life, right? Those little hidden gems no one tells you about and you get to discover yourself… :)

      Not saying anything unless directly asked reminds me of how I approach eating: if I’m not consulted ABOUT the menu, I’ll eat what’s ON the menu – even if it’s a corn flake and marshmallow casserole, smiling the whole time I eat my very small portion.

      I was talking with someone this morning who felt that smoking around young kids is child abuse. Without getting too much into right or wrong here, I can definitely see where he’s coming from, and especially because kids don’t often speak up for themselves, it definitely made sense.

      Not to mention all the studies and science out there that PROVES second-hand smoke is harmful!

      Yup, having your own place can certainly be seductive…

      thanks joel!!

  3. I use my kids, who are 7 and 5. When we’re around smokers, they’ll look at me and say things really loud in their kid voices.
    “Daddy, why is that man addicted to those cigarettes?”
    “Daddy. That’s so gross. That woman is so weak to give in to smoking like that.”
    It’s so much fun, and I’m like “hey, they’re just telling the truth.”

  4. Michael Demmons says:

    I think when you are going to stay at someone’s home, you should ask prior to coming if they do any of the things, like smoking, that bother you. If they do, then don’t stay with them.

    But if they do and you STILL choose to stay with them, then I think it would be very rude to say anything to them about it. You’re a guest who chose to stay there knowing full well that they were smokers.

    • Nathan says:

      thanks for chiming in Michael!!

      totally agree about asking ahead – and it’s helpful to see those things mentioned on the Couchsurfing site!

      i guess the dilemma comes about when it’s a last-minute thing, and you don’t have time to go over ALL the particulars. I think being gracious and respectful is definitely the way to go, and hopefully it’s not a long-term surfing commitment.

  5. Dan says:

    I’m reminded of this quote:
    “LSD is a substance which can cause psychotic reactions in people that don’t take it.” – Tim Leary

    Of course we’re talking about smoking. I don’t smoke, but I think it’s really easy for people to gang up on smokers. If you don’t like smoke and it’s not your space, walk away and get over it. Life is too short to spend all of your time worrying whether or not someone is doing something of which you don’t approve.

    Oh…and using your kids to do your dirty work? Ack…not only inappropriate but outright rude that you don’t teach your kids to be more polite — especially to your hosts.

    • Nathan says:

      awesome tim. totally fair comments and i really appreciate you chiming in!

      at least from my perspective, this definitely wasn’t meant to be a “gang-up” session on anyone – more about how can we all get along, even with our differences? :)

      i’d like to think i’ve gotten very good at the “walking away and getting over it” part – i really like to “accept what is,” for when i argue with reality, i lose, but only 100% of the time.

      i was merely wondering if there was another way to go about this.

      maybe not.

      thanks again!!

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