Smoking Etiquette

Business executives smoking in front of an office building
If you must smoke, show respect for others. ONOKY - Fabrice LEROUGE/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

If you are a smoker, you've probably noticed that etiquette rules of smoking in public have changed significantly over the past several decades. Gone are the days when it was perfectly acceptable to light up in a crowded restaurant or in someone's home.

Not only is it against the law to smoke in most public places, those who don't smoke are offended. And they don't mind speaking up. The key to smokers and nonsmokers being able to get along is having respect for each other and exhibiting good manners.

I am not a fan of cigarettes. People I've known and loved have become very sick or died from their habit. I'd love to see all smokers decide to quit, but apparently, it's a tough habit to break. So I've decided to accept the people without embracing their smoking. However, I do expect them to show respect by not forcing me to breathe their secondhand smoke.

Laws

Before you whip out a pack of cigarettes and lighter, find out what the laws are about smoking at that location. If you light up before asking, there's a good chance you'll be asked to snuff it out or perhaps even leave the establishment.

Ask First

Even if it is legal to smoke, ask those around you if they mind. It has become socially acceptable for nonsmokers to tell you they don't want to breathe your secondhand smoke. Some people will tell you they're fine with it, even if they aren't, so pay close attention to their tone and body language.

If they grimace or hesitate, they're probably just trying to be polite.

Being Asked to Stop After the Fact

If someone asks you to stop smoking after you have lit up, you have two choices: Either put out the cigarette or move to a different location. Avoid being snarky. You're the one who is infringing on their air space.

Offer a sincere apology and do as they ask.

When You Are Free to Smoke

So now that you've found an acceptable place to smoke, do so with good manners. Blow your smoke away from people and never take a drag right before you speak. Give nonsmokers a little extra personal space. Avoid getting right up in people's faces because no one wants to smell your breath until you have a chance to brush your teeth. And even then you might want to test your breath. The smoke smell tends to linger long after you think it's gone.

What to Do When You Are Finished

After you finish smoking your cigarette, be responsible with the butt. Put out the lit end, and after making sure there are no live embers left, dispose of it in an ashtray or trash receptacle. Never drop the butt on someone's lawn or porch.

Nonsmoker Rules

No matter how much you would like for everyone in the entire world to quit smoking, it will probably never happen – even if it becomes illegal. Remember the prohibition days with alcohol? That's exactly what you'll see with tobacco use if it becomes against the law.

Accept the fact that there will always be smokers in your community, and chances are you'll be friends with some of them. Be clear about your preferences without nagging.

Occasionally find a way to accommodate them, perhaps by joining them at an outdoor café where it is allowed. They're much more likely to be courteous with their habit.

Here are more tips for both smokers and nonsmokers:

  • Smokers know it's bad for them, so don't lecture.
  • If you don't want someone to smoke, be honest but polite about it. The words "please" and "thank you" go a long way if said in a nice tone.
  • Smokers, no one owes you the right to smoke in their home. If you can't go an hour or two without a cigarette, refrain from accepting the invitation.
  • Nonsmokers, if you are offended by cigarette smoke, don't frequent places where it's acceptable to light up.
  • If you're smoking on the porch or balcony, move away from open doors and windows to keep it from drifting inside.
  • If you are in a place where it's acceptable to smoke, offer a cigarette to others who smoke.
  • Smokers, be extra cautious when smoking in someone else's home if they give you permission. You don't want to offend them by leaving a burn mark or ashes on their furniture or carpet.
  • Smokers, if you need to make a good first impression on someone, make sure you don't smell like smoke. This might mean that you need to take extra care in laundering your clothes.
  • If you haven't started smoking and want to live a long, healthy life, refrain from taking your first cigarette because that's where it starts. And these days, even smokers know it's bad for them.
  • Smokers, if you want to quit the habit, ask your friends to help you. Then when they make comments, remember that you asked for them. You might want to consider joining a smoking cessation support group because they're more likely to understand what you're going through.