Hi Lifehacker, I was sitting outside on a bench to myself, enjoying my lunch and the sunshine, when a stranger comes and stands around three metres away from me. The problem was when he lit up a cigarette. I didn’t want to get up and move, I had a nice spot and was there first. This has happened a few times since. How can I get this bloke to move along without appearing like a petty goody-two-shoes? Thanks, Smoke Got In My Eyes
Smoker picture from Shutterstock
Whenever you’re dealing with a smoking stranger, a direct but impeccably polite request is usually the best course of action. However, the outcome will largely depend on the individual’s personality.
If you’re lucky, he could be a reasonable person who appreciates the irritation second-hand smoke can cause. We wouldn’t hold our breath though. (Actually, you should probably still hold your breath.)
Unfortunately, many smokers have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to this sort of thing. They’ve been turfed out of every indoor venue in the country, which can make them extremely protective about their right to smoke outdoors.
Asking him to move on might leave him feeling persecuted and marginalised; kind of like a chain-smoking Rosa Parks. The fact it’s a filthy habit that can affect the health of innocent bystanders is apparently irrelevant.
The only way to discover whether this stranger falls into the militant ‘pro-ciggie’ camp is to ask him to stop smoking. If he angrily refuses, you’ll be left with two options: pathetically backing down or launching into a heated argument. Neither response is likely to get you what you want.
Alternatively, you could break into an open-mouthed, hacking cough for the duration of his smoke. While he might not care about your discomfort, it could prove sufficiently annoying that he takes his smoke-breaks elsewhere — especially if there’s spittle flying about.
Now, we’re not saying you should intentionally spit on a smoker, but refusing to cover your mouth while coughing is a justifiable defense-mechanism when having dangerous chemicals blown in your face. So forget social mores and let the phlegm fly!
We’d like to throw this question to our smoking readers. How do you react when a stranger asks you to stop? Are there any responses that work better than others? Let us know in the comments section below.
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