Nonsmoker Ends What Smoker Begins

By Lindsey Novak

December 28, 2017 5 min read

Q: I work in an elevator building that is home to many companies. When the smokers need a cigarette, they have to leave the building to smoke. The sign at the entrance states that smokers must stand at least 15 feet away from the entrance. It never fails; there are always smokers who refuse to do this. That means nonsmokers have to hold their breath or inhale smoke as they leave the building. I got so tired of smokers disobeying the sign, I pointed out the smokers standing too close to the doors, so the guard went out to tell them to move away. One of them locked his eyes on me knowing I had complained. I didn't care at first. No one should have to walk through the disgusting odor caused by smoking.

But this smoker wouldn't let it go. The next time he saw me in the elevator, he confronted me about reporting them. I ignored him and got off on my floor. He was still complaining as I exited. I hoped ignoring him would end it, but it didn't. He now has it out for me and each time he sees me, he has a snarly statement to say to me. After running into him several times, I had had enough, so instead of ignoring him the next time he started his rant, I responded, and it wasn't pretty.

I hurled at him every insulting thing I could say about smoking. Then unfortunately, I got personal. Often his clothing reeks of smoke and I've had to hold my breath once he steps into the elevator. The odor has gagged me at times, so when he turned this into a public thing, I said I couldn't believe no one in his office ever told him how much he stinks, and I couldn't understand how he can't smell how bad he smells. I also told him if he can't he afford detergent to wash his clothes, I would buy it for him. I was about as rude and insulting as I could be, but everything I said was true.

One person later thanked me because she had thought everything I had said. Some others, though, now act like they are afraid to get in the elevator with me, as if I were going to pick on them for something. I admit I got carried away, but my ignoring him wasn't stopping him. I also thought someone has to embarrass him into doing something about it.

I realize you never know who you're talking to, but I figured someone who smelled that badly couldn't possibly hold a high position. I'm wondering now if I should make a general apology to people when they stare at me so they are not afraid. I am starting to feel terrible for being so rude.

A: Guilt has taken hold of you, so you may want to take him aside the next time you see him and have a brief but polite conversation regarding the verbal exchanges. Once you do, let it go and just smile if you think someone is staring at you. As long as you have no more run-ins with the smoker, what others think of you will blow over. You likely said what many others wanted to say, but could not allow themselves to go that far.

You confronted the annoying effects of smoking, but to grasp the average American's value of good health, let's focus on the critical aspects of cigarette smoking. Facts: Deaths and diseases due to smoking are preventable. Smoking in the U.S. kills 480,000 people per year, including 41,000 due to secondhand smoke exposure. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases the risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases and immune system problems, including rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking is also a known cause of erectile dysfunction in males. The results of these facts: According to government statistics (12-16-2016), 36.5 million adults smoke cigarettes, and 16 million live with smoking-related diseases. Though you did it rudely, you forced him to face the disgusting but less serious side of smoking, which isn't a bad thing to face.

Email life and career coach [email protected] with all your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit and for past columns, see

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