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  #1  
Old 02-18-2005, 02:50 PM
mazinger_z mazinger_z is offline
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How can you tell if someone is a smoker?

One of my colleagues is a super anti-smoker nazi. He hates dealing with them. He says the smell of smoke nauseates him. Today, we have to work with an outside legal firm and whenever we have time to ourselves he would say this person is a smoker, or that one is. Usually, I let him rant, but today we had lunch and I was like, "there is no way you can smell smoke over our lunch." He says that there are other tell tale tells that someone is a smoker. He says that people have discoloration in their fingertips from the nicotene and that smoker's toothpaste doesn't work b/c it still stains the teeth at the edges. He also said to look at the corners of their mouth and, if female, at their fake fingernails. I want to say BS, that he's just a paranoid anti-smoking nazi (I don't smoke), but the only tell-tale sign that I know is that a smoker's car collects ash in the back windshield, and it is quickest way to tell if a smoker has been in the car. Any other tips? Or is my friend delusional?
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  #2  
Old 02-18-2005, 02:59 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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If you're a non-smoker, you can usually detect the odour of smoke on their clothes or hair - to a certain extent this can be masked by washing, but not everybody washes their hair every day and some garments, like suits, coats, gloves, hats, scarves etc don't get washed or cleaned so often (and some accessories like handbags and mobile phones don't get washed at all).
When you don't smoke (and particularly if you used to smoke, then stopped), your sense of smell is quite a lot more sensitive than that of a smoker.

Other signs do actually include yellowing of the fingers, the teeth (although that can be caused by other things), the moustache (if it was blonde or silver to begin with). I don't think your friend is delusional; it's usually quite easy to tell if a person is a smoker, particularly as most people don't make much effort to hide the fact.
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  #3  
Old 02-18-2005, 03:01 PM
jayjay jayjay is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout
I don't think your friend is delusional; it's usually quite easy to tell if a person is a smoker, particularly as most people don't make much effort to hide the fact.
On the other hand, if I knew someone who was as obsessed as the OP's coworker about the subject I know I'd be trying to hide it. This person sounds like the kind of people who went around "outing" women who'd had babies out of wedlock in the olden days...
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  #4  
Old 02-18-2005, 03:02 PM
DougC DougC is offline
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- - - Well, as to if a lot of what he claims is true or not--partially depends on if you are a smoker or not (or regularly around one/living with one). I don't smoke, haven't ever, and am not normally around anyone who is--
1) It is true their hands usually show the marks where they usually hold cigarettes,
2) and their clothes do smell like smoke nearly all the time, unless they have on some strong fresh perfume.
3) Their car windows do accumulate grime, as do their house walls and windows. Smnokers' cars are "tainted", it is not possible to reomve the cigarette smell from the interior, ever. -Without removing the interior, that is.
4) the female fingernails business I never noticed, will have to watch for that one.
5) and there's others I'm sure. I don't care that much. I'm sort of a casual smoking-Nazi, kind of like a lazy wave and "Yo, hitla!..."
......
-But the main indicator is just the smell. If you're never around cigarette smoke, you cna smell it very easily. Same as with pets--cats and dogs stink, stink up your entire house. If you live there you get used to it and don't notice, but anyone with a good sense of smell (who doesn't smoke that is!) can walk into your house and immediately smell that you have a pet.
~
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  #5  
Old 02-18-2005, 03:04 PM
pinkfreud pinkfreud is offline
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I have been an ex-smoker for more than fifteen years. I can smell cigarette smoke on a person's hair and clothing clear across a room. I wish I couldn't, but I can. And it makes me want a cigarette.

It's very difficult for people to rid their breath of the smell, too. No amount of Listerine will totally obscure that telltale odor.
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  #6  
Old 02-18-2005, 03:08 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayjay
On the other hand, if I knew someone who was as obsessed as the OP's coworker about the subject I know I'd be trying to hide it. This person sounds like the kind of people who went around "outing" women who'd had babies out of wedlock in the olden days...
You may be right; the beahviour does sound a little obsessive, but we're hearing about it second-hand from someone who admits they find it annoying, so we need to at least admit that there may be an element of bias. In reality, it may be nothing more than that mazinger_z is the Watson to his friend's Holmes.
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  #7  
Old 02-18-2005, 03:29 PM
alice_in_wonderland alice_in_wonderland is offline
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The fingernails yellow quite badly, particularly if they're polished.

Also, the breath is impossible to get really clean - the smell seems to radiate up from the lungs.

I really, really hate smoking, but I don't hate smokers - that being said, I can still spot them (smell them) pretty easily.
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  #8  
Old 02-18-2005, 03:43 PM
uglybeech uglybeech is offline
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I'm a smoker who's spent enough time in the "smoking ghetto" at work to notice a few trends. I'm of the opinion that it's extremely hard to spot younger smokers (under 40) who haven't smoked recently (i.e. if you can't smell it you can't spot them). Mostly they won't have noticably yellow anything. Because these days people don't smoke as much as they used to probably and probably also because of filters. That's a guess. You're more likely to spot them by social or cultural correlates. If they look working class, overweight, older, counter-cultural in some way, and maybe depressed they're more likely to smoke. But that doesn't mean squat really. Most people who are those things don't smoke and I've seen classic yuppie-types who do (I'm usually a bit surprised to see them there though).

Long-time smokers (decades) may have the yellowing and often have a certain look and sound to them. They look older and IMHO the skin seems to be wrinkled in a certain way but I couldn't tell you exactly what I'm spotting. And women especially - you can tell by their voices. They can be much harsher than normal. Men's get rough and sometimes gravelly too but it may not be as obvious. I'm pretty sure it's true because I get verification of my guesses. I see somebody like that and I think "there's a smoker" and what do you know I'll find them in the smoking ghetto later. None of these things is terribly specific and I'm sure there are lots of people who I'd guess are smokers and who aren't.

Oh and by the way why do we want to get tips for the Nazi anyway?
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  #9  
Old 02-21-2005, 01:45 PM
mazinger_z mazinger_z is offline
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Well, we have to meet with them again this week. I'm already dreading it, not just my friend who is as about as obsessive/compulsive as you can get, but also because that work is really boring. I'll look for the breath. I thought that smoker's breath would be the easiest thing to clear up.

My friend also said that smoker's have "more watery-looking" eyes. And, when they're not smoking, they're fidgeting for something (I might agree to that last one, but I would think that's more of an extreme case).
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  #10  
Old 02-21-2005, 01:55 PM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
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The guy sounds like a Witchsmeller Pursuvient wannabee...
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  #11  
Old 02-21-2005, 02:02 PM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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My parents both smoke and always have. Growing up, I didn't even know cigarettes HAD a smell. Boy, now I do. After moving out (I don't smoke and never have) I eventually got my sense of smell back.

Smokers smell horrible; it's a mean thing to say, I guess, but it's true. If you smoke regularly, you stink. I'm not sure how to describe it; it's a stale, dirty smell, but not a wet or sweet kinda dirty. Sort of like 75% campfire, 20% gym socks, and 5% pee. Throw in a little menthol there for folks who smoke menthols. I can smell a smoker ten feet away and if they walk by they leave their smell behind like a fart. A smoker's house is worse - it's vile. Gets into your clothes and your hair.

Having said that, if someone wants to smoke, have at it. I'm sure I've had some bad perspiration days where I smelled like a hockey bag. I'm sure there are lots of people who are put off my my astounding ugliness and lack of fashion sense. Life's too short to go all Nazi on people because they have a habit that's incredibly hard to kick.
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  #12  
Old 02-21-2005, 02:20 PM
Roches Roches is offline
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Since the smoker/non-smoker divide is so deep to these people, they are probably hypersensitive to the signs of smoking, and may very well perceive these signs when they are not present. They may smell cigarette smoke merely because a smoker is present, and accuse them of smoking in a forbidden area. Or they may accuse a smoker's friend, or someone who went to a smoky bar, of being a smoker. They may also perceive differences between smokers and non-smokers that others do not. For example, few people have perfectly white teeth; if an anti-smoking crusader knows from other evidence that a person is a smoker, their teeth may appear yellow even if they are not significantly more yellow than average. Or they may notice certain facial characteristics that are present in some smokers but ignore them when they are present in non-smokers.

The behavior described in the OP is incredibly annoying, and it shouldn't be tolerated by non-smokers or by smokers. The analogy with someone in the past pointing out people who had had out-of-wedlock children is a good one -- these people feel that they must undertake a moral crusade against something that they feel is wrong. (While smoking carries very significant health risks, those risks aren't enough for the crusaders, and they like to exaggerate existing risks or negative effects and invent new ones.) These people have no concept of the emotional harm that their actions might cause. The targets of their comments may be made to feel like outcasts, and others may turn against them. It is altogether inappropriate to make these sorts of comments about an activity that is legally permitted for adults, regardless of the health risks (real or perceived) that may be associated with it.

I'm reminded of a former co-worker who would constantly make comments on the evil of caffeine or alcohol (in any amount), which were forbidden by his religion. Besides being merely wrong, there were health risks associated with these behaviors, and I (along with more than 90% of North American adults) was referred to as being 'addicted to caffeine'. 'Caffeine addicts' were compared with alcoholics and cocaine addicts. I was thus forced to feel guilty, to some small extent, for drinking coffee every morning, or for occasionally drinking alcohol.

The real Nazis, as some may know, were viciously anti-smoking, and had anti-smoking laws much similar to those being introduced now. (They knew about the risks of Passivrauchen, or second-hand smoke, which is often invoked today to demonize smokers and make them feel as if they are giving everyone around them cancer, in spite of weak medical evidence to this end.) There are some interesting Nazi propaganda posters about smoking, though I won't provide links because the sites I found are politically charged in some way (usually 'smoker's rights' sites).
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  #13  
Old 02-21-2005, 02:49 PM
Jadis Jadis is offline
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Chiming in to say that the smell of cigarette smoke is extremely obvious to someone who doesn't smoke. A few of my co-workers in the next cubicle aisle over smoke, and I can always tell when they return to their cubes after smoke break...not by the noise, but by the wave of stench. Even after smoking outside, not even in an enclosed area, the smell of smoke rolls off of them as they walk by.

Also, my brother smokes, and every time I spend time at his house, I come home reeking. I usually change clothes after I get home, it's that bad. And, when I go to do laundry, as soon as I pick up the items of clothing I'd worn at his house, the smoke smell wafts out, even a week or more later.

IME, you don't even have to get close enough for breath tests or look for yellowing fingertips. If you smoke, your clothes and hair will reek enough for anyone to know.
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  #14  
Old 02-21-2005, 03:18 PM
Quint Quint is offline
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Here's a tell-tale sign you may never encounter. Back in the day when you could still smoke in bars around these parts, I'd do so. You know the type- "social" (read: drunk) smoker. One weekend I was taking a first aid course on Saturday morning and we had to don latex gloves. My gloves showed nicotine stains on my right hand between index and f*ck you finger. This is after having a shower and washing my hands about three times. I was quite self conscious about this, so when I got the chance I went and scrubbed the hell out of my hands and got a new pair of gloves. Same result, just slightly less. My fingers weren't noticeably stained, but my gloves gave me away. Pretty revolting, really.
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  #15  
Old 02-21-2005, 04:21 PM
NurseCarmen NurseCarmen is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkfreud
I have been an ex-smoker for more than fifteen years. I can smell cigarette smoke on a person's hair and clothing clear across a room. I wish I couldn't, but I can. And it makes me want a cigarette.
Hell, two weeks after I quite smoking, I was walking my dog around the neighborhood. In the middle of a Minnesota winter. And I could tell which houses had smokers in them. Thankfully, that super-sensativity faded along with the addiction. But I still can detect minute amounts of nicotine goodness (*sigh*) in the atmosphere.

And it's been over 2 years.
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Old 02-21-2005, 06:21 PM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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Do y'all mean "stink of smoke" as in it's strong, or that it stinks? Cigarette smoke is rather pleasant smelling if you're neutral about it, and I wonder if some of the "reeks" remarks are by people that just don't tolerate smoking, and therefore need to put it down moreso?

Granted, I don't think thing mussels taste good, so there're bound to be some people that really do think it's bad...
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Old 02-21-2005, 06:31 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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I mean, by "stink of smoke", that standing five feet away from someone in still air I can smell tobacco smoke on them. If you smoke, you're going to smell like burning tobacco to a non-smoker. It's that simple.
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  #18  
Old 02-21-2005, 06:37 PM
Cunctator Cunctator is offline
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You can always smell the smoke - in their hair, their clothes.
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  #19  
Old 02-21-2005, 07:31 PM
Lamar Mundane Lamar Mundane is offline
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There is nothing nice about the smell of cigarette smoke. Fresh tobacco, I'll grant you, but once you burn it, it stinks.

An anecdote- My ex-mother in law is a closet smoker, meaning she pretended that she didn't and only smoked away from the house or if she knew she'd be alone for a while. As such, her house didn't reek. Coming back after a week there, upon opening my suitcase in my never smoked in house, I was almost bowled over by the smell coming from my clothes.
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Old 02-21-2005, 07:41 PM
DocCathode DocCathode is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthisar
Do y'all mean "stink of smoke" as in it's strong, or that it stinks? Cigarette smoke is rather pleasant smelling if you're neutral about it, and I wonder if some of the "reeks" remarks are by people that just don't tolerate smoking, and therefore need to put it down moreso?
While not truly foul (raw sewage, borscht), I find cigarette smoke unpleasant. A friend who is a heavy smoker gave me a book he'd had for a few years. It stank of cigarettes for months.

I do find the smell of pipe smoke quite pleasant.

Re Smelling Cigarettes Over Lunch

I don't think I could do it. But, I'm sure some people can. I can't taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi. But there are plenty of people who can.
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Old 02-21-2005, 07:42 PM
Dragonblink Dragonblink is offline
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Originally Posted by uglybeech
They look older and IMHO the skin seems to be wrinkled in a certain way but I couldn't tell you exactly what I'm spotting.
One thing I've noticed is that smokers, especially heavy smokers, tend to have more of those up-and-down wrinkles above their upper lip. Everyone develops those over time, but smokers tend to have more, deeper wrinkles there.
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  #22  
Old 02-21-2005, 07:42 PM
zagloba zagloba is offline
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Originally Posted by Balthisar
Cigarette smoke is rather pleasant smelling if you're neutral about it.
To me, the smell of cigarette smoke that has settled into hair, clothes, furniture, etc. is far ranker than the smell of "fresh" smoke.
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  #23  
Old 02-21-2005, 10:51 PM
Mister Rik Mister Rik is offline
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Years and years ago I worked side-by-side, daily, with a non-smoker boss who never realized I was a smoker until he saw me lighting up one day. I didn't even use breath mints.

My current roommate has a barrage (yes, I use that word intentionally) of medical problems, one of which involves certain smells causing various adverse effects in him. One of those smells is cigarette smoke smell. He apparently never noticed that I smoked (I was going outside to be polite) until three weeks after I moved in when I mentioned it. Once I mentioned it, he started exhibiting his "symptoms" and complaining about the smell.
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  #24  
Old 02-21-2005, 11:31 PM
commasense commasense is online now
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May I point out a logical fallacy to all those who are insisting that they can "always" tell a smoker? If there was someone who, through frequent bathing, hairwashing, cleaning of clothes, mouthwash use, witchcraft, or whatever, was successful at masking the smoke smell, you couldn't by definition tell.

Despite your high opinion of your powers of olfactory detection, you may be missing some smokers, but it is in the nature of the situation that you'd never know about your failures unless someone you hadn't suspected suddenly lit up.

(On preview, I see that Phase42 has considerately provided a validation of my point. Thanks, Phase42.)
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  #25  
Old 02-21-2005, 11:34 PM
pokey pokey is offline
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I agree 100%. The smell of cigarette smoke wafting through the air is different from the smell of smoke on a person. I don't know why it is, but if you take a cigarette and stub the heater off so you can smoke the rest later, that stub will smell horrible and a lot worse than an ashtray smells. I have no idea why since it's the same thing. The only way I can explain the difference to a smoker, is that the "bad" smoker smell is like that half smoked cigarette. It's like that smell is all over you and nonsmokers almost need to step back.

I love smokers though. I am an ex smoker and I don't think anyone should feel guilty for smoking. One thing I noticed when I quit smoking is that a lot of people smell bad in many different ways. Some people smell scary as hell and I wish they'd start smoking so they'd smell like something my mind can comprehend. So it evens out.
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  #26  
Old 02-21-2005, 11:38 PM
pokey pokey is offline
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Oops I missed 2 posts. I agreed 100% with zagloba, though I agree with the other 2 posters too...if you can't tell you don't know you can't. Many times people told me "wow I can't believe you smoke" when they'd known me a while and I wasn't making any effort to hide it. Everyones nose is different.
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  #27  
Old 02-21-2005, 11:49 PM
Savannah Savannah is offline
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I've fallen off the wagon and suspect most people have guessed, though I haven't told them. Why? Because during my three years quit, I could sure tell who smoked and who didn't. The smell was the most obvious--yes, it really does cling to the smoker, and it's in your hair and lungs and skin.

But also the face and the voice. This is more evident in women, I agree, but there's a "smoker's face" -- characteristic wrinkling around the mouth and other fine lines, and a certain pallor to the skin. And the deeper, almost gravelly voice.

And of course, our coughing.

I saw a clear picture of Laura Bush during the first presidential race, and I thought to myself "She's a smoker." (Or was.) I had to Google to confirm, but I was right. I was in the mouth-wrinkles, mostly, but I could tell.

I gotta quit again. It's a habit you really can't hide, though we who smoke, believe we can. You just can't smell it on yourself as a smoker, but when you quit... Yes, I agree, one becomes hyper-aware of the scent and signals.
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  #28  
Old 02-22-2005, 04:55 AM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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I'll grant that I'm not 100% in sniffing out the smokers - there's always an exception - but there are a lot fewer stealth smokers out there than people who are olofactory banner carriers
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  #29  
Old 02-22-2005, 05:26 AM
Staggerlee Staggerlee is offline
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It's usually easy to spot a non-smoker; their breath is a combination of meaty healthy-throat smell, combined with that of their last meal.

You may also notice a certain stressed hunch to their posture, and a tendency to constantly eat.
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  #30  
Old 02-22-2005, 05:29 AM
Q.N. Jones Q.N. Jones is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commasense
May I point out a logical fallacy to all those who are insisting that they can "always" tell a smoker? If there was someone who, through frequent bathing, hairwashing, cleaning of clothes, mouthwash use, witchcraft, or whatever, was successful at masking the smoke smell, you couldn't by definition tell.
Usually, if they smoke inside their own home, these tricks won't work.

I used to have a friend who never smoked herself, but her parents were smokers. Even though she bathed daily, washed her clothes regularly, and was a clean person, you would have sworn she was a chain smoker--she stank that bad.
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  #31  
Old 02-22-2005, 05:42 AM
Jennyrosity Jennyrosity is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commasense
May I point out a logical fallacy to all those who are insisting that they can "always" tell a smoker? If there was someone who, through frequent bathing, hairwashing, cleaning of clothes, mouthwash use, witchcraft, or whatever, was successful at masking the smoke smell, you couldn't by definition tell.
If you have long hair, you'd need to wash it after every cigarette to get rid of the smell. I used to be a heavy smoker (20 a day), and one of the reason's I quit was because I realised if the smell of stale smoke in my hair was that unpleasant to me, it must've been ten times worse for anyone else who got close to me.
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