I’m going to try to keep this GQ material and not wander into Pitting…
Let me first explain why I’m asking this question:
1 - I’m a smoker
2 - My housemate suffers from asthma
Now, my uneducated assumption about cigarette smoke’s effect on asthma is that it would be the smoke itself that causes a problem for an asthma sufferer. To hear my housemate tell it, my assumption is incorrect. More on that later.
Okay, so I’ve just moved in with this guy whom I’ve known for about 20 years. Having known him for such a length of time, I made another assumption, before moving in with him, that he was aware that I was a smoker before he invited me to move in. As it turns out, he didn’t know this. However, I had already decided that I would not smoke in the house, so I didn’t think there would be a problem. Because of my previous living arrangement, I am quite accustomed to stepping outside when I smoke. This is no trouble for me.
I have been living with this man since last Friday, July 23. I have smoked outside every day since then. But, the subject of my smoking didn’t come up until Wednesday, July 28. I brought it up during a discussion about splitting chores, splitting bills, and general agreements about conduct while living in this man’s house (he is my parent’s age - I’m 38, so that would make him around 60). He had already given me a “rental agreement” which listed a number of rules, one of which was "no smoking, drinking, drugs, evil music, etc… I have refrained from telling him that his list looks like a set of rules a parent would lay down for his teenage children :rolleyes:
When I mentioned that I smoke, he was surprised, so that told me that he hadn’t known I was a smoker. Obviously, he hadn’t smelled any smoke when I had stepped outside during the previous five days, and he hadn’t smelled it on me. I told him that I would not smoke in the house, and that I would go outside, and away from the house if he liked when I needed to smoke. He said that would be acceptable. I also said that I’m planning to quit as soon as I can afford “the patch”. That was the truth
That brings us to today, July 29. I went outside, in the alley behind the house (about 20 feet from the back door) and had a cigarette shortly after I got out of bed. When I came back inside, he said that the smoke had drifted into the house. I apologized, and promised to take steps to prevent that in the future. About an hour later I went outside for another cigarette. This time, I walked to the park - downwind from the house - almost a full block away. I smoked the cigarette there, and extinguished the cigarette there, and then walked back to the house. While walking, I breathed deeply and exhaled completely to be certain that all traces of smoke were expelled from my lungs.
Immediately upon my entering the house, my friend complained that he could smell cigarette smoke. Half an hour later, he came upstairs and knocked on my door, claiming that he could still smell smoke, and that it was really bothering his asthma. When I pointed out the distance I had gone to smoke my cigarette, and that there was no possible way that any cigarette smoke could have followed me into the house, he suggested that the smell was in my clothes.
Now, the only smokers I’ve known whose clothing reeks of smoke have been those people who smoke heavily in their homes, where the smoke hangs in the air and gets into everything. (And my sense of smell is still good enough that even I can smell those people). I, however, have done all of my smoking outdoors for several years. On top of that, I was wearing a freshly laundered shirt in which I had only smoked two cigarettes. And I had smoked those two cigarettes in the wind, holding the cigarette so that the wind carried the smoke away from my body. Putting the shirt to my nose and inhaling deeply, I could smell nothing but fabric softener.
So, I suggested to my housemate that, because he had not smelled anything at all before I informed him that I smoked, and now that he knows I smoke he is smelling things, that it was purely psychological. He expects to smell something, and so he does.
He remained quite insistent that he could smell cigarette smoke, and that it was bothering him.
I also pointed out to him that, due to some fires near our city, the valley is currently filled from one end to the other with smoke. Which is being pumped into our house by our swamp cooler. And yet, he can still smell and identify the cigarette I smoked a block away. Amazing.
I honestly believe that he’s not smelling a thing, and that he’s actually a rabid anti-smoker who is using his health as an excuse to make me quit smoking. This despite the fact that I am going out of my way to keep my smoke from bothering him.
So, I said all that to say this:
Asthmatics, is there something special about cigarette smoke that makes it insanely more irritating than other kinds of smoke? The asthmatics I’ve met, besides my housemate, who have a problem with smoke always specifically say “cigarette smoke”. (And then there are all the people who claim to be “allergic” to cigarette smoke. Just like I was “allergic” to broccoli as a child.) Is cigarette smoke really the only smoke that bothers y’all? Or do you only mention it because it’s the only kind of smoke you feel that you can do something about? I’m not trying to be an ass here - I honestly want to know. Do you feel like you can’t do anything about cars belching smoke, or forest fires, or factories, so you complain about smokers because you can?
And my second question, which I brought up in my opening paragraph: is it the smoke itself that aggravates your asthma, or does the lingering smell, sans smoke, honestly aggravate asthma? Or is this just an issue of not liking the smell, and the asthma becoming an excuse to complain? I have a hard time accepting that the mere smell, in the absence of actual smoke particles, causing a problem. I’ve known asthmatics who have difficulty with perfume and cologne when it is freshly applied, but no problem with the same fragrance once it has dried.
Another point - years ago, I worked shoulder-to-shoulder with a man, indoors, for several months before he found out I was a smoker. He was a healthy non-smoker, with a healthy sense of smell, and he never smelled a thing. He did not know I was a smoker until one day when he actually saw me with a lit cigarette in my hand. He was quite surprised. So I find it hard to believe that my housemate, who is more than 20 years older now than that other man was, has so much more acute sense of smell.
So, asthmatics, am I really doing something that honestly aggravates my housemate’s asthma (honest-to-goodness medical issue), or is he freaking out over nothing (using his condition as an excuse).
In the meantime, I’m going to stick a pinch between my cheek and gum and not smoke at all for a few days. And not tell him. If he continues complaining, I’ll know what’s up.