Smoking Etiquette

How can you politely ask someone to stop smoking?

Trent Armstrong
4-minute read
Episode #120

I think we can all agree that smoking is a polarizing topic. Non-smokers are likely to have a very strong opinion about where and when someone should be able to smoke. And smokers are likely to feel they should not be harassed for smoking.

Your Modern Manners Guy is not here as judge. I'm only here to get everyone on the same page with the manners of smoking.

How Should Smokers React to Comments from Non-Smokers?

Smokers, let me address you first and ask for something really big. Please be patient with non-smokers. Most non-smokers don't realize that smoking is actually very difficult to stop and that many smokers don't actually want to stop. When a non-smoker rudely asks, "Why in the world would you smoke?" please don't extinguish your cigarette on that person. He or she needs a slight paradigm shift. Be gracious and do your best to diffuse the situation, even if you allow the non-smoker to think they won the confrontation. A negative response from you will only prove what this person already thinks-- that smokers don't care about others. You know that's not the case, so prove them wrong.

How to React When Someone Asks You to Stop Smoking

Also, if you are smoking around others and someone approaches you to politely request that you put your cigarette out, don't sweat it. Put out your smoke or just move to another location. Either response is easy, and your reaction to their politeness will reinforce polite behavior in them. And it's better for everyone if people are encouraged to be more polite.

How to Be a More Polite Smoker

Smokers, be aware of your surroundings. The world doesn't revolve around you. Non-Smokers, the world doesn't revolve around you either.


I encourage smokers to consider that the smoke doesn't just disappear when it leaves your area.  Smoking on your balcony or in your backyard is a perfectly acceptable practice unless you realize your neighbor is having a party in their backyard or is enjoying a pleasant day with their windows open. When you see that your smoke will drift into the area of the party or you hear your neighbor shutting their windows, your grown-up responsibility is to extinguish your cigarette or move to another location. If you want to raise the manners bar, head over to your neighbor's home, politely apologize, and let them know they are clear to open their windows again. Your neighbor will be amazed and your stock will rise.

Manage Your Cigarette Butts Responsibly

My final request to smokers is that you manage your cigarette butts responsibly. I hope you wouldn't tell your kid to throw his or her candy wrapper on the street, and so you shouldn't flick your cigarette butt out the window of your car--or drop it anywhere on the ground, frankly. Cars are equipped with an ashtray. And trash cans and butt receptacles are everywhere, at least here in the United States. Just fully extinguish the fire before putting the butt into a waste bin. It's not going to be too much of a burden on you to hang on to your butt for a bit until you find an appropriate receptacle.

How Should Non-Smokers Treat Smokers?

Now, non-smokers, listen carefully. Smokers are much like you in that they are not interested in being yelled at. It is none of your business why they smoke. In fact, asking such a rude question would be similar to asking someone why they are so overweight or why they have such horrible children. Those kinds of questions are not polite.

And unless someone was born and raised on Pluto, they are probably aware of the health risks associated with smoking. They do not need you to tell them. You know that it's bad to crash your car into a swimming pool. Imagine how it would make you feel if you did so only to have someone approach you again and again to tell you what a bad idea it is to crash your car into a pool. You would not be very happy with that person.

Smokers and Non-Smokers Can Share the World

Just because you, the non-smoker, are in a location doesn't make that location "smoke free". Do not tell someone who is smoking in a designated smoking area to stop smoking. Should you, however, find yourself in tight quarters with someone who is smoking, or in a public location where someone's smoking is bothering you, humbly and politely ask them to put their cigarette out. Say something like, "I'm sorry to bother you and make this request, but would you please put your cigarette out? I would be very grateful." Raising your voice and making demands will not get you very far. Also, passive-aggressively hacking and coughing loudly to try and get your point across is not mannerly. It will annoy everyone around you and make you look silly. Oh, and it will probably make the smoker want to light up another cigarette when he or she is done.

How to Ask Someone Not to Smoke at Your Party

I received a Facebook question about how to ask your party guests to not smoke. The best approach is a quick and polite approach. Don't notice your guests lighting up and fret over it for five minutes. Immediately approach your friends and, in a matter-of-fact voice, request that they extinguish their cigarettes. Add a "thank you" and continue on with the party like it was not a big deal. Those who do smoke should never assume that it's okay to smoke in someone's car, home, or yard. Always ask your host, but do so with a humble attitude and be ready to accept no as an answer.


Smokers, be aware of your surroundings. The world doesn't revolve around you. Non-Smokers, the world doesn't revolve around you either. We can each adjust to the situation and treat each other with humility and respect. When each of us makes an effort to be polite to those around us, we will find ourselves in fewer uncomfortable situations. And you never know, our manners just might rub off on those around us.

Thank you for joining me for this installment of The Modern Manners Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Polite Life.

If you have any comments or questions, send them to manners@quickanddirtytips.com and let me know what's on your mind. You should also join the discussion over on my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter! Stop by and get involved!

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