What to do when everyone around you smokes
Read about how to deal with everyone around you smoking.
Written by Maria Hogan
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
If everyone around you smokes, you might find you are tempted to start smoking or to start again after giving it up. Research shows that those whose parents smoke are twice as likely to smoke as people whose parents don’t smoke. People might also be influenced by school, college or work friends who smoke as well.
What others do around us influences us, sometimes without us even realising it at the time. It can be tough if you’re being affected by other people’s smoking habits, but that doesn’t mean you have to smoke yourself. There are some things you can do to keep yourself from developing a smoking habit yourself.
How to deal with everyone around you smoking
If you’ve grown up with people around you smoking and you’ve never smoked, well done. If you do smoke but have given up, well done too. People who have grown up where their family or community around them smokes, are at a higher risk of smoking. It can be difficult to resist falling into this pattern. Here are some things you can do.
Make rules about smoking at home
If people in your family or housemates smoke try to negotiate healthy boundaries about smoking at home. Most smokers won’t have a problem with stepping outside for a cigarette. It’s been against the law to smoke in public buildings and workplaces for quite a while now so a lot of people don’t think that smoking indoors is a good idea.
Smoking residue lingers in the house as smoke from cigarettes clings to curtains, material furniture etc. If people start smoking outside, or only in particular rooms, the house will be a nicer place for everyone. Smoking indoors is also a fire hazard.
If people refuse to, try to have smoke free areas such as the kitchen or upstairs.
Discuss your concerns about exposure to second hand smoke. Passive smoking, inhaling someones second hand smoke, has a lot of the same negative consequences as smoking. If you live with housemates who won’t stop smoking inside you could consider talking to the landlord about it. It might also be an idea to start looking for a new house. Try to prioritise your health.
Have a conversation with friends or family about smoking
Talk to your friends or family about why you don’t want to smoke or be exposed to secondhand smoke. They might not have thought about the effects that their smoking has on you. Let them know that passive smoking is dangerous to you, as well as smoking being harmful to them.
Try to be respectful to them but let them know that they should respect you and your right to health.
Avoid situations where people are smoking
This is probably easier if your friends smoke than if your family or housemates do. If you are in the process of quitting, try to stay away from people who smoke as much as possible, especially at the beginning. Ask your friends and family to support you on your QUIT journey and goal to live a smoke free life. Your motivation and determination might encourage them to think about their own smoking habit.
If you are on a night out and people all want to go for a cigarette, ask your friends to take it in turns going to the smoking area so you can stay inside. Your friends should respect your choice not to be around smoke.
If you find that your friends won’t do that, or that nights out in general trigger cigarette cravings, you may need to avoid them for a while. When you stop smoking, cravings reach a peak around 72 hours and have generally subsided by about 2 weeks. However, people can experience cravings for about 4-6 weeks after quitting. It’s can be easy to relapse during this time. Try to be particularly careful to avoid being around smokers.
Read more about how to deal with withdrawal from smoking here.
If you never smoked but don’t want to be around second hand smoke it’s perfectly fine to ask your friends not to smoke around you too.
Remind yourself why you don’t smoke
Cancer, heart disease, lung disease, digestive diseases and negative mental health effects are just some of the consequences of smoking. If you have made the effort not to smoke remind yourself of these things if you get tempted. One in two smokers will die of a tobacco related disease and every cigarette you smoke takes five and a half minutes off your life.
Read more about the benefits of quitting smoking.
If you are in a situation where people are smoking and you don’t want to smoke or you don’t want to breathe in second hand smoke, leave. You don’t need to explain yourself if you don’t want to. If you are dealing with cigarette cravings you can follow the four Ds.
- Distract- focus on something else
- Delay- don’t do anything about the craving
- Deep breathing- Take 20 deep belly breaths
- Drink water- drink a cold glass of water
A craving peaks 2-3 minutes and lasts approximately 3-5 minutes. It will pass. Stay Strong.
Once the person has stopped smoking you could explain to them that you would rather they don’t smoke around you.
Spend time with people who don’t smoke
It might seem like everyone smokes but that’s not true. If everyone you know smokes you could try to get to know people who don’t. If you are interested in health and fitness look out for a sports club or fitness class in your area. If you are interested in other things you could look online or in your local library for groups or clubs in your area.
Have a look at our piece about how to meet people and make new friends for more ideas.