What Would a Humanist Do? Can I Ask My Neighbor to Stop Blowing Smoke?

Photo by Aman Upadhyay on Unsplash

What Would a Humanist Do? offers multiple opinions on the same question. What exactly qualifies as a humanist problem, readers often ask. Our answer: humanists are committed to being good without a God, but sometimes they need a little advice on how to pull it off.

Q: I live in a non-smoking building. For weeks, I have been dealing with the inflow of cigarette smoke stink into my apartment. I believe it’s because my neighbor is smoking very close to my front door, which isn’t really sealed properly, and the smoke is leaking into my intake vent just behind the front door. It’s gotten so bad that a partner has pointed out all of my clothes and my hair smell like smoke long after I’ve left my apartment. Needless to say, I’ve become pretty exasperated with the situation and am desperate to have it addressed. However, I’m also well aware that everyone is very stressed out these days and people are fully entitled to cope with that stress by smoking in their own homes. How can I address this issue with my neighbor (who I’ve never spoken to before) in a way that avoids ill-will yet addresses the issue of the undesirable stench in my apartment?


The first option is to speak to the person directly, kindly letting him or her know that the cigarette smoke is negatively affecting you. Use “I” statements and speak to the smoker when you are in a calm state. They may just move to a different area to smoke and you may make a new friend. The second option is to bring the issue to the landlord and let them sort it out. Keep in mind, you may need to do the latter even if you do speak to the neighbor directly, because they may not stop smoking close to your apartment. Either way, everyone should be comfortable in their own home.

—Anna Clay, member services assistant

As much as cigarette smokers deserve to cope, doing so should not be to the detriment of others. You are entitled to a smoke-free apartment. Having a respectful confrontation with the smoker to discuss alternative areas for their reprieve should be your first step. You both have a similar desire to keep smoke out of your respective apartments. Start with that premise and you should be able to work out an understanding with your neighbor to have them move their smoking someplace else.

If that doesn’t work and the neighbor is unconcerned with how their actions impact you, then report them to the landlord, building manager, etc.

—Andrew Hulett, legal fellow

Smokers need to be respectful and considerate of their habit, especially since a vast majority of people, especially in cities, do not smoke anymore (not that the transition to vaping made things any better health-wise).

Being friendly in your request is important in order to not rub your neighbor the wrong way—maybe bond over the landlord or property management company being tough to deal with, if that’s the case, or compare quarantine challenges. Give them some insight into how their smoking impacts your apartment situation, and point out the position of the intake vent. If it helps, share how you end up smelling like cigarette smoke and even that you’re concerned about inhaling it secondhand. Most people will be empathetic, if not embarrassed, that they imposed that on a stranger.

—Sam Gerard, communications associate

For humanist advice from multiple perspectives on all manner of situations, please send your question to wwhd@americanhumanist.com.