When your friend’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”

Published: November 7, 2010 | Last Updated: November 7, 2010 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

My friend came back from a semester abroad and picked up "social smoking". How do I get her to stop? What should I say?




Dear Non-Smoker,

It is difficult when friends pick up habits we don’t approve of or engage in behaviors that are harmful to themselves. Finding a balance between being a good friend and a "pesky" one is hard.


As you know, college is a time for self-exploration and discovery. That said no one wants to see a friend smoke when everyone knows it is harmful to the smoker as well as those around them.


Tell your friend once, clearly and calmly, you do not like her smoking. She knows it is unhealthy for her so gently remind her that it is unhealthy for you (and anyone else) to be around. Let her know she is not allowed to smoke in your car, apartment or dorm room.


Have this conversation only once because you can be certain she is getting the same message from other friends and family. Too many complaints and she is likely to stop listening. Because many bars, restaurants and other public places do not allow smoking, you (and she) have an advantage. When you are out with her and she wants to step outside to smoke do not agree to go with her. Enough times huddled outside in the cold alone can turn social smoking into lonely smoking. Once the social aspect is diminished her interest in smoking is likely to diminish as well.


***This Q & A also appeared on Her Campus, an online magazine for college women that individualizes its content college-by-college Written entirely by the nation’s top college journalists, Her Campus serves as a hub for everything college women need to know today.

Previous posts on The Friendship Blog concerning risky behaviors:

An Open Letter to Lindsay Lohan: You need the right kind of friends

Taking a gamble on a friendship

A friend who drinks too much

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Comments (2)

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  1. Irene says:

    Thanks for posting such wise and thoughtful comments!



  2. Hadyn Thomas says:

    I wish you luck with this one. I have never been a smoker but I have a lot of friends who are and believe me they can be quite militant about people like us. There is a very fine line between concerned friend and interfering busy-body.

    In England and Wales it is illegal to smoke in public buildings, which makes it difficult for them and they have to go smoke outside – yes, even in the rain. This has not stopped them from smoking and when I refuse to stand outside I certainly get some comments and looks. If you can stand your ground you may be successful in seeing her change her mind about smoking but I would not expect it to happen fast.

    From personal experience I have found that the more you criticise it or point out the harms of smoking the more adamant they are to continue and usually they scoff you.

    I agree with the advice you have been given concerning telling her once and leaving it at that. Also, never let her smoke in your place. As crazy as it is smoking is not viewed the same as alcoholism or drug abuse by those who smoke. My friends tell me they know it is not good for them but they do not care and they certainly do not care that people like you and I hate it.

    With her being young and at college she may well grow out of it, especially when she realises that there is nothing sociable about blowing smoke at people, making us all cough and smell bad.

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