Kisses are nicer when they don't taste like Camels
October 15, 2009 3:43 PM   Subscribe

How can I let my new guy know I don't like him smoking without turning into an unpleasant nag?

I'm newly in a relationship with a great guy. I like just about everything about him, except for the fact that he smokes. It makes him smell bad, and it's disruptive to our time together when he has to get up every hour or two to go out and smoke.

At this point, it's not a deal breaker for me; I don't want to issue any ultimatums. I saw my mother try to quit smoking for years; I know it was incredibly hard, and I know pressure from the people who loved her was the farthest thing from helpful. I don't want to cause my guy that kind of angst. I also don't want him to feel he has to hide his smoking from me.

I just want to let him know, in the most respectful, supportive way I can, that I would be happier if he quit smoking. His health and his finances are his business, and I know he knows the damage smoking can do to them. But kissing a smoker and having our evenings fractured are my business, and I don't think he knows how much I dislike it.

tl;dr: I don't want to make him quit. I just want to let him know there are some new reasons he might consider quitting. How do I walk the fine line of telling him that without pushing him?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ask him if he has any intentions to quit. If so, offer full support, and basically say what you said here. If not, ask yourself if you want to be with a smoker or not.
posted by nitsuj at 3:45 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Sounds like a job for Greeting Card Emergency.
posted by Cogito at 3:45 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

You don't. Sorry. It's a brand new relationship and you're introducing a negative. It's either a dealbreaker or it's not; you have no right to try and change him.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 3:46 PM on October 15, 2009 [18 favorites]

By the way, some of that crap you're spouting is seriously passive aggressive. I say this with the best of intentions and as someone who abhors the smell of cigarettes - you're going to fuck this up if you keep on with this approach.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 3:47 PM on October 15, 2009

From my experience, as a non smoker dating with smoking girls; Most of the times after it gets to a serious level and loving feelings from both sides have been expressed, they will try to reduce it by themselves.

Good Luck.
posted by Sentus at 3:50 PM on October 15, 2009

New relationship time is really not a great time for this. I date a smoker and I sort of thought I never would but he's great and it's not a huge concern for me right now. The things that do matter to me -- smoking in my house, the total time suck, smoking in my car, messy tobacco all over the place -- we've dealt with independently and make routines that work for both of us. So I'm a frequent email/mefi checker and he'll go smoke while I do that. He picks up after himself. He doesn't smoke in my house or his house when I'm there. So if I were you, I'd focus on the things you don't like and talk about those "Hey could you not interrupt what we're doing to go smoke?" "Hey do you mind brushing your teeth before I kiss you after you've smoked?" and then he can sort of decide what he wants to do about this.

I agree with CPH though, it sounds like you're already seeing this as a "if he doesn't quit, it's over" situation and that's sounding like it's not going to be a workoutable situation. All smokers know they "should" quit at some level and they decide not to for various other reasons. I've definitely seen people for whom a specific special someone was that reason, but not often. It's not just a habit for most people, it's more of a lifestyle and it's often not compatible with the lifestyles of many non-smokers.
posted by jessamyn at 3:51 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

You will never be able to get him to quit. He'll only do it when he's ready to himself. If he does try for your benefit, it will only be a short time before he's sneaking them in the car and eventually back to his regular habit. Trying to change a habit like this in someone else will only cause mutual resentment and end the relationship.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:52 PM on October 15, 2009

Smokers know the reasons they should quit. They know that cigarettes are harmful to their health and expensive; you wouldn't be shedding light on the subject for him at all. If it's not a deal breaker, don't bring it up.
posted by Aleen at 3:58 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

You are not being rational about this. "It's disruptive to our time together when he has to get up every hour or two to go out and smoke" -- come on, you pee, don't you?
posted by kmennie at 4:04 PM on October 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

Talk to him, saying everything you've written here. This is clearly important to you and can affect the relationship, so it deserves to be on the table and frankly discussed. Trying to "walk a line" isn't really good for a relationship, especially a new one. Get it started right by being frank and honest with each other.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:04 PM on October 15, 2009

When we first met, my husband said something to the effect of "blech, smoking is nasty, I don't want to kiss anyone who smokes."

I quit 10 days after our first date. That was 5 years ago.
posted by desjardins at 4:28 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

I started dating the man who is now my husband ten years ago. He was a pack and a half to two pack a day smoker. I am extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke (smoking bars and nightclubs can make me cough to the point of almost passing out), and when we started dating I set out two primary boundaries: first, I wasn't willing to kiss him after he smoked without a brushing of teeth, etc, and second, I really needed him to not smoke while around me. I didn't make any demands, nor did I try to change what he did on his own time.

On December 4th, 1999 Mr. Concolora stopped smoking because he preferred hanging out (and smooching) with me than smoking. He'd been looking for a real reason to quit, and I was that reason for him. I'm not saying that this is the path everyone should follow, or even that this is the 'right' path. However, he has said that if I hadn't set some firm boundaries regarding smoking, he probably wouldn't have been able to stop the way he did. He's been cigarette-free for almost ten years now. :)

Talk to him, and set some boundaries for smoking *around you*. See where things go from there.
posted by Concolora at 4:30 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

I just want to let him know, in the most respectful, supportive way I can, that I would be happier if he quit smoking.

He already knows that...every person on the planet that doesn't smoke has made that clear to him one way or another. He will very likely cut down or even quit if you don't make this into a big issue - but weighing in right now with the "I'm not telling you what to do...but" is not going to be the thing to convince him. If you truly believe that this is not a deal breaker for you, then you need to let it go.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:32 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Buy him a nice e-cigarette starter kit?
posted by Clytie at 4:33 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

To elaborate: expressing your opinion is not pushing someone. You have every right not to do something you find distasteful. He has every right to smoke. The two may not be compatible, but I do not think you are out of line in asking him not to smoke around you. He may well say no - perhaps that is his dealbreaker. In my case, I decided the guy was worth it, and his objection to it provided a good motivator for quitting. In fact, it still does, because when I'm tempted, I refrain primarily because it'd cause a lot of household strife. The old canard about the person has to quit for themselves and not for someone else is bullshit. If I hadn't met him, if I'd met another smoker instead, I'd almost definitely still be smoking.
posted by desjardins at 4:35 PM on October 15, 2009

Honestly, he probably already knows you hate that he smokes.
posted by orange swan at 5:52 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've smoked for over a decade. You telling me that you don't like my smoking is not going to impel me to quit, as I already know that you don't like my smoking.

What it will do is expose a level of friction in the relationship that I already knew was there, and eventually lead to the ultimatum sequence of, "It's either me or the smoking." To which I will respond that I chose you, but my behavior will tell you that I have chosen the smoking. I actually don't get a choice about the smoking.

If the smoking is a deal breaker, get out of the relationship. If it isn't, saying anything will only add a level of friction. Of course, your boyfriend could be a completely different person than I am.
posted by 517 at 6:19 PM on October 15, 2009

How about asking him to clean his teeth EVERY SINGLE TIME he asks for a kiss. (You could also include a quick mouth and hand wash).

As for interrupting your time together.... if it's in the middle of a movie, or in a post lurve-making cuddle... I'd support your annoyance. Otherwise, he probably just as disappointed to leave your side as you are to lose him... or quite enjoys five minutes of alone time.

You can't make him stop, nor should you even suggest it. Really.

But it is reasonable to tell him you find the smell nauseating and would prefer not to smell it.

The way you might phrase it... "You're such good company and I really enjoy my time with you. You're a fabulous kisser and I could smooch you all day long. BUT I really can't pretend not to notice the smoker's breath any more. Can you get rid of it before we suck face? Thank you, you devilishly handsome man, you."
posted by taff at 7:57 PM on October 15, 2009

Oh... and what I mean by my above answer... that is the signal that you don't support his smoking but are not asking him to stop. Most smokers would tend to try to cut down and may even find this as an incentive to quit after a conversation like this. But you still can't ask him to quit. It's not your business. The affects of his smoking... yes, you can ask him to stop exposing you.

Best of luck possum. You devilishly handsome thing, you. ;-)
posted by taff at 8:00 PM on October 15, 2009

He's going outside to smoke? The only other thing he can do is use mints, chewing gum, and brush his teeth/wash his hands. Buy mints and chewing gum for him. He's doing what's reasonable. It's not at all clear that you will be able to tolerate dating a smoker.
posted by theora55 at 8:13 PM on October 15, 2009

As a former hard core and long term smoker who once had conflict over smoking seriously degrade a long past relationship, I nevertheless really disagree with the advice that you should just drop it. He should know that you are bothered by the smell and taste of smoking (I'd leave out the "disruption" issue though, the smoker is so inured to the schedule of requiring 5-10 minute breaks every 1-2 hours it is likely to seem like a petty complaint). Be explicit an tell him that you don't expect him to quit although you hope he is thinking about it (for his own sake) but you wanted him to know that it does make being with him a little less pleasant. My experience as a smoker was that I progressively accumulated this list of detriments that I took seriously (it's hard to get up in arms about dying ten years sooner or whatever when you're in your 20's). In my opinion it can't hurt to throw another potential point on that side of the balance. If he's too big of a baby to deal with hearing an honest statement of the negative impacts of his actions, better you find that out sooner than later.
posted by nanojath at 9:28 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

If smoking was important to you, you really should have told him that up front -- then he could have, like desjardins, made an informed decision.

It's too late for that now. You entered into a relationship with a smoker, and you didn't negotiate terms (like, "you must quit in five years," or "you must always brush your teeth after smoking"). So it is not okay, now, to hassle him -- and it is not in your interest, if you don't want him to hide his smoking from you. Applying subtle pressure, making him feel guilty, emoting your distaste, would be nagging, and not fair to him.

Having said that, I think it would be reasonable for you to bring it up once. Something like "I hadn't realized this would bother me, but it does. I don't think it's a dealbreaker, and I don't want to hassle you. But you doing these things (brushing teeth, not interrupting movies to go smoke) would make me happier. Just so you know."

I smoked for many years, sometimes while in relationships with non-smokers. I guarantee you that 1) he already knows you don't like it, 2) whether or not he quits probably won't have much to do with you, 3) nagging would make everything worse, and 4) the only decision you get to make is whether, ultimately, his smoking bothers you enough to break up with him.
posted by Susan PG at 11:26 PM on October 15, 2009

I quit 18 years ago when my then-girlfriend told me she didn't want to kiss me after I'd been smoking. I married her. There was no resentment on my part. She offered a choice, and it was my choice to make. I am glad I was off the smokes for so long.
posted by Xoebe at 1:59 AM on October 16, 2009

I don't want to make him quit.

You do want to make him quit, and it is a dealbreaker. You just want him to magically quit without having to push and risk losing him. So either ask him to quit, change your standards, or get out while you still can be friends.
posted by HFSH at 5:07 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

You do want to make him quit, and it is a dealbreaker.

Dump him. Sorry.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:44 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

What desjardins said.

When I was a smoker, in college, a guy I was dating pulled away from what I thought was a verrrry nice kiss, looked into my eyes and said, "Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray."

I quit.
posted by toastedbeagle at 7:24 AM on October 16, 2009

Could you get him interested in switching to the new smokeless electronic cigarettes? They vaporize nicotine without any fire/smoke. So he can still do the hand-to-mouth action and inhale his nicotine fix, but without the smell and secondhand smoke. They are legal to "smoke" inside because there is no actual smoke, just water vapor.

One of my smoker friends recently switched to electronic cigarettes and he thinks they are the greatest thing since sliced bread.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:50 PM on October 16, 2009

I was once dumped by a girl with whom a brand new relationship was shaping up very nicely. We were clearly attracted to each other. One of the reasons she gave for breaking it off was: "I just can't date a smoker again".

I would have, instead, appreciated some heads up warning that this was an issue, since I had always been only an occasional smoker. In fact, she probably saw me smoking a lot more often then normal because I was somewhat nervous, the relationship being very new.

Having been on the side of the smoker in this situation, some clear communication about the issue before being dumped would have been nice. Getting dropped hurt, of course, but most of all it came across as blindingly stupid. Being a smoker was far from what I would have considered the defining thing about me, and for me it would have been relatively easy to change.

So I would say you have to find a diplomatic and unambiguous way to tell this guy how you feel. Communication.
posted by yoz420 at 4:00 AM on October 17, 2009

I'm a smoker and I've learned that it's most harmonious for smokers to date smokers as well as it is, I'm sure, for non-smokers to date non-smokers.

In most instances, except one, the non-smokers I've dated have always had this hateful attitude towards my smoking which is unpleasant, to say the least, to live or be around.

The one exception was the love of my life who was a non-smoker and my smoking was always a total non-issue to him. He was always completely loving and never made any deal about it. It was awesome. There is a distinct difference in how non-smokers treat smokers and he was the one rare example of how all non-smokers should treat smokers.

I suggest you get a totally different and accepting, loving attitude about it or ask him if quitting is an option for him. Quitting is an option for some and definitely not for others.
posted by VC Drake at 1:21 PM on October 17, 2009

I've dated 2 guys who smoked. In both cases I said - "you know I hate smoking, but it's up to you - if we're just dating for a few months and it's nothing serious, you can smoke and we'll just avoid kissing while you still taste/smell like cigarettes, but if this is ever going to turn into anything more serious, such as dating for 6+ months/living together/marriage, then you're gonna need to quit."

One guy never quit and we broke up for other reasons several months later and he wasn't into me enough to even consider quitting for me. The other is working on quitting because he said it'd be so dumb if he missed out on being with me because of smoking.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:55 PM on December 27, 2009

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