I'd like to smoke outside, but I don't want to piss off the neighbors.
May 18, 2012 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Should I introduce myself to potential new neighbors to see if my outdoor cigarette smoking would bother them?

I found a condo I would like to rent. The condo owner does not allow smoking in the unit. I'm a smoker but the condo is so nice I am OK with smoking outside on the deck only. The decks for each condo unit are not attached to neighboring decks, they are about 10 feet apart. According to the property management company, the condo association has no restrictions about smoking on the back deck, but I'll read the HOA documentation once I receive it to make sure.

I'm still concerned that my outdoor smoking might still bother my potential future neighbors. The condo is great but if there is a chance that my smoking is going to cause problems, I'll just rent somewhere else.

Would it be weird if I knocked on their doors and introduced myself as a potential future tenant and asked them if my outdoor smoking would bother them?
posted by Rob Rockets to Home & Garden (37 answers total)
As a non-smoker, that sounds awesome.

For bonus points bring a bottle of wine or something.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:50 AM on May 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

That's certainly courteous. I think it would be very nice of you to do so even if not necessary.
posted by inturnaround at 8:54 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would not ask them in advance if it would bother them. I would ask them to please let you know if it bothers them. So much depends on the wind direction. On a nice day, with the deck windows open, your smoke could go into their condos--and for most non-smokers, this would be annoying. On another day, with a different wind, no problem.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:59 AM on May 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It seems like that would be a nice gesture, and a good ice-breaker for your potential new neighbors. And it would establish you as a conscientious sort of person in their eyes, thus allowing you more leeway with them in the future if you decide to start up a cock-fighting ring in your living room.
posted by Alonzo T. Calm at 8:59 AM on May 18, 2012 [9 favorites]

As a former smoker who is now very adverse to cigarette smoke, I would very much appreciate a knock on the door from you.

If the place is really that great, and you find out that your smoke would bother them, what if you just resolve to never smoke on the property? I once lived in a situation like this and the experience of disciplining myself to always take a walk down the street when I wanted a smoke was actually a very nice thing.
posted by TurkishGolds at 9:02 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

The thing is smokers are not bothered at all by cigarette smoke while nonsmokers are extremely bothered by cigarette smoke. That is a fact of life.

I don't what the law s where you are but here in Seattle, smoking is not allowed anywhere within 25 feet of an entrance to a building. If you count windows as an entrance, that would rule out smoking on your deck.

Unless you can devise a way to smoke where the smoke will not drift into someone else's living space.
posted by y2karl at 9:04 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it would be a nice gesture, and any potential neighbors would be appreciate it.

However think of this, the really nice sweet accommodating neighbor who you don't want to offend isn't going to be blunt and open about telling you they don't like it. They'd say "oh I can't see it being a problem" or something... maybe ask instead "would you notice my smoking on my balcony blowing into your open windows?" You can assume if cig smoke blows into their windows, they will smell it (and not like it.)

The A-hole who you wouldn't mind annoying is the one who would say "Yes, that bothers me very much, don't move in here smoker!"

Maybe phrase it like "I was wondering if the previous tenant smoked on their balcony, and if it was noticeable to you at all" or "I'm looking for a unit where I can smoke on the balcony, but if that bothers you I can choose a different unit in the building."

I know for me, even if I didn't like the smoke smell, knowing that I had a kind and conscientious neighbor who was willing to introduce himself and ask would be a pretty good trade-off.
posted by el_yucateco at 9:11 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: As a former smoker who now hates smoke, I'm with MoonOrb. I'd be grateful and impressed by your asking, and I'd say, yes, it would bother me. At the same time, I'd be wondering whether we're all getting too damn fussy about stuff.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 9:17 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

It would be a nice gesture - I can smell cigarette smoke from the opposite side of a city street, so a 10-foot distance is no distance at all. We once lived above a neighbour who liked to smoke outside, which meant we had to keep our windows and doors closed even on hot summer nights.

Personally, I would probably like to ask you not to smoke, but would be too polite to do so.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:25 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

You may find that your neighbors are smokers, in which case you can all bum ciggies from each other.

I think you are a very courteous person and were I your neighbor, I'd say, "go nuts, I'll let you know if it's bugging me". For examply, my Mother, and older lady with no filter will scream in a shrill voice, "Oh My GOD! What is with that stench?" So if she were planning a visit, I'd let you know.

You might find that your neighbors have a baby, or COPD, or something and your smoke would be a trigger. That would be a bummer.

I know you're a grown person, but think of all the money you'd save if you quit.

Just a thought, but you're a real mench for thinking of others when you don't really have to.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:29 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thing is smokers are not bothered at all by cigarette smoke while nonsmokers are extremely bothered by cigarette smoke. That is a fact of life.

This isn't universally true. Even when I did smoke I never liked the smell of second hand smoke. I was always okay with CA's smoking bans and more then happy to go outside.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:37 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's unusual, but a good idea. Even if your neighbors don't mind the smoke (I wouldn't unless it was coming in through my window), you introduce yourself, and you establish yourself as a considerate neighbor who probably won't go apeshit at awkward neighborly requests.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:39 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

So much depends on the wind direction. On a nice day, with the deck windows open, your smoke could go into their condos--and for most non-smokers, this would be annoying. On another day, with a different wind, no problem.

The problem I see is that he's going to want a smoke no matter which way the wind is blowing. So he has to find somewhere.
posted by smackfu at 9:56 AM on May 18, 2012

I think it's a great idea for your future neighbors, not so much for you, for the reasons already stated above. I also think if you take the condo you just do so with the plan of taking a walk when you want to smoke. Even if these neighbors don't care, the people that move in next door in 6 months might. Also, smoke blowing back into your condo over time might give the owners cause to believe you were smoking in the condo, which could involve a hefty financial penalty when they charge you to repaint.
posted by COD at 9:59 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm an ex-smoker, and I now have neighbors who smoke outside. I don't like it when they smoke right next to the fence when I have my daughter in the back yard, but all other times are fine. And I think talking to your neighbors about it is fantastic. That kind of outgoingness and civility is to be praised.

But you have to consider what your actions will be if it does bother them--will you never smoke on your balcony? Will you be watching like a hawk for when they go out, so you can creep stealthily to the balcony for a smoke? Will you have to install an elaborate system whereby they raise or lower a ladybug flag by their front door to indicate occupancy?

Anyway, I say ask them, but be prepared that they may say it'll bother them.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:12 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think asking would be a nice gesture, but like others say, be prepared for a yes it bothers us.

I'm a smoker, but I only smoke outside in my backyard. When I go out for a smoke, my neighbor who doesn't smoke just shuts her kitchen window. I lean over the fence to knock on her window to let her know I'm done. We agreed on that setup when we moved in. She doesn't mind, as long as butts are kept in a container and I don't burn our place down. There's even times when she's not home and her window is open, so I just go to the front of the house. To be an outdoor smoker, you just need to practice common courtesy.

She also really hates smoke, but realizes we all have a right to do what we want.
posted by Sweetmag at 10:20 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

while nonsmokers are extremely bothered by cigarette smoke. That is a fact of life.

This statement is overly broad and incorrect. I am a life long non-smoker and cigarette smoke doesn't bother me in the slightest.
posted by Bonzai at 10:24 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

And I was a smoker who absolutely hated secondhand smoke. I hate it even more now.

But I think this is a very polite thing to do. They might be weirdos who never open their windows or go on their patio, and so they'd never care. It's nice to suss out potential problems before you move in.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:33 AM on May 18, 2012

I'd think this was very, very nice. If you came and asked me this, I'd tell you that on warm evenings when we keep windows open and the kids are playing on the patio, I'd appreciate it if you didn't smoke out there, but that in winter it was probably fine. And I'd keep my eyes open for appropriate nearby spots to recommend to you where you could smoke in peace.

And your being so nice about it would stop me from calling the cops on your parties, etc :)
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2012

Best answer: I know I'm in the minority here, and while it's a nice gesture to think about your neighbors, I would suggest not bothering to ask, and either not moving in or not smoking on your balcony -- take a walk. Consider that the penalty for smoking in the first place, and also consider quitting.

The issue is that by asking, you're putting the onus on the neighbors to accept your stinky habit in perpetuity. Some people will be ok with saying "no", but some others may be too polite or honestly not realize the significance of what you're asking. In fact, I would say the third is the most common. You're obviously not going to play up the downsides. :-) You will get an inaccurate picture of how accepting they are of it. Especially if you're pulling out all the sales techniques, bottle of wine, or whatever.

If they say "yes", you will be taking advantage of them. In my experience, this kind of thing is a hassle because if one gives an inch, someone will take a mile, thinking all the while that they did their due diligence by puttng people on the spot by asking up front. I know (now) to say "no" or get a tremendous amount of clarification (it's easier just to say no, frankly).

It's a consistent pattern, even amongst the well-meaning. And it would do well for you to remember that even if someone says yes, they may say no later on when they realize how annoying experiencing 2nd hand smoke every day in their home really is.

tldr; you do not get a free pass by asking up front.
posted by smidgen at 11:07 AM on May 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'm in an unairconditioned apartment so my windows are open pretty much March-November (okay, I also like it cold) and I have relatively new downstairs neighbors who stand on their back fire escape directly under my windows and smoke. It makes my bedroom smell awful, makes me cough, and wakes me up if I'm asleep. I've never felt that I could ask them to stop because I don't know them. So if they'd come around early on and said "Hey, just FYI, I smoke, and if it bothers you please feel free to let me know and we'll work out a plan of some sort," I would have been really really happy.
posted by olinerd at 11:15 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I would actually advise against this, as smigen noted, the polite thing to say is that it doesn't bother you, even if it kind of does. If you were my friend and you moved in next to me, I'd totally tell you if it bothers me, but you'd be a complete stranger and it'd be weird for me to say yes it bothers me for you to do something you're completely within your rights to do.

I'd be more hesitant, and this could be from bad neighbor experience, in opening up a pathway of wanting a neighbor to change behavior that you're well within your right to do. I made the mistake of asking a known (or at least unknown to me), crazy neighbor if my music, played during the day, was too loud and that I would not mind putting the volume down. Her level of acceptable music was, none at all, including no television. This opened up a communication channel I would have rather left closed.

Instead, I would wait until you got to know your neighbors and if you felt they were avoiding using their deck, such as walking in when you walk out, don't say anything and simply move your smoking to outside the building, that would be a super nice, above and beyond move.

(Sorry I have a weird premonition that you ask a neighbor if smoking is okay, they say no, and you move outside to the front of the building and they complain to management that the front of the building then smells like smoke. Yes, this is what people who are crazy do.)
posted by geoff. at 11:42 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it's great of you to ask, but yes, be prepared for "Yes, it would bother me." I'm a former smoker, and second-hand smoke doesn't bother me as much as it does some non-smokers. Occasionally, when I have the windows open at home, I'll catch a whiff of the neighbor smoking. It only bothers me in that momentarily, I really want a cigarette. It passes. And, of course, since I have the windows open, the smell quickly dissipates.

Also, while I do notice it, it's no more offensive to me than when other smells drift in the window. Whether it's someone's cigarette smoke, a neighbor's burn pile or barbecue smoke, the lovely aroma of the bay when the tide is far out, diesel truck blowing a black cloud as it goes by... sure, these will all probably waft in through the window. I don't let it get to me, and certainly wouldn't raise an issue about it though, because hey--things happen outside, and if I want to have my windows open, that comes with the package.

Also, I realize that there are certainly things about me, whether I'm aware of them or not, that probably bother my neighbors, but they're gracious enough not to make a fuss over it. (The ratty part of the yard, the fence that needs repairing, the occasional loud music, and on and on.)
posted by xedrik at 12:19 PM on May 18, 2012

I agree with those who say that this is polite but probably ineffective. I think it'd be more effective to avoid smoking on the balcony when others are out there, unless they are also smoking. The chances of finding a place where everyone is in harmony about smoking is pretty rare - even in places that don't frown upon smoking.
posted by sm1tten at 12:56 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is very little chance a non-smoker is going to tell you they are not bothered by smoke. I smoked until a week ago and I have always hated second hand smoke smells. But the reality is that they can close their windows for seven minutes if they are bothered.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:33 PM on May 18, 2012

I agree with weapons-grade pandemonium above. I think the way to phrase this is more, "let me know if my smoking is bothering you" or "let me know if you're getting any smoke in your windows" or something like that. This avoids putting people on the spot, gives people who have serious problems with smoke an opportunity to say something, and also allows people who merely dislike cigarette smoke to gauge whether it's a problem before voicing their objections.

As a data point, I am a non-smoker but am not particularly bothered by occasionally smelling second-hand smoke, as long as it isn't stale or oppressively strong.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:06 PM on May 18, 2012

(As a P.S., I think the key to delivering that is going to be making sure it doesn't come off as "blase" and comes off more as "no, really, please tell me if it bothers you and I will absolutely smoke somewhere else without hesitation.")
posted by en forme de poire at 2:12 PM on May 18, 2012

But the reality is that they can close their windows for seven minutes if they are bothered.

I wish I lived near smokers like that. Here people will sit outside and smoke for hours and hours and so I've started to dread nice weather because even with all the windows shut my house reeks of smoke when they're out there hot-boxing.

I should say that the OP is nice to ask, but should consider just accepting that the odds are extremely high the people will say they'd prefer not to have smoking and plan for what that would mean.
posted by winna at 2:22 PM on May 18, 2012

I made the mistake of assuming that the term hot boxing was common. I mean lighting one cigarette off the still-burning remnant of the previous one and doing that for several full cigarettes. Apparently the young people now use it to refer to smoking marijuana cigarettes in an enclosed space. I add this ps for clarity.
posted by winna at 2:25 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think asking 1st invites people to be especially sensitive about it. If you really smoke a lot, then maybe, otherwise, I would smoke outside, dispose of butts properly, and run a fan in the summer when people have windows open. If there are times when you know smoke will waft into Unit 10's window, take a short walk and smoke.

I no longer smoke, and always disliked 2nd hand smoke, butts on the ground, and filthy ashtray smell (gahhh). But a small amount of smoke on an occasional basis is no big deal, esp. if I see that someone is trying to be considerate. Some of the people I know who are militant anti-smokers have what seems like a form of confirmation bias; they are highly sensitive to tobacco smoke only.

After a month or so, go check in with the neighbors on either side, to see how it's going with sound, smoke, etc, as well as to say hello.
posted by theora55 at 2:28 PM on May 18, 2012

If you asked me in advance, I'd say yes, because I wouldn't know for sure, and I'd rather not cause myself problems if it turned out to be an issue. "But you said it would be fine!" is not a line I want to hear in an argument later.

So, I wouldn't bother. Be prepared to mitigate your smoking if it is an issue later, but don't bring it up in advance, because you're just asking for trouble.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:21 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some of the people I know who are militant anti-smokers have what seems like a form of confirmation bias; they are highly sensitive to tobacco smoke only.

The people at my place who dislike cigarette are not fond of barbecue smoke, either, especially when people overdose with the charcoal lighter. Which is more often than not, unfortunately. We have at least three tenants with asthma.
posted by y2karl at 5:29 PM on May 18, 2012

I suffered severe asthma as a child of two heavy smokers ... but still I say, don't bother.

If there is no rule for you to smoke on the deck, you are not breaking any rules. Period.

And yeah, on some days the wind will blow your smoke into the neighbors yards, but that's life. Today at my apartment someone cooked something on the communal barbecue that smelled AWFUL. The other day a (presumably) woman had walked the halls with the most awful perfume on. What are you gonna do? It is one of the annoyances of sharing a living space with other people - if someone is THAT sensitive, they need to get a secluded house.

Furthermore, I'd probably be a bit annoyed that someone was knocking on my door to talk to me about something that is perfectly acceptable. Like if my neighbor came over and asked if it were okay to make chili one night. I'd be annoyed at having to open the door to say, "of course it is."

I would say, follow the rules, and be courteous. Don't smoke in or very close to any common areas. But if you're smoking outside, it should dissipate quite quickly. Again, I'm very sensitive to cigarette smoke - sometimes in the hallway I can smell people smoking in their apartments, but since they're no rule against that, I have no place to complain. However when one dude sits on the front steps of the entrance to our building, which is pretty enclosed, and smokes, THAT does annoy me.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 10:06 PM on May 18, 2012

How many units are there in the building? Is the side with the decks flat, or is the building circular? A friend of mine lived in a building with a circular open area into which all of the decks faced. Any sound or smell basically affected the whole building.

If I were you, I wouldn't start smoking on the deck right away. Evaluate what the smoking culture is there before you start smoking on the deck.

I don't know how you feel about cigars, but what if someone that smoked cigars moved right next to you and started smoking on their deck? Or someone that smoked weed?

I don't understand why smokers feel that they can inflict their habit on others. Smoke doesn't just magically disappear "on the breeze". Your building likely has noise restrictions. For the most part, unless at extreme levels, the effects of noise cease when the noise is turned off. But the after effects of smoking linger. Yet I am sure that you'd be pissed if someone moved next to you and started blasting some kind of music you hate in the evenings, even if it were only for 10 minutes or so.

What if you only smoked those electric cigarettes at home? That way, you get your fix without bothering anybody. I don't have a problem with using chemicals to alter one's body, just when people expect others to deal with the consequences.

So, I wouldn't bother asking, to reasons similar to above. I likely also wouldn't smoke on the deck. Why risk making enemies?

Unless, of course, the culture of the building is such that smoking on the deck is common and acceptable. Try to meet other smokers and ask them.
posted by reddot at 5:44 AM on May 19, 2012

I think asking 1st invites people to be especially sensitive about it.

This! As long as it is not against the rules, I see no issue. That's kind of part of the deal with renting in a large building, right? You never know what your neighbors will do.
posted by manicure12 at 12:37 PM on May 19, 2012

Response by poster: OP here, thanks for all the input! I marked a few of my favorite responses as best answer, but this is one of those AskMes where every answer is a best answer.

I'm still waiting for the HOA documents from the owner to review, so I have some time to think about what I'll do.
posted by Rob Rockets at 5:25 PM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: Check this out. Turns out I decided not to take this place, that was in May. One month later I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. In September I decided to quit smoking. Wow. Who knows what the future brings.

Since quitting smoking I feel better, and a who new class of rentals opens up to me.
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:00 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

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