Was it a stop or a "stop"?
May 6, 2008 9:07 AM   Subscribe

How long until the smell of cigarette smoke doesn't appear on breath?

I've been dating my girlfriend for almost a year. We're talking about moving in together and I said that the one thing holding me back is her smoking. She concealed her smoking from me when we first started dating because she knew I was a non-smoker, so I don't feel that I'm suddenly deciding she should stop smoking. She agreed to work on stopping smoking and proudly exclaimed that she quit a couple of weeks ago. The problem is that when she sleeps over within a few hours her breath and hair smell of smoke.

I've never smoked and don't even know a lot of smokers let alone people in the process of quitting so I don't know if it just takes a while before the odor works its way out of the nooks and crannies in the nasal cavity.
posted by substrate to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
 
She didn't quit. Speaking from being in your shoes.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:12 AM on May 6, 2008


You can get the smell of smoke in your hair by just being around smokers. But if her breath smells of smoke, yeah, she's still smoking.

When I smoked, I found that the terrible taste in my mouth went away after about three days of not smoking. I don't know if other people could smell or taste it on me, but I could taste it for about three days.
posted by workerant at 9:17 AM on May 6, 2008


She's still smoking, but I think if she's hiding it from you, there should be more than one thing holding you back from living together.
posted by razzman at 9:20 AM on May 6, 2008


Smokers are addicts (yes, I'm a smoker). If a smoker isn't ready to stop smoking, and you start pressuring them to quit, they'll just go underground with it. You said she couldn't move in until she quit, so she "quit" being open with you about it. It's your decision what you want to do about it, but the old "it's it or me" argument will bite you in the ass later. If you smell it on her breath, she's smoking.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:25 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


She didn't quit. Speaking from being in ~her~ shoes.

If I'm reading your question properly and she doesn't smell like smoke when she first comes over and it pops up a few hours later? She's still smoking.
posted by oreonax at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2008


Look, she still smokes. Do not nag her about it. Can you come to an agreement where she can smoke but just not in the apartment/house? Quitting smoking is hard, and the only way it's ever successful is if the person wants to quit. I don't meant wants to quit == cold turkey. One can want to quit and use cessation aids to successfully quit. Anyway, none of that is up to you or your decision. Compromise on the location of her smoking and see if she'll agree to changing clothes, brushing teeth, or showering before going to bed or going out somewhere.
posted by pieoverdone at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Her hair shouldn't smell of smoke after a shampooing, and her breath should stop smelling of smoke after three-to-five days. I'd agree with the posters above; she hasn't quit.

That said, nicotine is a bitch of a habit to break, and does unpleasant things to your mental processes when you're trying to quit. Give her some wiggle room on this, let her tell you she's quit when she's only just cut down. If she's committed to this she'll make it all the way eventually but confronting her when she's only half-ready won't be constructive on any level.

/quitting smoking
posted by lekvar at 9:50 AM on May 6, 2008


Don't feel like you have to move in with her if she hasn't quit. You are within your rights not to want to live with a smoker. Offer to help her find resources to quit.
posted by fructose at 10:23 AM on May 6, 2008


Offer to help her find resources to quit.

Not unless she specifically asks for them.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:40 AM on May 6, 2008


Right, she's definitely still smoking. By the way, just because you're a non-smoker doesn't mean she has to quit. You're more of an anti-smoker if you believe "I don't smoke, so you can't either." Having been the smoking half in a relationship with a non-smoker, I'm eternally grateful that the SO was understanding about it and didn't pressure me to quit despite believing (correctly) that it's bad for me. In return, I never felt like I had anything to hide and could always be truthful, and moderated the smoking when I was around him so that he didn't have to breathe it in if he didn't want to.

So if it's the smell you can't deal with, you can suggest that she try staying outdoors a bit longer to let the smell air out, keeping her hair tied back, and breath mints and body splash.

If it's the smoking that's bothering you, which she's doing so sneakily that you can't even tell she's smoking other than the smell afterwards, you may want to reevaluate your hierarchy of things that are important to you: not smoking or her.
posted by reebear at 10:54 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


FWIW you might think about whether it is the smoker or just the smoke itself you don't want to live with.

If you just don't want to live with a person who smokes (for whatever reason) then your decision is clear.

If on the other hand you would like to live with the person but just don't want to be exposed to the smoke, there are some groundrules you could lay down. Like, no smoking inside the house/apartment ever (even when you're not there), no smoking near doors/windows (the smoke invariable drifts inside), no smoking in your car. Etc. Etc.

(Do keep in mind that the smoker tends to think they can smoke in the house or car, then just open the window for a while and all is well. They don't realize that the nonsmoker's nose is quite literally 1000X more sensitive to the smell than theirs is. They also don't realize that tobacco smoke permeates everything, like clothes, carpet, upholstery, etc., and a non-smoker can smell it in those places quite easily. I'm not pointing this out as some kind of dig towards smokers but just as a heads-up about some of the issues you will have to think through to make this work from both ends.)

Details aside, the point is that perhaps you can separate out the issue you actually care most about (not being exposed to high concentrations of smoke yourself) and come to an arrangement about that precise issue that both of you can live with.

Then the whole issue of whether she herself is smoking or not can be out in the open, not something she feels the need to hide. Your relationship will be far better off if your attitude can be, "I'll do what I can to support **you** in your effort to quit smoking if that is what you want, but I'll love you just the same no matter what" (and that last bit must include, that you'll love her just the same whether she ever quits smoking or not).

And if your attitude just can't be something like that, then it probably is better to just move along. Because as others have said above, quitting smoking isn't that easy or simple. People stop and re-start, sometimes many times. Some never do quit despite lots of trying. So if the situation is as you describe you have to be prepared to accept the possibility she never will be able to quit.
posted by flug at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2008


Totally seconding flug here. I was in a similar situation as the smoker. My gf was very strident in insisting that I stop smoking. It was, ultimately, corrosive to the relationship. I made an honest effort to stop smoking but failed. From that point on, I was constantly lying and hiding to keep from having a miserable conversation about my smoking. If you cannot accept your girlfriend even if she does struggle with quitting or even if she doesn't quit, it is better to break it off. Otherwise, you will end up in situations where she feels like she has to lie and you resent her for it. It's a no win situation.
posted by MasterShake at 11:30 AM on May 6, 2008


If her hair/breath starts to smell within a few hours of her coming over then she's not just still smoking, she's smoking in your home (which is way worse to be lying about IMO)... surely you would notice this though? Does she sneak off/excuse herself and then come back smelling of smoke? The smell will be strongest just after she's had a cig and then fade, is this what you're experiencing or does the smell seems to gradually get stronger? Maybe you're imagining it because you suspect she's still smoking?
posted by missmagenta at 11:39 AM on May 6, 2008


You can't make her quit smoking, but she can't make you move in with a smoker. You have to decide whether it's a deal breaker for you, because even if she quits smoking to get you to move in, there's nothing to stop her returning to cigarettes after you are settled.
posted by happyturtle at 12:11 PM on May 6, 2008


What missmagenta said... My boyfriend smokes outside, about 1/2 pack a day, and only smells of smoke for 30 minutes afterwards at the most.
posted by herbaliser at 12:51 PM on May 6, 2008


Some people 'quit' and then repetitively slip. For some reason, they think that they're not smoking, even though they are. I think it's because it's an addiction, and any falsehood you can believe about your behaviour with an addiction, you will. She might actually think she's quit and not lying, just 'slipping' every now and then (like 3 or 4 times a day). If it's much less than she's been smoking, she may well feel good about it.

The annoyance of living with a short-tempered quitting person doesn't end. The quit isn't complete in a nice 3 or 6 weeks (or 3 months), it just stretches into infinity while they constantly deal with withdrawal, and denial.
posted by b33j at 2:49 PM on May 6, 2008


She's still smoking.

The thing with smoking is this: yes, it is addictive, and yes there is some evidence that it is bad for your health. I am a smoker and I know it's bad for me because I get winded relatively easily. And from the times I've quit I know that it smells bad and makes your teeth yellow and gets everywhere and other people whinge about it a lot. I have to admit that I get quite amused, however, by passersby who let out a big fake cough when they see I've got a cigarette in my hand. This has happened to me a few times when the cigarette hasn't even been lit. But I'm getting off-track.

Some of us, in the end, simply enjoy smoking. We like sucking down the tar and letting a little bit of the smoke drift out of our mouths so we can whiff it up through our nostrils and the roll-your-owners enjoy the preparatory ritual and pipe smokers enjoy looking worldly and learned. We know it's bad for us and that busybodies disapprove of us doing it but we've weighed up the pros and the cons and have decided that the pros of smoking outweigh the cons.

I think what I am trying to say is that a lot of times, life is shitty enough for most of us to not need somebody giving us a lot of hassle about smoking, and if it's that big of a deal to you then you should dump her and move on. It's really not any of your business what she does with her body or her money and with, one could argue, the rest of society giving her disapproving looks, the last thing she needs or wants are for those same looks to be coming from her boyfriend. The cohabiting thing makes it a slightly different story however but there's this thing I was reading about recently in Time magazine, I think they called it "outdoors": do her a favour and get her a nice comfy chair, a little table, and an ashtray. Or upend a fucking milk crate, I don't care.

Bugging her constantly about quitting is only going to get her cranky and depressed and give her a guilt complex and I'm not entirely convinced that that's a winning recipe for a healthy relationship. She's still smoking and you're forcing her to lie about it instead of accepting this habit as part-and-parcel (what does that term even mean?) of her character, which is what makes her a unique individual. She apparently has other characteristics you enjoy and it's obvious you're not that much of a strident anti-smoker or you wouldn't have dated her in the first place so my advice to you is either split up or shut up.

(Reading through this, some of it sounds quite hostile, but please don't take it personally.)
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:41 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Almost no one has answered your question yet, that I can see.

The answer is: an hour or two, if the smoker rinses their mouth and gargles after a cigarette.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:50 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks to the helpful folks. I realize that I don't understand how hard quitting smoking is. I don't have a problem with working towards smoking cessation, I just wanted to know what the probability was that she was still smoking.
posted by substrate at 6:23 AM on May 7, 2008


I'm sorry, but why don't you just ask her if she has been smoking or not? If you can't have an honest conversation that doesn't turn into a fight (even given the withdrawal she's going through -- even if she's still smoking), you're not ready to move in together.
posted by salem at 2:20 PM on May 7, 2008


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