Ask Amy: Non-smokers want smokers to butt out

Dear Amy: Recently an out-of-state couple moved into our neighborhood, due to being transferred by their workplaces.

These people are charming, but the problem is that they smoke.

Their clothes, their house and their cars smell like cigarettes.

The smell makes me nauseous.

The state we live in is basically a non-smoking state. You cannot even smoke on most beaches.

We invited this couple to our annual outdoor holiday party.

I dug out the “Please, no smoking” signs I had stored away and placed them in the outside planters.

When they arrived, they immediately lit up.

We greeted them and I politely pointed out the signs. They apologized and put out their cigarettes in the planters, (when they weren’t looking, I removed the butts). Within 10 minutes they left and smoked on the sidewalk next to our backyard.

The noxious smell carried into our party and clung to them when they returned.

Some guests commented about cigarettes, because it is a rare smell these days. They are planning a dinner at their home to thank us for the invitation.

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We suggested a restaurant, but the wife wants to cook a special meal for us and a few of the other neighbors.

As much as I like them, their smoking habit makes me literally sick and I do not want to pursue this friendship because of this habit.

My husband agrees, because the smell gives him a headache.

How do we decline?

Right now, we’re stalling.

Do we explain that cigarette smoke makes us ill?

— Reluctant Neighbor

Dear Reluctant: If these people had cats and you were allergic to dander, you would let them know.

Many states ban smoking in any public place — even on sidewalks.

If contact with the noxious residual smell of cigarette smoking makes you ill, then you owe it to yourself to guard your own health.

It is your responsibility to protect your own health and wellness.

So yes, you should tell these neighbors that unfortunately exposure to any smoke — or the residual smell of cigarette smoke — aggravates your allergies, and makes you both ill, so you assume it would be an issue for you to spend time inside their house.

Dear Amy: A few close co-workers (including me) recently attended a destination wedding of a colleague and friend.

Our department leader was also invited and attended.

Everything went well and a nice time was had by all.

Fast-forward to today, and our department leader now wants to have quarterly get-togethers for the group that attended the wedding.

I have hesitations about this for a few reasons. First, if word gets out about this exclusive outing, others on the team will feel like we’re getting preferential treatment (which I definitely understand). Second, while the leader said anyone is welcome to come, I feel like this will seem more like an obligation outside of work that you can’t say no to.

My colleagues and I are unsure how to bring these concerns up without causing hurt feelings.

What should we do?

— Troubled Team

Dear Troubled: You have valid concerns about these outings.

I agree that gathering some members of the team for scheduled outings is not a good idea, and “anyone is welcome to come” is quite different from “all team members are invited and included.”

You might assume that this idea grew out of that unique sort of post-party glow when the hangover fades but the good feelings linger, and that given some time to consider the professional ramifications in terms of team morale, your fearless leader might reconsider this idea and let it quietly go away.

I’m not sure how it would cause “hurt feelings” for you and other team members to react to this idea by bringing up the professional challenges it might cause, as well as the unexpressed pressure that is exerted when a “boss” plans team outings. Are these gatherings compulsory? Will people who can’t attend because of other obligations (or because they don’t want to) miss out on intangibles important to professional success?

Dear Amy: “No Messy Feelings Allowed” was frustrated because when she shared her “messier” feelings with her friend, the friend jumped in with lots of solutions.

The question my family and I ask when someone shares a problem is: “Do you want to be helped, heard, or hugged.”

Works like a charm!

— Ann

Dear Ann: I’ve had a lot of responses to this question, which brings up the issue of offering — and receiving unsolicited advice.

I really appreciate your approach.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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