The Alliance of Boulder County
on Tobacco and Health

Bystanders with Health Conditions that
Require They Avoid Tobacco Smoke

An aspect of the tobacco issue that recieves altogether too little attention from the Public Health community - or hypocritically, the Tobacco Control Movement for that matter - is the fact that there really are people (nonsmokers!) who have health conditions that require they avoid tobacco smoke. Or else.

Here are comments from several people about some of their experiences.

I have a problem with the attitude of most people that if someone is smoking outside, it therefore is not harming anyone. If I am right next to someone smoking outside, or if they are nearby and the wind is blowing their smoke my way, it bothers me and makes me feel ill.

The habit of having smokers stand right outside the door of office buildings to smoke means that I have to run an obstacle course of smokers to get into office buildings. I have to hold my breath and rush into the building. Also, if people are smoking at a bus stop,

I have to move away from them and sometimes I can't get far enough away to avoid breathing the smoke and feeling ill. Another example is that when there are tables outside an office building for eating lunch, people will take smoking breaks out there and therefore I am unable to eat my lunch there because of the close proximity of the smoke.

At one company I was able to get management to divide the tables up so there was a non-smoking section of tables but usually smokers are allowed to smoke anywhere outside, assuming that it won't bother people because they are outside.

I also wish smoking could be banned in bars so they would not be off-limits to me because of my health problems (sensitivity to chemicals and smoke).

I don't normally frequent bars but at one company, we had a required company meeting in a bar/restaurant (the XXX brewery). The company President had come out to visit from California and we were all required to go to the XXX for a company meeting/party. Since it was a bar, there was smoking allowed everywhere and several employees in our company were heavy smokers. I got so sick from the smoke I had to go outside and walk around LoDo for 20 minutes to recover (the dirty downtown air wasn't as bad as the smokey air in the bar).

After that incident, I had to avoid going to the XXX to prevent a repeat of that experience. The XXX was a frequent socializing place for my co-workers but I always had to say "no" to going there and miss the chance to socialize and get to know my co-workers better (and therefore advance my career).

I know bars don't want to ban smoking because they feel they'll lose so much business but it's not fair to people like me who are sensitive.

Essentially I am banned from bars because they won't tell people to stop smoking there. And I don't understand why it is considered so weird and radical to ban smoking in public places (such as the bans Boulder has).

Second-hand smoke harms people, all people. I am just more sensitive to it than most people. Why should I have to be harmed by someone's addiction? Although I know that outlawing drugs has not had good results, sometimes I wish smoking were totally outlawed so I wouldn't have to be exposed to smoke.

I should also note that it is not just severely sensitive people who live in "bubbles" who are bothered by smoke. Smoke makes me sick and I am only "moderately" sensitive, as evidenced by the fact that I am able to work in polluted downtown Denver and go shopping in any store or mall.


I walked into the hospital and the hallway was getting some remodeling. And walked into enough tobacco smoke I nearly fainted. When I complained to the hospital staff, I was told "you can ask them to stop smoking!"


I mentioned to a doctor that I've a severe sensitivity to the smoke and one concern over the years has been getting medical support and treatment for the condition. He sneered - "This Person has a Cause!"


It still needs to be spelled out - especially to a lot of medical professionals since they are role models for the rest of our society on health matters - People with health problems that require they avoid tobacco smoke do not have the luxury of standing in a cloud of smoke and pleading with some smoker to pretty please put out his cigarette!

Return to the Alliance home page.
URL of this page: