Straight Talk Advice

Jun 02, 2010

Boyfriend smokes in girl’s bedroom—yuck!

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: My sister’s boyfriend comes over almost every afternoon before our mom gets home and smokes cigarettes in our room. I hate the smoke but my sister says it’s none of my business and that if I tell, I’ll be sorry. She covers the smell up by opening the window, running the fan and spraying air freshener. I always leave the room, but I’ve heard the harm from second-hand smoke lingers. It’s not right that I’m displaced from my own room and exposed to this. Our mom is completely opposed to smoking. If I rat on him, she will probably forbid him from coming over and maybe even break them up. I have to share a room with my sister. If I tell, she will make life hell for me. What can I do? — Smoked-Out in Sacramento

Maureen 18, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

When I see my brother smoking in our house but don’t want to confront him, I tell my mom and ask her not to tell him I told. That way, when she gets home, she can say with certainty that she smells smoke and deal with it without my involvement.

Ashley 22, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

How rude. I’m a smoker and I would never smoke in someone else’s house! Smoking inside is gross. Tell your mom and ask her not to tell that you told. Then she can just “smell” it or find a cigarette butt somewhere. This totally is your and your mom’s business.

Scot 23, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ask me a question

It’s best to try and get along. Tell the boyfriend that you like him and ask if he would smoke outside because it really bothers you. If he won’t, you might mention to your mom that it always smells smoky upstairs.

Anjanette 17, Safford, Ariz. Ask me a question

Ask your mom to check things in your room frequently. Get her to talk about the effects of second-hand smoke.

Brie 19, Ashland, Ore. Ask me a question

I am extremely opposed to second-hand smoke because I have asthma and it agitates my lungs. Tell your sister she either has to stop letting him smoke in your room or you will inform your mom. Stand up for yourself.

Katelyn 15, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

It definitely is your business. I’d tell your mom. Your sister is technically breaking the rules of the household — and she’s harming you through exposure and threatening you. Tell your mom what to watch for if your sister tries to hide hassling you.

Gregg 19, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

This guy is out to lunch. He gives teenagers a bad name. I used to smoke. Sometimes I smoked indoors at parties, but never otherwise. All my friends who smoke are very polite about smoking outside. Tell your mom! It’s obvious that you’re not breaking up true love or he wouldn’t be so disrespectful.

DEAR SMOKED-OUT: I have no sympathy for this behavior. You can’t even smoke in an Irish pub or a Parisian coffee shop anymore. You’re right about the very real toxicity of the residue remaining after the smoke has cleared. It’s called “third-hand smoke.” I admire Gregg’s and Katelyn’s approach to simply tell on your sister — but Gregg’s a star athlete and Katelyn is fearless. When you risk being bullied, a safer solution is to tell an authority figure (in this case your mom), while insisting your identity be protected. I, and other parents, wish kids did this more often. It’s amazing how much can escape us, even things right under our noses. If you don’t trust your mom to protect your identity, the next best thing is to give your sister a firm deadline to end the indoor smoking (say two–three days), or you will tell. Usually when you give fair warning like this, people will do what’s right.

Editor’s Web Note: This is an easy question compared to situations where it’s a parent or stepparent who insists on smoking indoors. “Smoked-Out” has the authority figure of the house on her side, she just needs to report it. As is so typical for young people, it’s fear of bullying that prevents action. The panel gives a full range of scenarios for how to go about correcting the situation, from safest to most bold. Depending on one’s personality, any of them could work, and can be applied to all sorts of situations where bullying is a factor. — Lauren

  1. By Mandy, age , from Vacaville, CA, USA on 06/02/2010

    My stepsister does the same thing and I have to share a room with her every other weekend on visitations.  She tries to tell me that the second hand smoke won’t harm my health since I’m only there every other weekend.  However, I’m not so sure, and whether or not it does me permanent damage, the smoke really bothers me and gives me headaches and makes my eyes water.  Since she’s my stepsister and we’re going to be sharing a room every other weekend for at least the next couple of years whether I like it or not, I don’t want to tell on her and get her in trouble and have her hate me, so I’ve been keeping my mouth shut, so I know how “Smoked Out” feels.  My stepmom always takes her side against me if there’s a conflict, so I really don’t think trying to tell her and/or my dad in confidence and have them try to “catch” her would work and I’m sure she’d figure out that I was behind it. 


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  2. By Karen, age , from Tempe, AZ on 06/03/2010

    Another place where second hand smoke is a big problem at least where I live is in the school bathrooms.  It was really bad at my school and many people were complaining but it was hard to do anything since girls could smoke in a locked stall and flush away the evidence.  The solution they came up with is in some ways worse than the problem.  They took off the locks so that the staff who who enforce the no smoking rules could open the door to the stalls they could see and smell smoke coming from.  However, they sometimes make a mistake and open the door on girls who are just going to the bathroom which is very embarrassing, even though the smoking monitors are female, of course. Since they’re female, the principal doesn’t think it’s a big deal.  This has happened to me and many of my friends.  I’ve obviously never been in the guys’ bathroom, but I’ve heard that they don’t even have doors on the stalls so they say that we still have much more privacy than the guys.  I guess that doesn’t bother guys, but it bothers most girls.  I don’t know the answer as to how to deal with it, but I think I’d rather put up with the smoke than have the door opened on me when I’m on the toilet.



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  3. By Tom, age , from Lodi, CA on 06/03/2010

    I know it’s not actually the topic of the week, but I feel compelled to respond to Karen’s comment that having no doors on the stalls in guys school bathrooms doesn’t bother us.  Where does she come off saying this?  Especially when she says it really bothers her!  Since she’s a girl, how could she possibly know how we feel about this?  This lack of privacy in the school bathroom bothers me and most guys I know very very much.  Due to physical differences, guys may need less privacy when we’re standing up and doing the “#1” bathroom function, but we should be entitled to just as much privacy when we have to sit down and do the “#2” bathroom function, to put it nicely.  I’ve never understood why guys’ school bathrooms deny this privacy since men’s public restrooms just about everywhere else have doors on the stalls.  In elementary school and sometimes even middle school boys get teased and laughed at when they have to do this at school with no privacy.  Most guys in high school are mature enough that they don’t tease and laugh at people at a time like this, but the lack of privacy is still very distressing. 

    On the smoking issue, not having doors on the stalls doesn’t do much to deter the smokers anyway in my experience.


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  4. By Marie, age , from Santa Ana, CA on 06/04/2010

    Like Lauren and some of the others say, at least Smoked Out has some options and some hope since she has the house rules on her side.  But what do you do when it’s your parent or step-parent who smokes?  Our stepdad is a very heavy smoker and heavy drinker and his smoke permeates our small apartment.  My sister and I try to stick to our room with the door closed and window open as much as we can which helps some, but not that much.  His attitude is “I pay the rent so I make the rules, and if I want to smoke, I will and anybody who doesn’t like it can leave!”  He’s very domineering and our mom is afaid to stand up to him.  She’s also financially dependent on him.  She has no job skills and says that even highly skilled people are having trouble getting jobs these days, so we’d end up homeless if he left.  If anybody has any ideas for our situation, I’d love to hear them because the smoke really bothers us.

    We also have the problem in the bathroom at school like Karen writes about.  I actually wish they would do something similar at our school if it would help stop the smoking.  I’d be willing to take the risk of losing privacy once in a while.  Since we only have one bathroom at home and we all need to get ready around the same time, my sister and I have to share it during the morning rush even if one of us is “on the facility” to put it politely.  It’s no big deal since we’re sisters and it wouldn’t be that much different if it accidentally happened in the school bathroom once in a while as long as it’s another female and all you’re really seeing is somebody sitting down.


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