I live on the fourth floor of a building that's shaped a bit like a T, and I live on the inside edge of the top of the T. One of my neighbours, who lives in my side of the long edge of the T, on the second floor, has recently (within a couple of months) started smoking out of what I can assume to be his bedroom window.

Now, I like to keep my window open all the time (including in Winter!) to get fresh air, and the cool breeze helps me sleep. Unfortunately, the smoke from his cigarettes drifts all the way up to my window, and fills my room with the smell. Bearing in mind I am a student in a shared flat (in a non-student building), I spent most of my time working in my room instead of shared spaces, since that's where my desktop is.

The problem is that a) I don't like the smell of cigarettes, b) I don't really like the idea that I'm breathing it several times a day and during the night; he does it quite a lot and c) when he's finished he throws the still lit cigarette out of the window into some grassy vegetation growing on the rocks below; I can't help but think this is a major fire-hazard, but I could be wrong. Now, I'll add that I've never spoken to him or met him, and technically his part of the building is an annex that I actually can't get to anyways.

How am I able to ask, politely, if he could please move to the front of the building (where there is only tarmac outside) or go outside to smoke (and stop littering) where my only means of communication with him is out a window, across two floors? I don't know what room number corresponds to the window, as I can't get into that part of the building.

Just to add, I can, of course, simply close the window whenever he does it, and I do, but that's a waste of my time and relatively annoying, and obviously, when I'm sleeping or just wake up in the night, I hardly want to get up and wake myself up completely to go and shut the window, only to need to get up again to open the window later when I can't sleep as well.


3 Answers 3


How am I able to, politely, if he could please move to the front of the building (where there is only tarmac outside) or go outside to smoke (and stop littering) where my only means of communication with him is out a window, across two floors?

I’d like to highlight two essential points in my answer, 1 is the nature of your request, 2 is another mean of communication rather than shouting from window to window.

  1. Unless there’s a regulation in place that disallows smoking, you are technically asking for a favor. This implies a strategy for appealing to the other person in a way that increases the probability of being granted the favor.

  2. Instead of talking from window to window, let me suggest writing a nice and polite letter pointing out your situation and asking for a change.

As you probably do not know the person’s name, you might copy the letter and put it into every mailbox - or a subset of mailboxes belonging to the apartments in question.

Thus, you would address the issue with the person in question without discussing it from window to window over two floors. And at the same time you’d raise awareness with the other tenants that might suffer the same problem and start to support your effort.

I can’t stress enough to keep the letter really nice, because your goal is to avoid offending the other person.

In this context, I’d recommend...

  • NOT prescribing specifically what to do instead (“... go to the front of the building to smoke!”)

  • NOT asking to never smoke

  • NOT telling where to put the cigarette-ends instead,

because, though technically you might be right, the other person may experience reactance, which would lower the probability of behavioral change in your favor.

You may want to include your email address so the smoking person can answer and discuss the issue.


Let me just spit out a list of options that I think you should try in this order.

1. Check The Rules For Your Building

A lot of times, smoking outside of the window of an apartment is against the buildings' rules or even the lease. Look at your lease, and maybe some general rules and whatnot, or ask someone who maintains/works-at the building.

If smoking like he is doing is not allowed, simply file a report with his room number. If you have to, do it multiple times.

2. File a Complaint

Okay, so maybe there's no rule against it, but that could be because the building owner simply hasn't thought of it.

Write a complaint for the company that owns/rents the building. They may be able to make him stop or at least ask him to (which is better than you doing it).

Mention the littering problem. As far as I know, most grass/plants really won't ignite easily unless they are very dry and concentrated. You said they were planted on rocks which makes it even less dangerous. So don't mention fire hazard, but do mention littering.

Also, keep the complaint concise and focused, not a rant.

3. Ask him not to smoke through his window

Fair warning, this probably won't work. Best chance you'll have is if you ask it politely and just say it's stinking up your apartment. Even better if you ask him to go outside to smoke during certain hours. But still, slim chance.

If you don't get mad and just say how it's getting into your apartment, he might cooperate.

4. Get a Fan and Candle

Light a candle, get a window fan. Put the fan in the window, blowing out.

You'll still get some fresh air, the candle will mostly null the smell, and the smoke will mostly be blown away from your apartment.

I'm sorry you're in this situation. If there are no rules for what he's doing, well, the apartment building has decided it's his right to smoke in that area. It sucks, but it's what you agreed to. Make sure to put in a complaint when you leave.

Your apartment simply may not care about maintaining the air. Remember this when you move out and look for a new place.


It is very easy, good old trick.

You make the request, explaining about your discomfort and the situation with some factual content (please don't make up reasons). Include just the facts which will not touch his ego (he may also be under some sort of mental strain).

For sure, he will do it again taking this you as weak.

Keep your cool, every time you see him again. Don't lose your cool, but be friendly every time.

Request again intermittently, and gradually he will stop, once he is convinced your request is genuine.

Don't expect sudden results if he is rude. Though the person is rude, he will gradually stop doing it.

You can be polite while requesting this of him.

  • Unfortunately, cigarette smoke traveling more than 4 meters is a common misconception among non smokers. Intimidation is not going to get somebody to stop smoking, especially when their expressed concerns are delusional in nature. In all likelihood, the smoking will increase.
    – omikes
    Apr 16, 2018 at 16:41
  • You make the request? Keep eye contact? It seems the building geometry makes this extremely difficult and inconvenient.
    – Suma
    Apr 16, 2018 at 18:03
  • This answer seems like complete conjecture. Could you provide some sort of corroboration recommending this technique?
    – user10743
    Apr 17, 2018 at 0:31
  • 2
    @oMiKeY source on your claim about 4 meters? While that number may be useful in regards to dangerous smoke-inhalation levels, In my experience it's smokers who have the misconception about just how pervasive the stink from a lit cigarette travels.
    – user10743
    Apr 17, 2018 at 0:33

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