I have been around people who smoke all my life, and so I know what the smell is like. Sometimes people sit beside me in lecture, and this smell comes from these people beside me.

However sometimes when it's raining and the weather is cold, a very similar smell comes as well.

So I can never be 100% sure what I am smelling, smoke or just the air outside. What's the best way to ask "do you smoke", without sounding too nosey or weird?

  • 7
    Why are you asking? literally just to find out if they smoke or not? (if someone asked me, it'd be to borrow a lighter/cigarette or to join them for one normally, not just to determine the route of the smell.) Sep 7, 2017 at 21:18
  • 1
    I wonder as well why you would ask. "Is that you I smell, or has it started to rain?" is a very strange question. Sep 7, 2017 at 22:10
  • What is the location/country/cultural context here? For example, I can think of several slangy ways of asking the question. I might not use those ways if the person was a coworker.
    – user288
    Sep 13, 2017 at 4:27

3 Answers 3


There is no polite way to ask someone if they smell because of the rain or because they smoke. Either way, you're saying they smell weird, and that will always be offensive. If that's your only reason to ask, then don't do it.

If you want to know for some other reason (like to borrow a lighter or have them join you on a smoke break), then ask them what you really want to know. There are non-smokers that carry lighters, and some people will keep you company even if they don't smoke.


I might make it a "third party" issue by saying "Is someone smoking or is that the wind and rain outside blowing smoke."

Someone might "'fess up." They might not. They might say, "It's not me." But at least you've avoided a certain awkwardness by making it a less direct question.


I don't smoke, but I've got friends who do.

The usual question would be direct: "Do you smoke?" or something similar, and it is mostly an invitation to join in a quick smoky fun time, or just to borrow a lighter or cigarette.

The smell of rain "Petrichor" does occasionally smell like smoke.

Unless you wanna join somebody for a quick smoke session, I would consider it an unnecessary question to ask whether or not they smoke.

Most etiquettes of "politeness" can be flexible around your closest circle of friends, and to them, depending on how close you are, you can ask out of the blue, "Do you like to smoke?" or anything, really.

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