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I am pretty allergic to smoking and often come across people in public, public transport and in gatherings, etc. who carelessly smoke without caring about their environment. This issue gets more serious when you are in a public transport and can't escape it.

There was Anti-smoking act, 2002 passed here in Pakistan according to which smoking in universities, public places and transport is prohibited and punishable by heavy fine and even jail.

I admit that this protocol is followed in universities, but highly abused on public transport. Now, Pakistani law and order is too fragile and slow process that I can't waste my months just to get a "culprit" fined/jailed - once I was in train and under the "No Smoking 🚭" sign a man was smoking shamelessly. I asked him to respect the rule but got pretty rude reply, "Call anyone you would like to!". There was a train Police inspector and I brought it to his attention but he acted as if he was deaf.

So law & order here is a separate chapter, I would like to know a way to politely resolve this matter. Please note that smokers (unsure about elsewhere) here are pretty stubborn and this method should not be over-polite/too soft to affect, etc.

  • Would you prefer a method that can result in physical retaliation? In any way, I'm afraid you can't do this without being "an a**" yourself. – Vylix Sep 9 '17 at 1:17
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    @Vylix I would not prefer to, but will be interested to know. – Failed Scientist Sep 9 '17 at 1:19
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I smoke like a chimney, and to be honest I'm not always entirely considerate about the rules in my country. I wouldn't smoke on a bus or a plane, but if I'm outdoors... Ya... I should probably work on that...

My general assumption when people hassle me about smoking is that they just don't like it. Usually the worst cases are former smokers on crusade.

That said I try to be considerate when people have legitimate health issues, asthma, allergic reactions, small children and so on.

It may be worth mentioning your allergy when you have to confront an inconsiderate smoker like myself:

Sorry to be a bother, but I have a terrible allergy to smoke. Would you mind putting it out?

Framing it as a request rather than a demand often makes a difference in how people react.

If you have a rescue inhaler, it tends to remove any doubt as to whether you're being pushy or have a legitimate issue. Take it out and give it a shake. But whatever you do, don't fake a cough. We know when people are faking it, and it just comes across as pretentious and can lead to unnecessary push back.

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    That's more like it! Inhaler/mask sounds a pretty good idea. Coughs – Failed Scientist Sep 9 '17 at 3:44
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    Why should anyone have to put up with your smoke even if they don't have a legitimate health issue? Smoking has been proven to be bad for your health and for those around you, meaning you're actually harming someone by smoking next to them. You're the one smoking so I would expect you to be civilized and go smoke to where you don't inconvenience others. (Also, I don't know if it is your case or not, but please don't throw cigarette butts on the floor after you're done.) – user5405 Sep 9 '17 at 22:24
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    @Daniel That's a nice example of framing it as a demand, not as a question. The parenthetical sentence shows what the problem is with your approach: It looks like the attitude of someone who likes to revel in moral allegations regardless of what's the case or not. – user510 Sep 11 '17 at 12:56
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    Perhaps you should say "immediate health issue", since everybody has a "legitimate health issue" related to smoking. – David Richerby Feb 25 '18 at 20:21
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    I have a legitimate health issue with people smoking in my close proximity. Namely, my lungs are clean and I want them to stay that way. Only being considerate towards people with health problems already is like avoiding immobile pedestrians but aiming for the healthy ones with your car. – Hans Janssen Mar 1 '18 at 16:44
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+250

You can't make someone stop smoking. All you can do is ask and apply social pressure to encourage them to change their behavior.

Your best bet is to try framing your request as something asked between friendly people.

Do you mind putting that out?

It's short, polite, and depending on how you say it, casts little judgement upon the character of whoever you are talking to. People respond poorly to strangers who point out their flaws. If you start by labeling them a rule breaker they already have a reason to dislike you and will be less inclined to do you a favor and stop smoking.

Think of it like this; if a friend asks you for something reasonable you feel bad when you turn them down, but when someone rudely asks you for something it doesn't matter if it's a reasonable request. They're being rude, and you don't owe them anything.

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OP said that the smoker(s) is stubborn, and rudely responded when asked politely. These approaches, in order in most polite to the rude, but more effective, are solely designed just for that kind of rude smoker.

If asking nicely (with various reasons) won't work, you will be left with not-too-polite/rude approaches. Depending on how bad you want them to stop smoking, you might or might not want to do these. These are your options.

Note that you can't accomplish this without being a jerk and risking physical retaliation. Though I totally commend those that decide to do this as I can't stand this type of shameless smoker, too.

  1. Public shaming. Call them out loud.

    Sir, you can't smoke here. It is forbidden by the law (optionally you can cite which law)!

    By doing this, if there is people that also got disturbed by their smoking can give agreement and support your voice. This is the best course that can turn out, because the smoker will be hesitant to retaliate (physically or verbally) and usually leave on the next stop.
    Some people might ask you to leave the smoker alone. If this happens, better back off because the smoker might get bold and intimidate you back. If you can't stand the smoke, try to leave the carriage or the train altogether.

  2. Take the cigarette and put it off. Very, very high chance for retaliation. If you are confident they will not retaliate (maybe your body is bigger), you can try this. However, most other people will see this as excessive and can give an unfavorable testimony when law is involved.

  3. Put it off. By water. Cola works too. There's a sign in a school here (I will update with picture if I happen to go there) that roughly translates to:

    If we see smoke, we will assume that you are on fire and will do anything to help you put it out.

    No Smoking!
    Thanks Catija!

    It is hilarious, and no one ever dared to smoke there.

    In this case, if you happened to bring a drink, go on and splash it on their face. Same with #2, make sure you are prepared for the possible retaliation.

  • A good approach but unfortunately doesn't work in our environment. I can't lose my focus by altercations so often as public here is pretty coward and no one adds voice - even if it's raised for mutual benefit. In an educated environment, like a university, etc. yes it will work (but not needed). Remember that literacy rate in public is still less than 40% here. – Failed Scientist Sep 9 '17 at 1:53
  • @TalhaIrfan then I'm afraid you should back off. If you are not willing to risk physical retaliation, I cannot think of any other way you will be able to successfully "convince" him. – Vylix Sep 9 '17 at 2:00
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    @Catija no one actually smoked there, but I happened to see someone almost get put out. He didn't know that rule, and when he took the cigarette, the children shouted "Fire!" and surrounded the person with glasses of water. Things were too fast for me to take a picture of that, and I can't help to laugh whenever I remember his face. – Vylix Sep 9 '17 at 2:07

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