** Editor’s note: This new series features answers to the most commonly asked workplace etiquette questions.

Now that most, if not all, workplaces have banned smoking, what is the etiquette around taking smoke breaks at work or being respectful to non-smokers? 

Smoking policies in the workplace are usually very clear and are written in policy manuals for every employee to understand clearly. The regulations are generally not written for the benefit of the smoker as for that of the non-smoker. Somehow, smokers have been banished to The Tower as far as acceptance of this unfortunate habit goes. It’s a shame really, as polite persons do not judge one another intolerantly.

If you smoke, do so as infrequently as possible. Stepping outside the main door and puffing away doesn’t quite solve the problem.

  1. Go out of doors and move well away from the building, as smoke travels, and air currents invariably carry the offensive smoke right back inside.
  2. Use breath mints after each cigarette. If you are going to be going to a face-to-face meeting, brush your teeth. Smoker’s breath can be very off-putting to non-smokers.
  3. Be sure your clothes are well aired. Smoke lingers in clothing. For people who (God forbid) smoke in their cars, understand that smoke permeates fabric and is difficult to eradicate.
  4. Extinguish your cigarette in an appropriate receptacle. If there isn’t one provided, crumble the tobacco and put the filter in your pocket if necessary – no littering!

If you are a non-smoker, show some tolerance and consideration. Many smokers really would rather quit, but their addiction has overtaken them. Rubbing it in with complaining needs to be avoided. If a suitable policy isn’t in place where you work, ask that one be instituted.

Keep in mind that there are always eyes watching one’s every move. Needing to get up and go for a smoke every hour is disruptive to one’s concentration as well as that of whomever one may be working. Consider smokeless cigarettes or a chewing gum alternative – although snapping gum is to be avoided at all costs! Assume that cigarette smoke annoys everyone and allow common sense to prevail.