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Smoking Dilemmas

July 2011

The etiquette of socialising as a happy non-smoker

From the Desk of John Dicey, Worldwide Director, Allen Carr’s Easyway

You must know the kind of situation I intend to refer to here – I hope I am not alone in my re-occurring quandary. Indeed – I am more than a little embarrassed to have not (until recently) established a firm position on the issue. The fact is that I analyze, observe, and interpret the psychology of smokers every day and was myself an “International Class” chain smoker before quitting smoking courtesy of Allen Carr many years ago.

Ever since that amazing day when I learned how to quit smoking easily and painlessly I automatically found myself being incredibly tolerant of smokers. It’s something about the ease with which Allen Carr’s Easyway enables someone who has previously struggled to quit smoking – to suddenly, as if by magic, find it easy to quit, and not only achieve that – but avoid the terrible pitfall, and darkest fear of the would-be quitter – becoming a moaning, angry, reformed, grouchy former smoker!

Soon after I attended Allen Carr’s quit smoking center – the first thing I’d do when a smoker came to my home was make sure they had an ashtray and felt comfortable to smoke as normal. It was years before one of my smoking friends pointed out to me that neither he nor his wife smoked in their own home anymore nor did they allow anyone else to, and that I really didn’t need to be worried about feeling awkward about him not feeling welcome to smoke in my home anymore. Even then I persisted – firm in the knowledge that were I still a smoker I’d consider a friend’s house with smoking facilities a welcome oasis in a desert of unfriendliness towards smokers. It was only when my first child was born that smoking friends were obliged to leave the house.

I occasionally remain, as the title of this feature implies, in somewhat of a dilemma when it comes to being out with smokers.

Example. The other night – myself, my wife, a friend (all non-smokers), and my friend’s wife (a smoker) were all enjoying a fantastic night out in London. Perfectly presented and mixed chilled drinks and the prospect of a fabulous meal in our favorite restaurant.

I was deep in conversation with my friend’s wife while my wife and friend were discussing another topic entirely. I was doing most of the listening – which suits me – and enjoying the drinks, the atmosphere, the comfort, the relaxation of the evening. Mid-conversation my friend’s wife indicated that she needed to nip outside for a cigarette. For some reason – at that moment I had no idea what the etiquette for such situations might be. I blabbed out that I was happy to join her outside or perhaps she might prefer to smoke alone – she said she didn’t mind either way. I decided that had I joined her – the subject would have turned to smoking, how to quit smoking, finding a way to quit smoking, general quitting smoking issues, quitting smoking stories, and a review of popular quit smoking methods. Often smokers find it incredibly embarrassing to smoke in front of non-smokers in such situations – yet they feel obliged to talk about it. I was certain that this was a conversation neither she nor I really wanted to have – so I remained in my seat.

I immediately felt awful. Surely I should have accompanied her outside while she smoked! I should have had faith in my ability to put her at ease and continue with the theme of the conversation that the cigarette break had interrupted. How could I have been such an idiot? I resolved, from that point on, to always accompany a lone smoker in a group on their smoking break, unless of course they indicated a preference for solitude. I hope my friend’s wife will forgive me if she felt I was rude for not joining her outside (mind you – when she came back she did promise to attend an Allen Carr’s Easyway To Quit Smoking Center soon).

It’s funny that this situation only appears to have arisen with me recently – perhaps because I have previously tended to socialize in bigger groups – therefore a lone smoker in a group is either less likely to occur (ie there’s normally more than one smoker in the group) or has perhaps been less noticeable (they might normally nip outside un-noticed for a puff on their own).

I wonder whether anyone else has noticed this kind of situation or if there is an accepted protocol or etiquette for such situations?

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