I have a coworker who is a smoker. He sits in the cubicle right next to me and the smoke smell has really been bothering me. I frequently get dizzy and go home at the end of the day with a headache because of this. I have talked to my supervisor about the issue twice already, and she said she is trying to find a solution, but nothing has been done. How do I approach the situation from here? Also, when is the proposed tobacco-free campus policy scheduled to be implemented?
First off let us congratulate you on your decision not to use tobacco products! This is the single best thing a person can do for their health! Secondly, as frustrating as this is for you, it is important to remember exactly how difficult it is for people to quit using tobacco products. It seems like a “no brainer” but once someone is hooked, the withdrawal symptoms and cravings become overwhelming. Be sure to address this issue with care and concern for the person who smokes and try to avoid angry or judgmental approaches. Let’s take a look at some different ways to address this issue.
You made a great choice in talking with your supervisor. Next time you chat with her, try to offer up a solution that works for both of you. Here are a few questions you can ask your supervisor:
- Can I swap offices with someone else, or move to another space?
- Can we get a better air filter in my office?
- Can I move closer to an open window?
- Can I be allowed longer fresh-air breaks if I start to get a headache
- Could I do any of my work from home, if I start to feel dizzy?
You can also bring it up with your coworker directly. Try something like this: “Lately when you come back to the office after smoking, the smell of cigarettes is making me feel sick. I’m sensitive to tobacco smoke and it gives me headaches. I wonder if there’s anything we can do to help minimize the smell of smoke?” Keep in mind that your coworker probably isn’t aware of how much his clothes smell like smoke, and he won’t be able to completely rid his clothes of the scent unless he quits smoking.
Have you ever asked your co-worker about his attempts to quit? Support and encourage him to seek out resources that can help him kick the habit. Health Promotion has free Quit Kits, and we can even refer him to the AshLine. According to the CDC, almost 70% of adult smokers report that they want to quit tobacco completely. A little support and encouragement can go a long way!
If you are not able to find a solution, you may want to contact Human Resources and ask for their help. In the meantime, you can try these strategies to freshen up your workplace:
- Open all windows and turn on fans to increase ventilation
- Clean all hard surfaces daily
- Use a HEPA filter
- Use air freshener in your office
- Get a houseplant that absorbs toxins and freshens the air