smoking etiquette for smoking in public and taking appropriate smoke breaks at work

Smoking Etiquette: 3 Basics For Smoking In Public And At Work

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In general, the key principles of smoking etiquette are to be considerate of others, ask for permission when in doubt, and follow any rules or regulations set by the venue or establishment you’re in.

1. Respect Smoking Etiquette Principles

Respect others

Be mindful of non-smokers and their preferences. Avoid smoking near people who may be bothered by smoke, especially children, elderly individuals, pregnant women, and those with respiratory issues.

It’s tactful to avoid smoking in front of anyone who quit smoking or is trying to limit it.

Ask for permission

Always ask for permission before smoking in the presence of others or in someone else’s space, whether it’s a home, a car, or any other private area. Even if the person is a smoker themselves, they may have specific rules or preferences about smoking in their space.

Dispose of cigarette butts and ash properly

Dispose of the ash in an ashtray or another container for disposal.

Don’t litter by throwing cigarette butts on the ground. Use designated ashtrays or bins for proper disposal. Littering cigarette butts can be harmful to the environment and is considered disrespectful.

Before disposing of cigarette butts, ensure that they are completely exhausted to avoid fire hazards.

Be aware of smoking restrictions

Familiarize yourself with smoking regulations and restrictions in the area you’re in. 

Many public places, workplaces, and even outdoor areas have specific rules about smoking. Respect these regulations to avoid any conflicts. Never smoke in locations where smoking is not allowed.

In some countries, regions, or cities, smoking may be completely forbidden in public venues or the presence of children.

Be considerate of shared spaces

If you’re smoking in a shared space, such as a patio or balcony, be mindful of others who may also be using the space. Position yourself away from doors and windows to prevent smoke from drifting indoors.

Avoid smoking in places with no air circulation, even if smoking is not expressly forbidden. When you smoke indoors, open the window to allow air circulation.

Avoid smoking around food

Refrain from smoking while eating or around areas where food is being prepared or served. The smell of smoke can affect the taste of food and may be unpleasant for others.

Avoid smoking during a meal, as it could be disruptive for the restaurant staff and the other guests.

Be mindful of your surroundings

Hold cigarettes, cigars, or smoking devices in a way that prevents any harm or damage. If you wave or gesticulate with your hand while holding a cigarette, you risk burning someone or damaging items such as furniture.

Limit your movements while smoking. If you are smoking while walking, hold your cigarette hand in front of you and at a safe distance from others.

 Consider the environmental impact of smoking, including air pollution and littering. Avoid smoking in areas with high vegetation or dry conditions that pose a fire hazard.

2. Adapt Smoking Etiquette to Each Setting

At a friend's house

Always ask for permission before lighting up. Even if your friend is a smoker, they may have rules about smoking indoors or around certain areas of their home. If smoking indoors is allowed, be mindful of others who may not smoke and try to keep the area well-ventilated.

In public

Be considerate of those around you who may not smoke or may be bothered by secondhand smoke.

Look for designated smoking areas if they are available, and avoid smoking in crowded or enclosed spaces where your smoke can affect others.

Dispose of your cigarette butts properly in designated bins.

Other venues

Always respect the rules and regulations of the venue you’re in. Some places may have strict no-smoking policies, while others may have designated smoking areas. Always ask or look for signage to know where smoking is allowed.

Smoking is usually forbidden in public transportation, schools, hospitals, and care houses. Hospitality venues such as hotels, restaurants, cafes, and bars may have areas or rooms where smoking is allowed. If you can’t find clear signage, ask the staff before you smoke.

3. Take Considerate Smoke Breaks at Work

Workplace policies

Many workplaces have specific guidelines regarding smoke breaks, including the frequency and duration of breaks. It’s essential to adhere to these policies to maintain productivity and fairness among employees.

Some workplaces may designate specific break times or limit the number and duration of smoke breaks allowed.

Consideration for non-smokers

Be mindful of how your smoke breaks may affect non-smoking colleagues. Taking excessively long breaks or too many breaks throughout the day can disrupt workflow and create resentment among coworkers. Try to keep your breaks reasonable and respectful of others’ time.

Take some measures to limit the smell of smoke, which may annoy others. Wash your hands after a smoke break, brush your teeth, or freshen your breath with chewing gum.


Aim to make your smoke breaks as efficient as possible. Instead of lingering outside for an extended period, focus on quickly satisfying your craving and returning to work promptly. Use your break time effectively to minimize disruptions to your work responsibilities.

It’s best to avoid smoke breaks longer than 10 minutes. One smoke break in the morning and one in the afternoon are generally acceptable.


Strike a balance between taking necessary breaks for personal needs and fulfilling your work duties. While it’s essential to take breaks to manage stress and maintain well-being, it’s also important to fulfill your job responsibilities and contribute to the productivity of your workplace.


If you find yourself needing longer breaks due to stress or other reasons, consider communicating with your supervisor or HR department. They may be able to provide support or accommodations to help you manage your workload and stress more effectively.

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