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Last updated: March 19, 2024 • Education Advice

What to Do if you’re Dating a Smoker

Smoking is a bad habit. There’s no way around that and the effect that cigarette smoke has on your health is undeniable. Still, while most people are non-smokers there are still those that engage in this practice and whether they want to stop smoking or not, some understand those effects, and some don’t. For non-smokers, the smell of tobacco may cause discomfort which is why smokers are avoided at times, judged, and stigmatized. 

The effect that cigarette smoke had, however, isn’t limited to smokers. Unlike alcohol, if person A drinks a beer, person B is not affected by person A’s consumption. Person A’s health is affected by increasing consumption, but Person B’s health is not directly affected. That is not the case for smoking which is why smokers can no longer smoke indoors and are usually required to go outside to smoke in public spaces. This led to stigmatization in society as well. 

Still, the dating world of the US in 2022 is a difficult place, and considering everything else that is set to divide us, should dating a smoker be a deal-breaker? While smoking is bad, the person who smokes isn’t.

What’s it like to Date a Smoker?

group of young people

The first thing people comment on when socializing with smokers is the smell. Non-smokers have a higher sensitivity to cigarette smoke. A smoker is less likely to be bothered by it, seeing as their sense of smell and taste are slightly affected by smoking, leading to a decrease in sensitivity.

If you’re not used to the smell of smoke, it will bother you, and while there are ways to get rid of the smell of cigarettes, they will smell of smoke anyway.Here are a few things you should be aware of when you start dating a smoker. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Making a list of the pros and cons of dating a smoker won’t be balanced because the pros won’t have anything to do with smoking. There is only one positive to dating a smoker: you will spend more time outside on terraces, in nature, or outdoors near the water, but we’ll get into that as well in a second.

The Smell of Cigarettes is Everywhere

passive smoking concept

Cigarette smoke tends to get into everything and get absorbed by anything. From pillows to walls, every fabric in the apartment is affected by third-hand smoke. This type of smoke stalls into fabrics, and you need to act proactively if you want to get rid of it. Smokers who care for their health and home know how to eliminate all that smoke before it gets into everything, but it’s not the easiest type of cleaning.

Regular showers and rinsing of clothes in some light detergent get the job done. Similarly, airing out closed spaces and using air purifiers or fresheners help. Still, when you are close to a smoker for extended periods, the smoke tends to be contagious and will get into your clothes as well. In time, non-smokers can get used to the smell, but it will still be there, even if it’s not as noticeable anymore. Other people could be bothered by your smell even if you aren’t aware of it anymore.

10-minute Breaks

group of adults having a break

If you’re dating a daily smoker, you will become aware that most activities get interrupted by a cigarette break. They will occasionally have to go out for a smoke at work, restaurants, clubs, or bars. As a smoker who doesn’t have only smoker friends, I can say that those ten-minute breaks don’t bother me. You get ten minutes off to get your mind off work stuff and enjoy the time off. You listen to music, catch up on social media, enjoy your surroundings, or chat with other smokers. This also applies to other breaks, and going out for a smoke in a park or simply having brunch outside is a different pattern than non-smokers follow, but they spend a lot more time indoors.

Non-smokers may be bothered by these ten-minute breaks, but as long as the need to smoke doesn’t happen in a dramatic moment, simply going on the balcony or terrace in the hot or cold weather isn’t the end of the world for anyone. Still, something to keep in mind: cigarette smoke needs a greater distance than 6 feet. So, if you accompany them during their ten-minute cigarette break, know it can get on you. However, keeping them away from smoking might lead to some discomfort for the smoker. If the period is extended, they may get grumpy.

Physical Aspect

exhausted man resting

When it comes to physical activity, while smoking does carry a heavy punch affecting lung capacity, resilience for more prolonged physical activity, or stamina, it depends on the smoker. Yes, if you compare a smoker to a non-smoker who doesn’t engage in physical exercises, you might see that they both can endure about the same amount of physical effort. But you could also compare a smoker who’s in good shape to a non-smoker who isn’t and realize that the smoker is more resilient. Engaging in physical activity like yoga isn’t only good for endurance and physical health, regardless of smoking. It’s possible to have a healthy lifestyle and be a smoker, just like you can be a non-smoker and have an unhealthy lifestyle. 

Still, smoking affects the lungs, the heart, arterial pressure, endurance, prowess, and performance. Smokers are more exposed to health problems like infections, renal diseases, erectile dysfunction, and other life-threatening diseases. A young smoker may barely see any of these symptoms, but as they get older, symptoms become more apparent, and their impact increases.

Growing Risk to Become a Smoker

young man lightning cigarette

One of the most common causes for which someone starts to smoke is being close to a smoker; if you start dating a smoker, the chances of you becoming one are increasing. The people we surround ourselves with tend to influence our lives in many ways, including music, lifestyle, interests, and jobs. We tend to become interested in what they are interested in, and some habits can rub off on us. For those dating a smoker, smoking is one of those habits that can be picked up. This is not a rule, however, as smokers don’t limit their social circle to other smokers, and not all of their friends are smokers or become smokers. My best friend of 16 years is not a smoker, and I smoked for 14 of those years. 

Genetic predisposition to addiction can increase the chances of someone becoming a smoker as well. For instance, someone who grew up with nicotine, alcohol, shopping, medication, or drug addictions is more likely to develop some type of addiction over time. However, if you have a history of addictions in your family, try to avoid spending time with smokers when they smoke.

Understanding Nicotine Addiction

nicotine addiction social advertisement

Nicotine used to be considered simply a bad habit in the past. While it was promoted into popularity, it remained a way of societal rebellion when the adverse health effect was understood. Teens smoke to be cool or as a form of rebellion. It used to be considered a performance, like Sandy in the last scene from Grease when she “slut’s herself so the boys will like her” – we’ll skip over the political incorrectness of that statement for this article.

Today, however, nicotine dependence is understood as an addiction, and it involves both psychological and physical factors. These factors, while not causing intoxication or impairment during the use of tobacco products, create a similar addiction to other drugs. This makes it difficult for the smoker even to want to stop.

Addictive drugs, including nicotine, release dopamine in the same area of the brain. Still, nicotine, unlike other drugs, does not cause intoxication or impairment. The smoke inhaled sends nicotine to the brain within ten seconds, creating the rush, a big part of the addictive result. Ceasing to smoke triggers a cycle of cravings and urges that can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Still, there’s an abundance of research that explains what can lead to nicotine addiction and all the factors involved. From stress to genetics and mental health, even socializing with smokers can increase the chance of becoming a smoker. 

Take that statement as you’d like, but the truth of the matter is that smokers shouldn’t be stigmatized due to a bad habit. While I don’t promote smoking as a smoker, I know that it is unlikely that I’ll stop. That being said, should society cast me away? Banished? Sent to the woods and avoided? I don’t think so, and I know many others don’t. We all have things we’re going through, and we all have our own ways of dealing with it, so if you’re dating a smoker, try to understand what you’re dealing with before you judge. 

Should you encourage them to quit smoking?

set date of nicely couple

With everything going on in the world, just like everyone else, smokers have their own way of coping. Whether it’s a 10-minute break from the 9 to 5 job that barely covers your expenses or the effect every news bulletin can have on your mental health, smokers are just trying to deal with it. It just so happens that they are addicted to nicotine and not alcohol or other drugs.

After all, you are dating a person, not a bad habit, just like they are dating you, not your bad habit. Dating a smoker isn’t only having to deal with the smell of smoke as they could be the most interesting person for you. Regardless of that bad habit, are they a good person? When you start dating a smoker, many reasons lead to you dating them. For non-smokers, who, in general, tend to avoid getting too close to smokers due to the stigmatization mentioned above, dating a smoker and dealing with it all isn’t always easy. You might even be tempted to encourage your better half to quit smoking, but it’s not always the best idea. For many, quitting smoking must come naturally, from their own will, and don’t be surprised if they become reluctant and defensive about it. But be patient. Suppose they decide they want to quit smoking; you must understand it’s a nerve-wracking journey, and being supportive of your partner is a must. 

There are no general rules on how to help someone quit smoking, but there are some common sense things you can do. Understand that quitting smoking is not easy and may involve setbacks. Be patient and supportive, and avoid being judgemental if they struggle or relapse. Help them identify triggers and develop strategies to cope with cravings. This could include finding alternative activities to smoking, such as exercising, chewing gum, or practicing deep breathing exercises. Now that you’ve got a grasp of what dating a smoker looks like and have a better understanding of this addiction, you might be interested in how prevalent this habit is and which regions are most affected. 

US cities with the most smokers

bad habits group young friends smoking

In 2021, an estimated 11.5% (28.3 million) of U.S adults smoked cigarettes, and about 4.5% ( 9 million) vaped. America’s battle with smoking is improving, but the expenses remain staggering. Cigarette smoking alone causes immense loss of life and money. According to CDC data, over 480,000 people die annually due to smoking-related issues. The costs associated with medical care for smokers and the productivity lost because of smoking-related health problems surpass $300 billion each year. In 2020, the CDC highlighted that 16 million people suffered from smoking-related illnesses. 

Despite the hefty toll, there’s some silver lining. National and local campaigns aimed at curbing smoking are proving effective. Between 1995 and 2019, the prevalence of smoking in the US decreased by about 30%. While nearly a quarter of Americans smoked in 2000, only 11.5% identified as smokers by 2021. 

Small and midsize cities with the most smokers

1. Akron, OH, – 28.3%

2. Dayton, OH – 27.5%

3. Toledo, OH – 27%

4. Evansville, IN – 25.4%

5. Warren, MI – 25.3%

Large cities with the most smokers

1. Detroit, MI – 28.9%

2. Cleveland, OH – 27.8%

3. Memphis, TH – 24.3%

4. Milwaukee, WI – 23.1%

5. Philadelphia, PA – 21.8% 

Looking at different regions in the country, we find that the Southeast has the most smokers, while the West has the fewest. For instance, California and Utah have the lowest percentage of adult smokers, with rates at 10.0% and 7.9% respectively. On the other hand, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Louisiana have the highest rates, with 26%, 24.6%, and 23.1%, respectively.

US States with the lowest percentage of smokers

1. Utah – 7.9%

2. California – 10.0%

3. Connecticut – 12.70%

4. Hawaii – 12.80%

5. Washington – 13.50%

US states with the highest number of smokers

1. West Virginia – 26%

2. Kentucky – 24.6%

3. Louisiana – 23.1%

4. Tennessee – 22.6%

5. Arkansas – 22.3%

Several factors contribute to these differences between regions and states. California has strict laws banning smoking in many indoor and outdoor areas, while Utah’s predominant religion, Mormonism, promotes tobacco abstinence among its members.   

In contrast, West Virginia, which tops the list for smoking rates, has less stringent smoking regulations. Kentucky, known for being a significant producer of burley tobacco, a key ingredient in cigarette blends, also has high smoking rates. Although Louisiana isn’t a major tobacco producer, it struggles with high smoking rates, especially among its high school students, with nearly 30% reported by the CDC in March 2021. 

Smoking rates around the world

cigarettes cardiogram made ash fum

Top 5 countries with the most smokers in the world:

  1. Nauru – 52.1%
  2. Kiribati – 52.0%
  3. Tuvalu – 48.7%
  4. Myanmar – 45.5%
  5. Chile – 44.7%

Generally, Southeast Asia and parts of Europe, like the Balkans, have the highest rates of smoking. On the other hand, Western Europe and the Americas usually have lower rates, though there are exceptions like Chile, which surprisingly has a high rate of smoking.

Looking at the top five countries with the highest smoking rates in 2018, three are in the Pacific Islands, one is in Southeast Asia, and one is in South America.

In many South and Southeast Asian countries, smoking rates are notably high among men but relatively low among women. For instance, about 76.20% of men in Indonesia smoke compared to only 3.60% of women.

Overall, smoking rates worldwide have been dropping due to better education about tobacco’s harmful effects and anti-smoking campaigns. For example, in 2000, the smoking rate in the United Kingdom was 38%, but it has since decreased to 19.2%.

Nauru has the highest smoking rate globally, at 52.1%. Interestingly, women in Nauru smoke slightly more than men, which is unusual. Kiribati comes next with a 52.0% rate, with 68.6% being males and 35.5% females, which is a more typical gender distribution for smoking rates.


When it comes to dating a smoker, it’s all about seeing beyond the surface. It’s about finding the spark, feeling understood, and being cherished for who you are. You laugh together, cry together, and dream together, navigating life’s ups and downs side by side. 

In this journey, you come to realize that your partner is more than just a smoker. They’re a complex individual with passions, dreams, and quirks that make them unique. They could be a writer pouring their heart onto the page, an accountant balancing numbers with precision, a stock investor riding the waves of the market, or a nature enthusiast finding peace on hiking trails. 

But amidst all these layers, their smoking habit is just one piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t define them any more than your job, your hobbies, or your family background define you. It’s about accepting each other fully, flaws and all, and embracing the beautiful messiness of life together. 

As someone who used to smoke, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have wanted to be judged for my habit. Battling nicotine addiction was a struggle for me for years until I finally decided to quit. Quitting smoking was one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced, and I still worry about the possibility of relapsing. However, it was undeniably one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

How did I manage to quit? I reached a point where I fully grasped the harmful effects of nicotine on my health. Thankfully, my fear of falling ill outweighed my attachment to smoking. I can empathize with those in relationships with smokers because my partner is a devoted smoker who isn’t ready to quit just yet. But his habit doesn’t affect my ability to love him, nor the way I see him.


One Response to " What to Do if you’re Dating a Smoker "

  1. Terry Evans says:

    Ms. Herdean,
    Great article. I have been dating a woman for over two years now who is a smoker (I am not). She was upfront with me from the time I asked out that she was a smoker and had no plans to quit. We are both in our early 60’s and I had my reservations about dating her long term but I have found out it is really a non issue with me. She is very considerate and will not smoke in confined spaces with me. Even with that, the smell of smoke on her is always there and I have gotten used to it. She seldom has to leave an activity other than dinners to smoke. If we are going to linger at dinner, she will need to leave the table and go outside to smoke.

    I am so glad I didn’t judge her after she told me she was a smoker. Being a smoker and her nicotine dependence does not define who she is. She is a wonderful woman and someone who I can spend the rest of my life with.


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