Cigarette Break: As a non-smoker, how do I deal with my friends’ frequent smoking breaks?

Q: I have friends who smoke, and that means that when we go out to eat, or to bars, they periodically step outside for cigarettes.  As a non-smoker, sometimes I am left completely alone for various durations while they smoke, which feels awkward.  In addition, I feel it may be improper for a woman to step outside to smoke with a man who came with another woman.  Is there any intimacy imputed in that act, or is it ‘just smoking a cigarette?’  Is it fair to expect friends to let you know before they step outside, or even to be invited along with them?



A: Yes, it is fine for a woman to step outside to smoke with a man who is not her escort.  No one should assume any intimacy aside from the desire for the both of them to have a cigarette.  Nonetheless, it is appropriate for them to tell you they are going outside to have a cigarette.  You shouldn’t be expected to be invited to join them since you don’t smoke but you certainly may elect to join them.  Their intention is to have a cigarette, not to exclude you from their conversation.


  1. Jody

    I agree with the EPI advice here. If the situation happens often and you’re that uncomfortable with it, maybe it’s time to not go out with them. On the other hand, I would have no problem bringing a book with me and reading at the table (or bar, or whatever) if they’re leaving you completely alone.

  2. Maggie

    I disagree with the idea that it is appropriate for the smokers to leave their companion alone once, let alone multiple times, for 10-15 minutes while they smoke. A cigarette is a form of recreation–not medication. I would equate what they’re doing with leaving their friend alone in a restaurant/bar so they could step outside to check Facebook. If there’s a large group and one or two slip away, that’s understandable. But if you’re a small group and one is left sitting alone, then what they are doing is rude and they should just smoke later.

  3. Ruth Peltier

    Maggie: First let me state that I do not smoke and never have. Well, one time, when I was 13 and my Dad caught me, but that is a story for another time.

    However, I strongly suggest that you, too, and not and have never been a smoker.

    I have many friends who smoke and I know that they really are so addicted that it is not possible for them to wait when they “need” a smoke break. I believe it is only gracious on my part, to allow them their time away while I hold the table while quietly enjoying my Kindle. Since I always have my kindle in my purse this is not a problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *