Nosey Questions, Cigarette Etiquette, May 05 | Cigarette Etiquette

Dear Meg,
Perhaps you could help me with some polite ways to say, "I don’t want to answer that question." One doesn’t want to just rebuke the person with "none of your beeswax" or something. Responding with the question "Why do you want to know?" has been suggested to me as an "answer." Then if they say, "Just curious," you say nothing further. What do you think? Thank you very much.
—B.E.

My Dear Nell,
You are correct in assuming you should not say "none of your beeswax," although under certain circumstances I’ve been tempted to use the phrase myself. The time a mutual party attendee asked if my black and white Norma Kamali jumpsuit meant that I was trying to impersonate Boy George springs to mind, but I did take the high road. Ahhh, fashion in the early’80s. Different people have different ideas of what is approporiate in any given situation. The most decent thing to do in an event like the one you’ve described is to affirm the questioner and then deflect the attention from yourself. For instance, if the individual does say, "Just curious," rather than remain silent you could say, "Thanks for your interest but I’d much rather find out more about you." This way you don’t appear cold nor do you run the risk of hurting the feelings of someone who is probably just attempting to strike up an innocent, albeit awkward, conversation. Being kind is always good manners, not to mention a beneficial social skill. Thanks for writing, B.E. and have fun.

Love, Meg

Dear Meg,
I started smoking cigarettes again. It’s crazy. I know it’s bad for me. All my friends, not to mention my family, are mad at me. I just can’t stop. I quit three years ago, so I know I can do it again, but I’m under a lot of pressure at work and I just don’t want to. How can I get all these do-gooders off my back?
— Nell

My Dear Nell,
Run for the high holy hills with a couple of cartoons, a Zippo, and some lighter fluid? No wait, we don’t have an abundance of high hills in Iowa and the hip thing to do these days is roll your own. If you decide you’re into this for an extended period of time, you might look into growing your own. This way you could avoid patronizing the "7 dwarfs" of the corporate tobacco industry and, perhaps, while studying up on seeds, soil, and climate control you could become so diverted by this new hobby, the desire for nicotine might disappear entirely.

Smoking is a hard habit to break, Nell, and it’s a behavior that affects others. It’s little wonder the people who care about you are miffed. My advice is to stop this insanity right now! Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 10 different cancers, and accounts for an estimated 30 percent of all cancer deaths.

In the meantime, be considerate of those around you, okay? Never light up around others before asking if it will bother them. Never exhale your smoke in the direction of another. This rule applies to animals as well. Always deposit your "leftovers" in an appropriate container (potted plant containers don’t count).

BTW, there has been a big revival in hookah parlor smoking (tobacco, I mean) in larger metropolitan areas. A few of these have opened in our fair state. This might be a good solution if you decide to proceed. Do check out the etiquette of such a spot first. Parlors have a culture all their own and you want to be respectful of that. Be well. No kidding.
Love, Meg