I have a phobia against tabaco smoke. I constantly try to avoid smoke by holding my breath or distancing myself from smokers. It's a significant stress to me. As well as an inconvenience in social situations and daily routine. I am considering trying to tolerate it in crowded areas and while talking to friends.
As an amusing anecdote, I love winter as it's too cold around here to hold a cigarette :)

In tram stations, I'd have to tolerate being within 1meter of a smoker for 20min a day.
My friends take smoke breaks a few times a day, depending on our schedule. They smoke 1 cigarette or more. I am either on a crowded balcony where most students take smoke breaks, usually taking a leave of abscence from the conversation after a few minutes. Or in a yard trying to make myself heard without shouting.

Perhaps I can eliminate the stress and still avoid passive smoking.
In which situations can I tolerate passive smoking, such that I avoid health risks?
Also can you point me to any relevant scientific articles or government recommendations? I'm looking for an argument against passive smoking outdoors, if any.

I am not satisfied with the answers I found as they are too general. I'm looking for an answer to my particular case. Certainly passive smoking is harmful in a closed space, but what about open space? My point is, risk varies by exposure.

  • Related
    – Narusan
    Oct 18, 2017 at 11:04
  • Until people's behavior changes, wear a mask. It's common in Asia to reduce breathing polluted air. They often have small charcoal filters in them Oct 18, 2017 at 18:22
  • @GrahamChiu If he is in Austria now, then he will have trouble following your advice. That's illegal now, if he cannot prove your point to the authorities. Oct 18, 2017 at 21:38
  • And the austrian police won't be able to wear riot gear which covers the face. And no one can wear sun glasses, or grow a beard. Gets a bit silly after a while. Oct 19, 2017 at 1:37
  • I'm not from Austria :)
    – CajuM
    Oct 19, 2017 at 8:34

1 Answer 1


Outdoor secondhand smoke certainly can be harmful. There are increasing numbers of locations banning outdoors smoking as well. The links provided above in the comments provide great information on general health risks of secondhand smoke; it's impossible to quantify time/distance/wind direction/ventilation etc specifically for your situations, as there are too many factors.

But the research is out there about heath risks from outdoor secondhand smoke. Take care to differentiate reliable sources from unreliable. But Googling "smoking outdoors" yields a number of academic research links, such as from Stanford:

"We were surprised to discover that being within a few feet of a smoker outdoors may expose you to air pollution levels that are comparable, on average, to indoor levels that we measured in previous studies of homes and taverns," said Wayne Ott, professor (consulting) of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford and co-author of the JAWMA study. "For example, if you're at a sidewalk café, and you sit within 18 inches of a person who smokes two cigarettes over the course of an hour, your exposure to secondhand smoke could be the same as if you sat one hour inside a tavern with smokers. Based on our findings, a child in close proximity to adult smokers at a backyard party also could receive substantial exposure to secondhand smoke."


  • 1
    Real–Time Measurement of Outdoor Tobacco Smoke Particles: "However, OTS levels dropped almost instantly after smoking activity ceased. Based on our results, it is possible for OTS to present a nuisance or hazard under certain conditions of wind and smoker proximity." Depending on wind direction and personal location the OP might change position or ask others to stop what bothers him, just out of politeness. "Friends" will comply. Oct 18, 2017 at 13:05
  • I agree, the number of inhaled particles can't be predicted. But if I was aware of a situation with a lower intoxication and a significant health risk, it would still be relevant. Thanks for the answer btw!
    – CajuM
    Oct 18, 2017 at 15:18

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