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second hand smoke at work


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I realize this could be touchy, but i have no one else to turn to for perspective.

School started this week and I am back to my same old office inhaling the same old second hand smoke from students who insist on smoking directly outside classroom buildings. They take their last drag, toss the butt and exhale on the way into my building and right outside my office door.

The state of California passed a law last year that smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of operable doors and windows on all campuses. Our own campus has no smoking within 25 feet of all buildings. We have big red signs posted at every doorway.

Administration has banned me from asking smokers to move, as it is 50-50 if they will comply. If they are from my class, of course they comply. But most of these students I don't know and sometimes they give me a snooty remark, or the FU. I retreat to my office, cancel my classes for the rest of the day and take a Xanax. Emergency supply in desk.

Staff has been assigned to patrol outside my building, but it takes them 15 minutes to respond to my call, by then smokers have finished and moved on.

In October our campus is going to designated smoking areas only. I really don't think this will solve the problem until the college imposes fines.

Right now I do not like to walk about campus as it means walking behind smokers on sidewalks. Administration schedules all my classes in one room, immediately adjacent to my office. They suggest wearing a face mask if I need to leave the building. They also want to put a hepa air filter in my office. I refuse both accommodations as they are excuses not to enforce smoking policy.

So that is my situation at work. I like teaching my math classes. I've invested a significant amount of time and money into getting my degrees, and now this situation has made my work life hell. You can imagine this only escalates my emotional state if I'm waiting for scan results or having symptoms, etc.

Am I overreacting? Should i just keep inhaling the smoke and stop "making waves"? Please I would like to hear you comments as right now I am desperate. :cry:


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Take the HEPA filter and wear the mask. You need to show the administration that you are willing to do "your" part. Talk to your doctor about what is acceptable for you and what isn't, get it in writing and send that to the administration with a letter requesting a no smoking zone specifically around your building. After all, all of your classes and your office are in the same area, you are NOT asking them to do anything with any part that isn't your immediate area.

As for the HEPA filter, be sure you get one that works, but don't buy the most expensive one with the quiet motor. When students start complaining they can't hear you, explain that it's for the smoke and irritants coming in the window and that until the air quality is cleaned up, the HEPA machine is a permanent fixture.

Seems pathetic that college students can't follow the rules and are so disrespectful. Good luck in your battle...and remember, smokers' rights are far more important than the health of the general public. (I allow myself to be cynical, I can't even go to open air sporting events in my area due to cigarette smoking being allowed in the stands.)

Take care,


...as for the Xanax and canceling classes, girl, don't let the bast*rds wear you down!

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Hi Barb,

First I think it really sucks that you have to deal with so many rude and ignorant people at your job on a daily basis. And second NO WAY are you overreacting - you are trying to protect your health and your life!

Having said that I am not really sure how far you should push your employer. Although it is their job to enforce the no smoking policy, if they choose to look the other way you may just be making things worse for yourself if you keep "making waves". I am sure you have already considered this.

What I would suggest is to let them put in the Hepa Filter - can't hurt, and wait and see how it goes with the designated smoking areas. My employer uses them and it does work for us. They have benches and ashtrays, and enclosures to keep people out of the elements in nasty weather.

I hope that your administrators wise up and correct this situation for you. Hang in there!


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At the hospital I work at there has been no smoking for a long time inside the building but people would smoke at the doors. Last year they made a rule no smoking anywhere on the grounds, you must drive away to light up. People still try to smoke. We call security. Do you have security?

Donna G

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Okay, so I've talked to my spousal unit, he kept referring back to "California State LAW" not allowing smoking within 20 feet of the doors and windows, not a "policy" but a "STATE LAW". He states that the students are breaking the STATE LAW...and that made me think about the institution you are employed by...don't they receive State funding of some kind?

Not only are they being lax on enforcing a STATE LAW, they are basically telling YOU that you don't deserve the rights the state law makers have recently given you. Hmmmm... Maybe, if you're in the mood to rock a boat or two (and it very well could be a CLM - career limiting move), write to your senator.

...or have a letter ready and mention it with your next meeting with the administration. And hey, keep a diary and document all this communication with the administration...and print your emails and keep them at home...and watch what you post here from a work computer as "they" are watching and have every legal right to do so if you are using their computer.

Think "follow the money" - state funding is probably quite a bit of money...

Ahhhhhh...the madness of cynicism... :twisted:

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Hey Barb,

I got an idea, I don't know if it is "legal" or not, so I'm assuming that alot of these students are under 25?, because if that is the case isn't there this "white noise???" out there that only people under a certain age can hear, and it is very aggrevating only to those that can hear it?

I think I saw somewhere on the news where this store owner was having problems w/ young people, teenagers hanging around, causing a nuisance, so he set up a speaker and put this noise on it, and sure enough it did the trick!........older people can't hear it....just a far out idea!!!! :)


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Barb: I would insist that the law be enforced to the point of compliance. I would consider taking video of the offenders and insisting that they be prosecuted for violation of state law.

You could try just going along with the flow I suppose, but if that means continued exposure to second hand smoke, it just is not right. Their suggestion that you wear a face mask is ludicrous. You might want to start keeping a diary and document everything, such as conversations with students, the administration and campus police.

You are not overreacting.

Don M

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I say ROCK THE BOAT UNTIL IT TIPS OVER!!!! All are great ideas here. Can not think of anyhting new except digital camera or reg camera instead of videotaping to call attention to the Problem. You have worked ard to get where you are now and should not be taken lightly about your health. Best of Luck with this problem.

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Oh kick 'em in the rear and tell them to get on there way! :P:lol::roll::wink:

The smoke doesn't bother me to much,(can't be any worse then the air I breath) :roll: but the smell of the person that just had a cigarette (as my husband still smokes (outside) just makes my stomach turn! They smell like an ashtray that has been sitting around for days on end. (ishy poop pooh!)

Everyone has given you some very good ideas and advice. I just wanted to let you know I'm here in your corner cheering you on.

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All of that smoke must be making you feel sick. Go to the doctor and see if the smoke is affecting you in anyway, or go to the psychiatrist if you feel the smoke may be harming your health and you do not know what to do about it. Since this is an on the job related matter be sure to have your doctors send their bill to your employers worker's compensation insurance. You can best believe the insurance company will have the college make some serious changes fast.

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You are not overreacting. Ok, I wrote a bunch, now I deleted it.....I really agree with Snowflake on everything so why say more?!?

You're hearing this from a smoker, by the way......if that helps at all......I personally respect the restrictions in my state (ours is 25 feet away from anything and when I'm not sure where that is, I just don't light up!) until I can fully kick the habit -- geez, some respect for your needs would help bunches here! Would security listen better if they knew the literature on how extra important it is for you to not be around smokers/smoke?

I agree that this is public health issue and not for one person (KatieB reply), but aren't there laws which also protect employees with special needs? For example, if I suddenly had an accident and was in a wheelchair, wouldn't my employer need to accomodate for my special needs or risk discrimination charges as long as I was capable of fulfilling my professional duties? Seems like the college would be discriminating on Barb's needs to not comply with state law here somehow.......

Make waves Barb, make waves.


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Thanks for all the information guys. It really helps to have feelings validated by people who understand first hand. :D

After thinking about what you all said, I did a bit of web research about Workman's comp. I didn't realize that there are basically two kinds of disability - One from my retirement system for non-job caused health problems, and the other through Workman's comp for "on the job" injuries. Also, did you know employers can be sued for "on the job" injuries if they are out of compliance with required health & safety measures contributing to the injury (like not enforcing California smoking law)?

So putting 2 and 2 together from your comments, :?, the next morning I went in to Personnel Office and just asked for a form to pre-designate my personal physician as my treating Workman's comp physician. (I'd read this is an important first step before submitting a Workman's comp claim and, after all, I had recently changed personal physicians).

The assistant said she need to make copies of the form and went around the corner to use the copy machine. I could hear her talking to someone...mumbling my name a couple times....then assistant and Personnel Director come out from around corner with form.

I mentioned that someone was smoking outside the administration building and Personnel Director immediately went out and asked them to move.

About half an hour later, Personnel Director searched me down to fill me in on her plans to increase awareness and enforcement on campus. She also reminded me about the policy switch in October which restricts all smoking to just 7 smoking stations. I expressed my concern that students would not comply. By lunchtime, Personnel Director e-mailed me a first draft of letter going out to all employees and students requesting their compliance and help enforcing the smoking policy.

Considering my lc and coronary artery disease, I am very afraid all this second hand smoke may have adversely affected on my health. They've told us in cardiac rehab that less than 10 minutes of inhaling second hand smoke can cause arteries to constrict. The California Air Resources Board as well as the US Surgeon General say there is "no safe level of exposure". So it is good to know that Workman's comp insurance would cover my health expenses and time off. I hope my employer does a better job enforcing CA smoking law.

Don M will be happy to know I'm taking my camera to the office starting Monday. I plan to snap pics of students and the spent butts littered on sidewalk outside doorway. We have such a small campus, it won't take long for this news to infiltrate personnel office. :lol:

Thanks again. I'm feeling much better about this problem now. I should have asked for your help a long time ago. :D:D:D


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Before starting to snap pictures, you may want to make sure you are not trampling the civil liberties of the students who are breaking the law...

It appears you DO have the support and attention of the administration, DON'T be a zealot and end up labeled as "crazy"! You've rocked the boat, you have attention to your cause, see where it goes. You can always rock it more at a later date, but don't sink the boat early on.

Just my thoughts,


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The only place I got 2nd hand smoke for an extended period of time was 1986-1991 where I worked. It was actually against some city ordinance there as I remember, but they had cigarette machines right in the building. They even smoked in the computer room. Gosh you would have thought they would at least care about the computers.

I bought myself a little desktop air filter for my desk. It was little help though turned out to be a good conversation piece. Otherwise the company and the guys there were very nice to me and treated me like Snow White. Some of the guys thought if they'd hold the cigarette behind their back while standing next to me then the smoke should be no problem.

Many of the guys would like me to use my friendly persuasion to address the smoking and girlie pictures, being that men weren't supposed to be sensitive to things like that.

Eventually, after abt 4 years, they took out the cigarette machines and our group decided not to smoke in the computer room or in our shared office space, but they could still smoke in the manufacturing area where I needed to spend a lot of time. Visitors would still light up in the our area though until I put up a sign that said,

"Reading Test:

No Smoking"


Around Campus: I guess you could find out how other colleges have done with the issue.

Being around smoke for me now, even 20 feet away outside, physically hurts, hurts when I breathe.


Colleges have been very progressive and pro-active with ADA compliance for students. I don't know though about teacher's rights. You may get to know someone in the underground at the student's center for disabilities and get ideas from them.


I would accept the air filter they've offered, if you didn't have to sign away any other rights. I'd write a thank you for it to show good faith, though continue in this challenge with lots of documentation along the way.


Math is so beautiful in nature, like the code for opening a shaped flower petal. I sure would like to keep you to share what you know for another generation.

Elaine W

Life is breath-taking, and giving.

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