As many know, smoke is a no no for CFers. Why? Well, when the smoke goes into our lungs, it gets trapped in the mucus there and sticks around for a bit. Our lungs know its not supposed to be there, so we cough and cough and cough trying to get it out. This causes inflammation, making the cough tight and sometimes painful if there’s enough smoke. For me, learning to avoid smoke has become somewhat of an art form.
The-smoker-outside-the-restaurant: This smoker should ideally be spotted about 20 feet before you enter the restaurant. This gives you ample time to prepare yourself for holding your breath while you walk by (because if you start coughing as you walk by, you often get dirty looks). Inhale into your sleeve if the smoke has already reached you, and prepare to get blue faced until safely inside the restaurant.
The-smoker-walking-down-the-street: If the smoker is walking by me in the opposite direction, I tend to breathe into my sleeve, hand, sweatshirt, or whatever I happen to be carrying that would make a good mask. If they are spotted in time, I do hold my breath, but I am careful because I’ve found that it tends to linger behind them, and just when you start breathing again you get a good wiff of it. If they are walking near me, I sometimes do an awkward dance to get around them or I cross the street given ample smoker-spotting time.
The-smoker-on-the-chairlift: As a skier, this can get tricky. I once had a smoker ON the same chair as me (not to mention he didn’t even bother asking if we minded). But, given the wind, this turned out to be alright. The smoke blew behind him and never made it to my lungs until the lift stopped. Though smokers typically seem to have some sort of its-my-right-to-smoke type of attitude, this guy was pretty polite when I asked him to stop because I had a lung disease.
Another scenario happened when someone was smoking on the lift in FRONT of me. This wasn’t so good, as the smoke kept blowing back straight for my lungs. After coughing uncontrollably, I yelled up to him and asked him to please stop smoking. He and his friends ignored me, laughed, and kept on smoking. Hopeless situation. Breathe into jacket. Cough the rest of the day.
Your-friend-the-smoker: Hassle them until they agree to quit, and help them through it. Yeah its annoying, but thats what friends are for.
The-concert-smoker: At an outside venue, I’ve found that sitting on the lawn or the uncovered part of the stands is the best way to avoid being surrounded by smoke. Sitting under the covered part, I’ve found that the smoke tends to get trapped and linger around longer. The sleeve or shirt mask is always a good standby when the person in front of you starts smoking. If it gets too unbearable, I’ll find somewhere to go and get fresh air, hack up a lung in the privacy of the bathroom, and go back to trying to enjoy the concert. Usually I’ll do an extra vest and hypertonic to get it all out of my lungs afterwards.
The-smokey-party-or-restaurant: This is another hopeless situation. Your best bet is to get the hell outta there because smoke inside is almost impossible to escape. If you can’t escape, I’ve found that breathing through your nose is better because it filters the air a little more than breathing it in straight through your mouth. Again, go home and do an extra vest and hypertonic or anything else to get that stuff out of there! Luckily for me, my state doesn’t allow smoking indoors in public establishments, so restaurants aren’t a problem.
Regardless of the situation, I have found that, though smokers sometimes annoy me, I must realize that they are addicted. They probably started when they were impressionable teenagers and are finding it hard to quit. I try my best to hold in my dirty looks when I can’t stop coughing, because they’re ALLOWED to do what they wish, and just because they smoke, doesn’t mean they are horrible people. That is why I have my own ways of avoiding them without offending them. It is only when their smoking causes others harm that I get annoyed. Polite smokers go far away from entrances, blow their smoke away from other people, don’t light up in a crowd, and stop when asked politely by someone like me. If you smoke, let this be motivation to try to quit, or at the very least, to start being mindful of how it affects those around you. If you have CF, I’m sure you can relate. If you don’t have CF, maybe this gave you a little hint of the many things we deal with daily that many may not even realize are a part of the CF package.