Vent About Healthcare Workers Who Smoke

Updated on December 29, 2014
M.G. asks from Flower Mound, TX
22 answers

Hi moms! I had a bad experience yesterday with a healthcare worker who smoked, & I am curious about your opinions. I gave blood yesterday in one of those American Red Cross trailers. When I arrived, one of the phlebotomists was outside of the trailer smoking. I was slightly annoyed, but dismissed it and went inside the trailor. They sat me in a tiny room (smaller than our small guest bathroom), & guess who came in to get my info? The phlebotomist who I just saw smoking. She closed the door, & I was stuck in a box with her,and second hand smoking. After 5 seconds, I opened the door and said, "I'm sorry, I can't do this. I just saw you smoking and I am breathing your smoke. She was nice about it and said she will send someone else in (which she did). I was so grossed out! Healthcare workers and smoking does not mix!! It seems unsanitary and just not right. Opinions? P.s. I am typing from my smart phone, so I apologize if there are a lot of typos. After the first few sentences, I am unable to see what I am typing (big pet peeve of mine)!

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Featured Answers


answers from Austin on

I dropped a doctor when I realized he smoked. I could not deal with the odor.

I am actually shocked to see people smoking in this day and time. It boggles my mind that people still smoke.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

She wasn't smoking then, so it wasn't second hand smoke. Frankly, you asked for someone else and she got one, and you need to let it go. Smoking is a tough habit to kick, and I have friends who have tried and failed many don't know her story. Being a healthcare worker doesn't mean you're not human with bad habits and foibles. Give her a break.

5 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Seattle on

Rude? You, not her.
You COULD have said, 'I am so sorry. I am super sensitive to smoke. Is there a way another person could come in and get my info?"
That would have been polite. Jumping up, acting like your dying because you have spent 5 seconds in a "box" with a smoker is kind of ridiculous.
You breathe in ALL kinds of nastiness outside. Be it from factories, cars, buses, boats, motorcycles....

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

you were a lot nastier than her and her secondhand smoke. i totally get where you're coming from, mind you. after years of being a smoker, i now can't abide being near it, and am appalled that i stunk like that for so many years. but there are ways to handle it, and yours was really unpleasant.
in addition to your rudeness, i'm a bit puzzled as to why you think healthcare workers are exempt from legal vices. are you also incensed about healthcare workers who are overweight, or have sun-damaged skin? everyone knows the dangers of smoking, and you're not privy to the reasons behind these folks doing it. you certainly have the right to choose not to be around it, and i too might have made that choice. 'i'm sorry, miss, but smell of smoke in a small area like this doesn't work for me. could we go into a more ventilated area?'
at the very least, you could be pleased that she didn't return your tone in kind.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Growing up, my dad smoked. My husband smokes. I don't. It doesn't bother me. I know people that it does bother them...oh well. My dad quick smoking 30 years husband does NOT smoke in the house. He has a jacket that he keeps near the door for smoking outside.

I've only really ever met TWO REALLY RUDE was the best man in our wedding...(rolling my eyes at this one) who SWORE he wasn't a smoker but borrowed cigarettes off everyone that DID smoke and smoked while people were eating..yuck..

I don't see ARC "vampires" as "health care" workers, they are there to do a job.

Personally? I think you were rude to her. She appeared to handle it well.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Here's the deal:

Health care workers (no matter what semblance of 'health care' blood donation is) are human. They are people. Why are they obligated to live under different rules than virtually anyone else who works in our country?

Frankly, after my visit to the hospital a few months ago, I saw the staff there as people who were willing to deal with getting coughed on, risk getting bodily fluids on them, deal with some demanding patients (those bells were going off pretty frequently!) and who really did far and away their best to take care of the needs of those in their unit.

So, if Nurse Sally wants to take a smoke break, in my opinion, she's entitled. Personally, I'd probably be wanting a stiff drink by the end of that shift.

Oh, and I live a block away from a hospital-- seeing the staff outside smoking used to really bother me. Now, after having been an overnight patient, I'm a lot more understanding about why someone might be out having a quiet ten minutes with a cigarette. Frankly, right now, all I can think of is the absurdity of someone self-righteously telling a health care worker that they must live under different rules as well as perform a demanding job. I think of the frontline workers who deal with Ebola and other high-infectious, high-needs patients... cigarette smoke is a walk in the park compared to what some nurses and health care folks deal with on a daily basis.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Um, unless she was smoking a cigarette in front of you in that closed space, you were not, in fact, "second-hand smoking." Spending 5 minutes with someone who may have a bit of lingering smoke on their clothing - which is likely to be minimal due to the fact that she was smoking outside - is not going to cause you adverse health effects. It's not the same as going into the home of a smoker, where the tobacco residue is truly in the air because it's in the walls, flooring, upholstery, on hard services as tar build up, etc.

Frankly, I think your concern was unwarranted and that your attitude is judgmental. Are you also appalled at healthcare workers who are overweight? How about those living with type II diabetes or heart disease? Healthcare workers are human. Just like the rest of us, some have good habits and some struggle with addictions, obesity, etc. Doesn't mean that they are unworthy of their jobs.

I write this as someone who is a lifelong non-smoker and whose mom is a nurse in optimal health. Many of my mom's colleagues over the years had bad habits like smoking, or being overweight, and other issues. It certainly didn't mean that they weren't worthy of working in their field or that they weren't excellent care providers.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

a phlebodomist hardly meats the criterial of a health care worker. Its like a 6 week course. In any case, I think you were very rude. So you could smell some residual smoke. You think thats going to give you cancer? Worry about something that matters.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

This is a real issue. One of the major hospitals in my city implemented smoke-free shifts for all employees this year. They gave the employees 1 year advance notice and paid for any smoking cessation system the employee wanted to try during that time. Now they are not allowed to smoke during their shift and if they come back from a break smelling of smoke it is grounds for termination.

It was controversial when they announced it, but they didn't back down and the ban went into effect over the summer.

As a person with asthma, I think it's a good thing. I can't imagine being ill in a hospital and having my asthma triggered on top of whatever other issues I had to put me there.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I completely disagree with Wild Woman on this one- you were there to give blood, and the person in charge of facilitating your generous, life saving donation exposed you to a wide range of toxins, including carcinogens and teratogens. And she chose to expose you to this solely so she could feed her addiction at her convenience. She was rude to you, her coworkers, and any other donors who had to be near her.
Smoking is a vile, deadly addiction. Over 70% of smokers want to quit, but only about 5% successfully quit, and only after an average of 7-10 quit attempts. Tobacco is a horrible plague on the world, plain and simple. The only way to improve is to keep kids away from starting use. And that is only harder when kids see Healthcare workers smoking at a Healthcare facility. Personally, I would be calling the organization that runs the facility.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

I understand about not being able to tolerate smoke smell. I think you could've been more polite. In regard to healthcare workers and smoking, I worked in the medical field for 15+ years and a lot of the docs, nurses, EMT, and radiology techs smoke. Some developed their habit when going through school to deal with the stress. I had one tell me she'd rather smoke than gain weight. Do they know the damage caused by smoking to their bodies? Sure, but it is one of the toughest habits to kick and it's their business.

I am overweight. It's amazing how quick people assess me as I must not exercise or eat properly. Bottom line is I walk a minimum of 2 miles a day and eat pretty well for the most part. I run 2 businesses and take care of 2 kids and my husband. Because my "flaw" is easily seen and judged, I get emails from people who care about me about the latest diet fad or pill. Each one of those people have their own battles they fight but it's not quite as obvious as mine. That is why I teach my kids, he who is without sin (or without a bad habit) cast the first stone.


7 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

Using in a smart phone is a huge pet peeve of mine to. It's so hard to tell what u r doing. .

I agree w u as I feel bad for all's so gross and they know it's bad for them but that addiction is awful..more powerful than their live of self or others health...

I think u did the right thing asking for someone else..

Mostly I have experience d this with beauticians....just at those chain walk in places...I just hold my breathe......I would say to each their own but they are right there inches from your face.uggg.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Another vote for you being rude. BirdsFreakMeOut said it best!! You could've handled it so much better than you did.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Well, I wouldn't exactly say that you had a problem with the healthcare mentioned that the smoke smell bothered you and she sent someone else in to help you....problem solved. That being said, I really do not like being in close quarters with someone who is a chain smoker. Their smell reeks and makes me want to gag. I don't understand folks smoking this day and age is not as if we do not know how harmful it is. My biggest pet peeve is when I have to go into a store and there are a bunch of smoking idiots clustered around the doorway...making me have to walk through their cloud of nastiness to get into the store.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

She was smoking IN the room with you, or you just smelled it on her?
Look, I get it, second hand smoke is gross, but if she wasn't smoking around you in particular I don't see how it's any different than someone who has BO or really gross cologne/perfume. It's annoying but I would just breathe through my mouth and get out of there quickly rather than make a fuss over it.
(And FYI you would be shocked at how many DOCTORS smoke. A lot of them pick up the habit during their residencies, due to the long shifts coffee and cigarettes can become quite the powerful combination!)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

Yes, I grew up with a closet smoker in the house. It is gross and bothers me greatly. She was even a nurse. Know who taught her to smoke in the 1950s? The doctors she worked with. Back then, it was different. In this day and age, though, we know so much more.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Growing up, my father smoked--a lot (2 packs a day usually). It was normal for me growing up. However, I cannot stand the smell, it makes me sick and I get extreme headaches with just a little smoke. Everyone reacts differently. Honestly, it is choice to smoke. However, it is also a choice to ask for someone else. Just all depends on how it is done.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Not sure why people think it's rude to say "I'm sorry, I can't do this. I just saw you smoking and I am breathing your smoke." I wonder if it's the rest of your post they are reacting to, because you call healthworkers who smoke unsanitary and you say you were grossed out. (You said this to US, not to her...) That would make more sense to me than thinking what you said was actually rude...

I don't think you were rude. I agree that if you are about to gag from the smell, you just cannot give blood. I couldn't do that either (giving blood is hard enough!) I have had someone who was TRAINING drawing blood (not giving blood - this was for blood work) and I said no. I wanted the person with experience doing my stick. Am I rude? Well, if I am, I don't care. I'm not letting a newbie stick my vein. I have enough of a hard time without dealing with bruises the size of a Mack Truck. (Yep, I've had a bruise that took up the middle of my arm before.) It's MY ARM! And in your case, it's your lungs.

However, being a healthworker is not necessarily a "calling". It's a job for so many. I can't tell you how many I know who smoke, know what a smoker's lungs look like and still smoke. The reason is because it's such a terribly hard habit to break.

It is nice that she understood your feelings and got you someone else. But you just can't expect people to not have a job in healthcare just because they smoke. That's far too judgmental.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Personally I don't give it a second thought. I don't know why smoking is perceived as a dirty gross habit. Several relatives smoke and while I don't love the habit I love them.

In this case you raised the concern about second hand smoke and the phlebotomist stepped out and send someone else in. That took care of the situation. Addiction of smoking isn't job specific.Keeping in that frame of thought you wouldn't see any overweight doctors, nurses or healthcare workers either. Or healthcare workers who drank a bit too much or were addicted to drugs.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

Although I wouldn't like to be in close range with a smoker, I would have a bigger problem with a healthcare worker that was high on prescription drugs.

Yes, they should know better but smoking is also and addiction that is hard to break.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

When you can't breathe you can't breathe.

I'd have probably done the same thing. That person needs to know they stink. They might not have ever been told they reek of smoke but now she knows and hopefully she'll be more conscientious of it in the future.

PS, when I did my allergy testing where they put the allergen on the roughed up skin on your back I had a blister the size of a small salad plate on my back from my allergy reaction to tobacco.

I would have reported this person and done more. A smoking employee shouldn't be smoking like that, they could put a cover on that might protect their garments a bit.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Health care workers have as much right to smoke as anyone else.

2 moms found this helpful
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