How can I diplomatically talk to my in-laws about smoking around my kid?

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Brass No Smoking Sign by BrassAttics
I feel very strongly that I don’t want my child to spend time in my in-laws’ home. I love my in-laws. They are kind, generous people, and I absolutely would want my kid to have a relationship with them. The problem is that they are very heavy (cigarette) smokers who smoke (a lot) inside their home. Every time I go to their home, the smell of smoke assaults me at the door and lingers on my clothes and hair so that I pretty much have to shower immediately when I leave their home — and sometimes have to sit outside to get away from it so I can breathe properly.

My husband and I are non-smokers and I know it’s not my place to tell them they should or shouldn’t smoke in their house or anywhere else (except in *my* house), but I feel pretty strongly that any child I have shouldn’t be exposed to levels of smoke that have made me as an adult unable to breathe. Is there a way to have a conversation about smoking around kids diplomatically? — KayE8211

We know the topic of smoking can be a bit touchy, but please try to keep the conversation civil and free of direct mentions of family members/friends. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, please don’t say it here!

Comments on How can I diplomatically talk to my in-laws about smoking around my kid?

  1. It sounds like you have two problems. 1) You don’t want your in-laws smoking around your kids. 2) You don’t want your kids in their house.

    Your in-laws are addicts. Telling them not to smoke around your kids is the equivalent of saying you don’t want them around you kids. That’s not what you mean or what you want, but it is the practical outcome. Your best option may be to only interact with them outside (where they can smoke a little more freely) or at your house (where they can go outside to smoke). I would highly recommend insisting that your husband have this conversation with them since they are his parents.

    They will probably feel like you are attacking them, so you need to be careful with your tone and use the classic “I” statements. You can’t control how they react, but you can control what you feel the need to apologize for afterward.

    My best friend’s parents were heavy smokers, and they smoked in their house. Every time I went to visit her, my dad basically gagged when I got into the car. Once he even sprayed me down with air freshener before I was allowed to get in. I can’t tell you how humiliated I felt. I was being told, without words, that I was disgusting and he didn’t want me around him. I felt like that, and I wasn’t even the one smoking, so I can imagine how much worse someone who did smoke would feel.

    Telling your in-laws that you don’t want smoke around your kids will likely make them feel unappreciated and like they disgust you, so try to keep that in mind. If your kids go to your in-laws house, try not to make them feel like there is something wrong with them when they come home smelling like smoke. Communication is your best tool here, so tell everyone constantly how much you love them and value them. Occasionally, you may just have to suck it up that two people you love indulge in a habit you hate. Accepting people means accepting all of them.

    • “Telling them not to smoke around your kids is the equivalent of saying you don’t want them around you kids. That’s not what you mean or what you want, but it is the practical outcome. ”

      I disagree! Even the heaviest smokers have times when they don’t smoke. Those times can be spent with the kids, and when they feel the need to indulge their addiction, they can excuse themselves, have a cigarette outside, and then come back.

      My father was a heavy smoker until I was about 8 years old (when he quit for good). My mother wouldn’t allow it around the kids, so he spent a good amount of time ducking out for a quick cigarette. It can be done.

      • My dad has always been a smoker, but it was never allowed in the house or car because my mom was allergic to smoke (or so they said). Chances are, the in-laws already come to visit and go outside to smoke.

        I think being honest about your concerns for your baby’s health should be all you need to do. At this point, everyone knows smoking is unhealthy. Even the heaviest smokers don’t argue this point. Citing concerns about childhood asthma and the things that trigger it should be more than sufficient. “It can be hard to breath in your house *for people who aren’t used to the smell of cigarettes.* Those sort of atmosphere changes can contribute to childhood asthma. I also worry about the effects of residual nicotine in the house. I know it’s not enough to concern adults,* but with such a smaller system to process it, there could be unanticipated effects.”

        *As the poster above pointed out, you want to make it clear that you aren’t saying “your house is gross” but rather “your home may not be suited for a small child.” There are plenty of homes not suited for small children, whether it’s because of the collection of glass figurines, the toxic plants that shouldn’t be stuck in mouths, or the problems with the air and allergens. This shouldn’t be taken as a value judgment if you try really hard not to make it sound like one.

      • Hey Cassie, you sound like a smoker who smokes around her kids and how dare you. You will see one day your kids will pick a pack one day, do hard drugs and fill their kids lungs with smoke. You e
        Know what the end conclusion is: CANCER! DON’T LET ANYOME AROUND YOUR KIDS WITH A CIG OR BLUNT PLEASE. Teaches them to smoke and do drugs cuz guess what, my parents do it. Cassie, take parenting classes and go back to common sense school. Smoking vaping causes cancer. DUH!

  2. That is a tough one. Do you think approaching it from a medical stand point would work? “We took kid to the doctor, and he reminded us that it is very, very important for us to keep kid’s still developing lungs away from second hand smoke. Do you think you can come over here to visit kid? I will make a spot outside for you to smoke, while you are here. I hate to ask you to do this, but the doctor was most insistent.” That way it is less personal.

    My father in law smokes, but he only does it outside so I just don’t go out while he is smoking. So I don’t have any issues with second hand smoke when we go over there.

    I would have your partner have the talk with them; they are his parents, and might be more receptive to it coming from him.

    • I’d second this. All 3 of my kids were preemies and spent time in the NICU. One day during our ‘parent education’ the nurses were reviewing with us how bad 2nd and 3rd hand smoke was for my son who was coming home with a heart and lung condition. I asked the nurse if she minded doing the same review when my family came for a visit. Most of them smoked and smoked in doors.

      Every time a family member came to visit shed come over and be all ‘I just wanted to remind everyone how immature his lungs are and smoke in the air and on cloths are bad for his lung health.’ Hearing the same thing I said earlier but from a medical professional totally clicked with them. It totally took the ‘hysterical mom’ right out of the equation.

  3. Honestly? No, I think you just need to be honest. And if they’re good people they’ll understand.

    Both of our sets of grandparents are very heavy smokers. We watched one die of quite horrific lung cancer and the partner continued to smoke. Another looks to be heading the same way… You can’t change life long habits and as you’ve said, it’s not your place. It is however perfectly fair to say that if they want to spend time with their grand child, they will have to come to you because their house isn’t a healthy place for a child. I think it’s possible to do that in a non judgemental way. One of our set made the compromise to not smoke in their house so we could still visit, although that’s slipping as winter creeps in. The other chose to see their grandchild less. And only visit every three or four months, and occasionally meet somewhere neutral.

    At the end of the day, I think you have to make a decision that is right for your family; even if that sadly means that you hurt some feelings.

  4. I’m mostly posting so that I can get follow up comments by email, because I would love to hear everyone’s advice.

    That said, I feel similarly about my parents—all three groups (long story). On the side that has grandkids, though, I found that when my nieces and nephews were born, they took the initiative themselves to not smoke around the kids. So, you may not have to fight that battle (or you may—who knows—I’m sure others have advice about that). My siblings don’t care as much about it as I do, since they also smoke, however my parents also know that I limit my own visits to their house because it bothers both my partner’s and my breathing.

    I can’t tell from your post if you have kids, are pregnant, or are just planning for the future, so this may not apply, but if it’s the latter: think about beginning to limit your visits now, explaining that it affects you. Do they not notice when you go outside to escape and breathe freely? Get them used to the idea that their home is inhospitable before kids are even in the picture. If you are already limiting your visits before kids, you can keep going with the status quo or reduce it further—quitting their house with baby steps so to speak rather than cold turkey to give them time to adjust to the reality.

  5. It sounds like you don’t have a kid yet and aren’t pregnant, so I wouldn’t bring this up just yet. There’s no point getting into an argument over theoreticals.

    My mother is a smoker, and my husband and I are nonsmokers. He always sucked it up when we went to visit (they’re in another state so it means staying overnight), until we had our daughter.

    It’s one thing to accept that some people make choices you don’t like, it’s another thing with those choices affect your health and your baby’s health. Everyone needs to decide what level of risk they’re comfortable with.

    Our situation is a bit severe, because our daughter has chronic conditions that are aggravated by cigarette smoke. I had the conversation with my mother – actually when I was pregnant, because the smell made me vomit, and asked her to smoke outside while I was visiting. She does this now when we visit with our daughter.

    For us, we decided that a weekend’s worth of exposure to third hand smoke from the furnishings and carpets was acceptable. But it’s completely ok for that to not be acceptable to you. Maybe this means that your inlaws always visit you. Maybe it means you always meet in a neutral third party location.

    I think one thing that helps is to institute some across the board rules. Everyone who touches our daughter washes their hands first – no exceptions. It’s easy when they’re babies – I just let people think I was “that” overprotective parent.

    • WHAT? Don’t bring it up for theatrical? You do know someone who wants to become pregnant should not be around smoke. Ever heard of 2nd and 3rd hand smoke. Scientists research TO HELP PEOPLE. wow. Another person who needs to go to common sense school.

  6. I don’t think there’s a diplomatic way to say what you’re trying to say, but you can do it in such a way that it doesn’t come off as judgmental. Chances are, they know that second hand smoke is bad for people – especially kids – and you can work from there.

    You can take two directions here: blunt honesty or a little subterfuge. At first, when the baby is very little, you can make a solid case for them coming to you as it’s easier. You don’t say how far away they live but you can always stay in a hotel if it’s an overnight trip or more and see them out in public or have them over to you.

    Eventually though, you’ll just have to bite the bullet and tell them that you cannot expose your baby to the second hand smoke in their home. You can make clear in a loving but firm way that what they choose to do in their own home is entirely their business, but that you and your husband will not be allowing your baby to spend any time in that kind of environment.

    I absolutely think this is a hill to die on (if you’ll pardon the expression.) The research is clear and the damage is persistent beyond childhood. There’s no need to preach, or be judgmental about it.

    • I understand it’s an old post and I hope you banned those grandparents from seeing your kids or potential kids. Smoking causes cancer, smoking causes 2nd hand smoke, smoking causes 3rd hand smoke. These are your healthy innocent children. Who cares if you are judgy. They are ruining your health, their health and your kids health. You breath in smoke, comes out in your breast milk. Not to mention hurting our planet for your kids future. If they can’t quit, ditch them. You really want smokers influencing your children. Same goes for vaping.

  7. I had this problem with my ex’s family. His entire family (sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, parents) heavily smoked. His mother was dying a terrible death of lung cancer and they still smoked around her bed.

    I just got asshole about it. Nope, not bringing the babies around. Sorry, you are more than welcome at my non-smoking home. I’ll make lunch, even. But they aren’t spending time in that environment. If I have to bathe my kids after being at your house, they can’t go.

  8. In my experience, even very heavy smokers are pretty sensitive to children’s health on this issue. I have many, many times seen people (friends and strangers both) putting out a cigarette/cigar, or turning aside when I’m around with the baby. I don’t know your in-laws,but it’s possible you may be pleasantly surprised by how they respond.

    I agree with the advice to NOT get into a theoretical argument if you don’t actually have a child now. Starting while pregnant seems like an easy way to begin — “Oh, we’d love to have dinner with you, but now that I’m pregnant, I really don’t feel well around the secondhand smoke in your house. Would you guys like to go out or come over here?” And having your husband (since they are his parents) have the conversation is also a good idea.

    I agree, this is a big enough issue to make a fuss over. But leave them lots of gracious outs so they don’t feel cornered or judged.

    • Heck, when I’m pushing the stroller down the street, complete strangers standing at the bus stop have walked up the hill, turned around, or put out their cigarette so that there would be no second hand smoke as the stroller went by. Everyone knows its unhealthy. Some people just consider it worth it.

  9. My husband and I had to have this conversation with his dad. He is not as heavy a smoker as your in laws, but it was still a big concern. We basically said “Hey, we would never dream of asking you to quit smoking as that is not our place. However, when you come to see the baby, we just ask that you are showered and in smoke free clothes.”

    It was well received and we haven’t had any issues with it!

  10. i would cite asthma/allergy concerns. even if your kid doesn’t have allergies or asthma, the concept is close enough (smoke=hard to breathe, hard to breathe~=~asthma). it is also way simpler than going into the details about secondhand/residual smoke’s effects on a kid. and much less judgemental, so it should be an easier conversation (basically, you’re saying “my kid can’t handle that” rather than “you are causing bad stuff to happen to my kid”).

    it may be a bit passive-agressive (especially if your kid doesn’t have allergy problems), but it’s simple and effective. saying “he’s allergic to smoke” always got folks to at least step back from our kid, if not butt out, and without the dirty looks and/or eye-rolling you often get for saying “please don’t smoke around him”.

  11. Unless they’ve been living under a rock, they are well aware of the pressure that society puts on ppl to quit smoking nowadays. We’ve gone as far as making it illegal to smoke in a car with children (in Canada). Can you put this on your husband to handle his own parents? You are 100% justified in keeping your child out of their house.
    I think if I was in your situation, I would just keep refusing to allow my child to go there in a polite and direct way:
    Smokers: Hey, do you guys want to come over for dinner on Sunday?
    You: Do you guys want to come here instead? I don’t want Johnny around the smoke.

    This way, you have not asked them to change their behaviour whatsoever in their own home, you are making your wishes clear and you are putting your child’s health before someone’s feelings.

    • Some states (alas, a minority) ban smoking with children in the car. I live in Maine (one of the lucky few), and I would LOVE to see them also ban smoking inside a home with a child.

      Smoking seems to vary widely by state. Here in Maine, smoking inside restaurants and bars was banned. However, I visited North Carolina a few years ago and was astonished to enter a restaurant and find that they still had smoking and non-smoking sections (not that segregating seemed to make much of a difference).

      • I had to jump in and say that your comment made me chuckle a bit. I’m from Massachusetts and yeah, it’s always a bit of a culture shock when I go to a restaurant on vacation and they ask if we want smoking or non-smoking. And on a side note, there’s a restaurant near me that STILL smells like cigarette smoke when you walk in even though it’s been smoke free for almost 10 years.

        • I can barely remember smoking sections being around, yet whenever I eat at a truckstop diner in my hometown I automatically hold my breath when passing through the former smoker’s room to get to the toilets.
          But, yeah. Mainer here. I hate leaving the boondocks! Everyone in cities smokes in the streets. Yuck

  12. I’m not entirely sure there is a polite way. My in laws are very heavy smokers, and we have the added difficulty that my FIL is NOT kind and generous and helpful. We tried to be diplomatic at first, when I was pregnant. For Christmas we agreed that we would go to their house but that MIL would smoke outside and that FIL (who has health issues that make it really hard to get outside) would smoke in his bedroom with the door closed and the window open. Instead he smoked in the (only) bathroom with the windows open, essentially hot boxing the room and causing smoke to billow out the few times he bothered to emerge. And pregnant lady had to pee in there! Since then, I haven’t trusted them to keep their promises about smoking and we (the important word here is WE) don’t allow our child in their house. We also don’t allow them to smoke around our child (or other kids if we have other guests). This recently caused my FIL to skip his only grandson’s first birthday party and my MIL has decided it’s all my fault and she is angry at me, so we haven’t spoken in two months.

    The best advice I can give is make sure that you are your partner are on EXACTLY the same page, be proactive not reactive (if you have the conversation ahead of a visit instead of when you walk in the door, it is less emotional and gives people a little time to recover from hurt feeling) and let your partner do the talking, they are his parents after all. And most of all, figure out what your proverbial hill is and then stick to it. Hard as it is at first, it’s easier in the long run if everyone knows exactly what the boundaries are.

  13. This is such an important health issue. It’s really worth it to take a strong stance on no-smoking around your kids, even if it means having difficult conversations. As parents, I think we have a responsibility to protect our kids from harm when possible, and there’s no question that secondhand smoke is toxic. I also think about this as setting a good example for our kids, hoping that they will grow up knowing that it’s really never safe to be around cigarette smoke.

    Full disclosure: I’m a public health educator and have been steeped in research indicating that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. And for kids, it’s especially dangerous. End of soapbox.

  14. This isn’t the particular hill that I would chose to die on (to borrow a phrase from a previous poster) but here’s how I think you could help reframe things to support relationship building while also avoiding a smoke-filled environment.

    When it’s nice out, offer to go over and bring a picnic. Leave outdoor toys at their house and scout out a nearby playground.

    Be willing to host many things at your house and include your in-laws. That means inviting them over to celebrate not only baby’s birthday, but yours, theirs, etc.

    Get together in a lot of public places – restaurants, parks, playgrounds.

    Create shared experiences. I bet it will be hard around things like holidays if you boycott your in-laws’ house and they feel like they are missing out on creating a family Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc. Ask them to participate fully at your house. (Come over early to help cook turkey, do tree trimming, set out eggs for the Easter egg hunt).

    Be willing to compromise on rare conditions. Great Aunt Mildred is coming in from Saratoga Springs and is staying at in-laws for one night and there’s a big family party? Go. Go graciously. Of course there’s no safe level of second hand smoke, but I am 1000% confident that your child is safer there for one night than just about any time she gets in the car. Your in-laws will appreciate it, and will hopefully make them more willing to buy in the 99% of the rest of the time.

  15. Holy shit I could have written this. The other thing is my fiance’s family don’t believe that second-hand smoke will harm anyone. They just think if you’re a smoker, well…you MIGHT have health problems, but probably not, and you certainly aren’t harming anyone else by blowing smoke into their face. KIDS INCLUDED.

    Ok so I really don’t agree with them, and nor does science, and that’s fine. Some people cannot be convinced. I could show my FIL endless amounts of research proving the effects of second-hand smoke, and he’d start crowing about how I believe everything I read. Sigh. I just shower and wash my hair after having dinner there and keep my mouth shut about them smoking in front of their other grandkids.

    But they are going to have new grandkids soon whose mum (me) is hugely anti-smoking-in-front-of-or-near-kids. My FIL and I already disagree on so many things (he thinks I’m a new-age tree-huggin hippie, I think he’s stuck in the 50s and is amazingly racist) so I am freaking out about explaining that he won’t be able to smoke in front of my babies. I’m not even pregnant yet, already having anxiety over this.

    Other issue? My fiance is also dubious about the effects of second-hand smoke *rolls eyes*. Though when I put my foot down I’m pretty sure he will agree that something needs to be said to my FIL. The fact that they live less than 5 minutes away will also be an issue – they will see it as a wonderful opportunity to see the new grandbaby all the time as much as possible. I may just have to insist they visit us in our home instead of us taking any babies to their place. I just know that it will cause tension.

    So grateful that this has been brought up in a public forum – I love Offbeat Families! Yay!

  16. The other thing you have to be prepared for is jealousy. You don’t mention your parents, so I’m choosing to assume (perhaps incorrectly) that they’re alive, just as close as your in-laws, and you’ll have no problem allowing your kids to visit them.

    If that’s the case, you’ll have some MAJOR issues with jealousy. The in-laws could get mad and jealous that “you” are allowing “their” grandchild over to your parents and not them. Your parents could get smug that they’re the favorite grandparents. Your child could get confused about why they can spend the night with Nana and Papa but not Meemaw and Grandpa. Or none of those things could occur. But it’s something that hasn’t been mentioned and will be an on-going issue that you’ll have to handle over the years.

  17. I’m an outside only smoker. I’m also that smoker who does not do it at all around babies and children; I feel like, it’s my body and I’ll do what I want with it, but that does not extend to my habits potentially affecting other people. Most of the smokers I’m personally acquainted with feel pretty much the same way. I think you might be surprised to find that your in-laws will be reasonable people about this issue. There is a lot of information out there about second hand smoke and how it can be bad for children; they might even take the initiative to not smoke around the baby on their own.

    My family are pretty much all smokers…but when non-smokers, especially those with children, are visiting, my father has no problem with leaving his own house and smoking outside. Yes, it’s his house, but he’s also considerate of guests. I don’t think that it will necessarily be insulting to your in-laws to suggest that they not smoke in the house around your kids. It is your kid, after all, and you get final say when it comes to issues that could harm your child’s health. Hopefully, you can just be straight up with them. “Hey, I’d really like it if you wouldn’t smoke in the house while Binky is visiting.” I don’t honestly see any way that they could get that upset about a reasonable request.

  18. I’ve been a heavy smoker all my (adult) life. I smoked inside my house, when landlords allowed it (surprisingly, I’ve lived in two places where the landlords just didn’t care). I was always pretty butthurt when people didn’t want to be near me when I was smoking, and made comments about how stinky it was. However, I never smoked in my house when a non-smoker was over, although it probably still reeked to them.

    But when I found out I was pregnant with my first child…I quit smoking. And now it smells awful to me. Not only is it now just a terrible smell, but I would NEVER let my kid be INSIDE a house where heavy smoking takes place. I don’t think that even when I was a smoker I would have been comfortable with a child in that environment – that cloying smell is so much different than even standing next to a smoker outside. The air is thick all the time, is seems like, and it’s just not healthy.

    Aaaanyways, my point is, and I am totally not anti-smoking by any means (I dream about it constantly…my body realllllly misses it), I think it’s kind of a no-duh to not want your kid in that environment. I think your in-laws, unless they are totally unreasonable people, will completely understand. Who knows, maybe it will be an incentive to start smoking outside only so their home is a warm and welcoming place for grandbabies.

    Good luck!

  19. My father-in-law has smoked for 30+ years, and I’m pretty sure he isn’t going to quit any time soon. However, I don’t worry about it because my mother-in-law has instituted a no-smoking-in-the-house policy. So he goes out to the back yard or the garage, and the house is a safe zone. My husband also smokes, and automatically instituted his own no-smoking-in-the-house-or-car policy. So that’s taken care of, but we’re still going to have to deal with third-hand smoke (clothes and hands). Perhaps this is a compromise that will work for your family, especially in cold weather! I very much agree not to bring it up until its no longer theoretical, and pregnancy is a great staring place (blame it on the nausea!)

  20. My parents are both pretty heavy inside smokers, but I bet they would insist that their house doesn’t smell like it. It’s possible that they are not aware that people leave and automatically shower and launder everything that entered the house (like I do). It also gives me an instant headache. Maybe just starting the conversation there and say that you want to be able to visit, but can’t given the current condition/air quality.

    • Agreed, many smokers don’t seem to be aware how much they, their cars, and their homes smell like smoke. I don’t know how to tactfully make them aware that,”Sorry, I can’t stand to step foot in your house even if you’re not actively smoking.”

  21. Preface : Everything I will say has been said face-to-face to my relatives, by my parents as well as by me.

    My dad’s family is filled with smokers — both sets of parents (divorced & remarried) and his siblings. When we went to all three grandparent houses on holidays, we had three separate outfits wrapped in dry-cleaning bags and changed after the first two houses (the smoking ones). I hated it. I hated the houses with smoke in the air, hated the inability to eat any of the food because I felt sick from the smoke, hated having to awkwardly change clothes and drive with the windows down in the car. Even if they weren’t smoking indoors when guests were over (which only happened when I was older), every single object reeked of smoke. When we went out to restaurants with them, we always had to sit on the smoking side (yes, back when those were a thing, not that it made a difference, really).
    I still have to “air out” presents from those relatives because everything stinks, and have unfortunately had to get rid of crocheted gifts because no matter how much Febreeze and soaking and washing I did the smoke smell remained. (I know! Etiquette says never, ever, ever get rid of in any way a handmade gift, but smoke is a dealbreaker.)

    I finally figured out, in my late teens, that I am actually allergic to cigarette smoke. My hands and face get rashes right away (as the most exposed skin) and I very quickly have trouble breathing, even if no one is actively smoking but I’m around multiple people who have just smoked and/or smoke packs a day. Since I react very quickly and have no qualms about upsetting people in this situation, I tell smokers that I can’t be around them while smoking or visit in the house of a smoker, because I will get sick with an allergic reaction and I will not do that to myself. Yes, I have a moral high horse about it, but I broach the subject as a medical issue. I can’t eliminate all allergens from my life, but I can avoid some of them.

    All of this is to say : I wish my parents had stood up to the smokers more than they did. They know this — we’ve talked about it — and they’ve said that they felt it was a losing battle and since everyone on that side of the family smoked (and it was before the big smoking bans we now have) there was no point in fighting it. By this point, all of the grandparents are older than 80, and won’t change their ways. You are already unhappy with visiting their house with all of the smoke. Were I in your position, I would discuss your present and future decisions with your husband and start laying groundwork with your in-laws about the smoking.

  22. Easy. Simply tell them, “I do not want you to smoke around my child(ren).” Your in-laws probably know about the health risks, so they will not consider you silly.

    My older sister did it the extreme way, telling our mother and her husband, “You can only see your granddaughter if you do not smoke around her.” But it works.

  23. My mum is a 40 year smoker. When I was a kid she and my step-dad smoked in the house and the car and I hated it! In the last 15 years as the attitude about smoking has changed she has become an outside smoker. When she stays with us or when we visit her she actually hides because she doesn’t want her grandsons to see her. She says she doesn’t want to be known as “the stinky grandma” so she immediately washes her hands after having a cigarette and she tries to smoke as little as possible. Then one day when my son was about 2 I gave him a piece of meat and my mum thought it was too big so she picked it up and chewed it a little and then offered it back to him. (I know, gross, but not the point of this story!) I stopped her immediately and when she asked why I had to be honest and tell her that I know she makes a tremendous effort to keep the cigarettes and smoke away but there was no way I wanted my son exposed to nicotine that way. It felt terrible and she was hurt but did see my point. I hated having to hurt her feelings but when the choice is between hurt feelings or health concerns I’ll choose health every time.

  24. As a smoker myself with lots of little ones in my life, I don’t think this has to be a huge deal. I never needed to be asked not to smoke around the babies in my life, but I’m generally what my friends refer to as a “polite smoker,” meaning I try to make myself scarce when smoking around others. That being said, most people are fully aware of the health risks associated with smoking, and are typically pretty understanding when asked not to smoke around certain people or in certain situations.

    Not wanting your child to be in their house might make the subject a little touchier, but again, most smokers can be pretty understanding about this. I think the most important thing is to be up front with them for the beginning about your expectations and intentions. If you just avoid their house with baby, or are restrictive on time spend with them with no explanation, that might start a whole slough of other issues. If a loved one needed to have this conversation with me, I would appreciate just approaching it directly.

  25. Wow, this discussion has been super helpful. We’re years away from kids, but my husband’s family has a LOT of pets and aren’t super clean about it. It’s to the point that we don’t visit their house, and I know I won’t feel comfortable visiting with a baby if something doesn’t change. I’ll definitely keep the advice above in mind for when that happens — meanwhile, anyone else dealing with cleanliness/safety issues other than smoking? Any advice?

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