What Should You Do If Your Roommate Is a Smoker? (Try These Five Things)

Living with a smoker exposes you to second-hand tobacco smoke and everything that comes with it.

It’s very much like living in a polluted city with a cloud of killer smog.

So basically, just because you don’t vape or put a cigarette on your lips doesn’t mean you won’t be affected.

Hence, What Should You Do If Your Roommate Is a Smoker?

Well, that’s an unfortunate situation to find yourself in, to begin with. It’s akin to being allergic to marshmallows and being compelled to chomp them with food. According to WHO, tobacco kills over half of its users including secondhand smokers.

The default response would be to install an air purifier and leaving your windows open most of the time. While these two remedies work, no air filter (no matter how effective it is at filtering the air) can eliminate 100% of pollutants from the air.

It’s OK to ask your smoker roommate to smoke from outside.

Here is what else you can do, starting with air purifiers:

1. Invest in an Air Purifier Best Suited for The Job

So you are unable to evict your smoker roommate?

Bear with them with an air purifier.

Air purifiers are designed to remove most of the unwanted particles from the air albeit to varying degrees depending on the kind of filtration technology and size of the room.

Perhaps the most popular air purifiers out there are those equipped with HEPA filters.

This class of purifiers eliminates 99.97% of the most stubborn, hardest-to-filter pollutants including tobacco-based particles.

Still, because smokers usually take a puff several times a day and keep pumping more pollutants into the air, you will need to use your air purifier in tandem with other preventive measures like leaving the windows and doors open most of the time (more on this later).

That said, the best air purifier for the job would be one equipped with a HEPA filter.

Why? HEPA filters are designed to remove particles within the 0.1 – 0.5-micron range.

Most of the particles in cigarette smoke fall in these brackets. In an average residential setting, a great air purifier, say, Coway Mighty can remove about 90 percent, continuously as long as it remains turned on the entire time.

But that’s not all you need.

Tobacco smoke comes with other finer particles capable of penetrating even the best HEPA filters out there.

Even worse, a cigarette releases a cocktail of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can’t be easily captured by HEPA filters.

It takes a special multi-faceted filter to get rid of VOCs. Go for an air purifier with a barrier that incorporates an adsorbent chemical (often activated charcoal) and HEPA filter.

Still, not just any amount of activated charcoal can eliminate VOCs – ensure the layer of activated charcoal or carbon filter weighs at least 5 lbs. (check the label). So, while some reputable filters like

Conway Mighty come with both HEPA filter and a layer of activated charcoal, just a few like Austin Air Healthmate HM400  carry the right amount of activated charcoal.

Yes – this class of air purifiers is pricier compared to regular purifiers equipped with just one filtration barrier, but their filtration performance is on another level.

2. Leave Your Windows and Doors Open Most of the Time

Are you still unable to evict your roommate?

Leave your windows ajar.

Open windows and doors can’t remove 100% of the stale air reeking of cigarette smoke all by themselves.

However, leaving them ajar most of the time can greatly boost the effectiveness of your air purifier as they reduce the size of a load of polluted air.

Of course, the effectiveness of this method will depend on how good your windows and doors are good at changing the air in the room. This can be more effective with a running fan.

A running fan makes it more comfortable to share a room with a smoker.

If you can generate “winds” in the region of 200 – 300 miles an hour with your powerful fan and open windows every time your smoker roommate lights up a cigar, you can be assured of 99% shielding.

Window fans would be more effective compared to ceiling fans. Positioning may influence the effectiveness as well. Place the fan by the window a few feet away from the smoker.

3. Keep The Surfaces Smelling Fresh with The Help of Sodium Bicarbonate and Vinegar

Still can’t evict your smoker roommate?

Freshen up!

You should figure out how to stop tobacco odors lingering on surfaces.

Tobacco odors can be stubborn to remove sometimes depending on the kind of your upholstery and indoor décor.

It is known to stick and linger on fabric parts of furniture and clothes longer than any other surface.

As such, you need an odorless substance that’s good at eliminating odors.

Enter Sodium Bicarbonate – this is the perfect odorless deodorant you need to keep bad odors at bay, cheaply.

Not only is it easy and cheap to get, but it also leaves zero marks and odors on surfaces, even on fabrics.

  1. Start by filling a few small bowls with sodium bicarbonate and arranging them around the space close to the affected surfaces. Let them stay there overnight.
  2. To enhance and even speed up the process, boil an equal amount of vinegar and let it simmer for about an hour.
  3. Place it close to your sodium bicarbonate bowls.
  4. As the air wafts off from the pot into the air, you can count on it to restore the fresh smell of your upholstery.

But that’s for upholstery and other hard-to-move, what about clothes and other fabrics?

  1. Toss them in the washing machine (if they are machine washable, that is).
  2. Add in there your regular laundry detergent and a reasonable amount of warm vinegar.
  3. The odor should be gone by the time you hang them out or machine-dry them.

4. Ask Your Roommate to Smoke Less Indoors

If you can’t kick out your smoker roommate, try out dialogue and ask them to smoke from outside.

Dialogue can help both of you reach a common ground.

Tell them the effect of their behavior on your health and ask them to be considerate.

It would be super rude for them to completely disregard your concern.

5. Evict Your Roommate (Last Resort)

There’s no law in any state in America, perhaps even internationally, that permits tenants to smoke in rented spaces as they wish.

This means you can evict your roommate if you feel like it, especially in presence of no-smoking rules/agreement from your landlord.

If you can’t play along through the avenues mentioned above, you have two options left:

  1. leave the house
  2. or evict your smoker roommate.

You are allowed to involve the cops in extreme cases such as in the absence of the landlord or if the roommate declines to vacate the home.


So, what should you do if your roommate is a smoker?

Explore the avenues of evicting them.

While at that, invest in a decent air purifier and leave your windows/doors open most of the time.

Install a window fan to enhance the function of the air purifier.

Sodium bicarbonate can help you restore the smell of your upholstery and home surfaces.