Nanny Confessions: Don’t be Shy About Telling People Not to Smoke In Front of Your Charges

How to Ask People Not to Smoke When Caring for Kids

Everyone knows that secondhand smoke is harmful to children. But it’s also hard to confront people. Although I used to try to hold my breath and ignore it when someone smoked because I didn’t want to be rude, I am now convinced it’s okay to ask people not to smoke in the presence of my charges. Most smokers today understand that it is rude to smoke in tight spaces or in the presence of children.

In the article, “The Effects of Secondhand Smoke on Children” Terry Martin explains that secondhand smoke is a nasty mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals, 250 of which have been identified as poisonous, and upwards of 70 that are carcinogenic.

The article further describes, “Children face a greater risk than adults of the negative effects of secondhand smoke. When the air is tainted with cigarette smoke, young, developing lungs receive a higher concentration of inhaled toxins than do older lungs because a child’s breathing rate is faster than that of adults.”

The way I recently handled it was to be super nice and kind, making no judgments, no ultimatums, or rude comments.

Here are some ways to politely ask smokers not to smoke in front of the kids:

“Would you mind terribly moving outside so the smoke won’t bother the kids?”

“Could I ask if you wouldn’t mind not smoking in front of the children?”

“Can I please ask you not to smoke when we are in the car? You could have a smoke when we stop for breaks. Thanks.”


  1. Nanny M says:

    I am very sensitive to cigarette or cigar smoke and non smokers do smell cigarette smoke on others. I do find it hard to ask someone to smoke somewhere else, I usually just move myself. But it’s the smoker that should realize their actions are more offensive than my asking them not to smoke around kids. Another excuse to use is that the kids have asthma or are allergic and could they kindly not smoke in front of them. Thank you for this great advice.

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