A red table with a NO SMOKING sign on it

Should Smoking Be a Deal Breaker?

by Dr. Seth Meyers - July 1, 2015

For many men and women, smoking is a deal breaker in any potential date. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 18 percent of adults smoke cigarettes. If you rule out people who don’t smoke, the reality is that you are ruling out thousands – no, millions – of people! Yet the question about whether you should date a smoker is valid. What does it say about a person when he or she smokes?

Thousands of studies have been conducted on smokers and the results have found that smokers tend to struggle more with anxiety and depression than non-smokers. I also found that many smokers smoke because they tend to be compulsive; they like to do something when they feel bored. Certainly, we can all agree that smoking is an unhealthy habit to avoid so that we don’t seriously increase our risk for disease. But if you meet someone who smokes, you shouldn’t outright say, “No, I would never date a smoker.”

When smoking triggers a physical reaction

If you want to find a good relationship, the person you end up with will inevitably have some traits or engage in some behaviors that you don’t like. Note that some men and women have a strong physical reaction to the smell of smoke, causing near-gagging or stomach-turning. Some people simply have a very keen sense of smell to the point that many odors – not just smoke – induce a noxious reaction. For those of you who have a negative physical reaction to the smell of smoke, you obviously can’t date a smoker.

When you’re a health nut and need your partner to be a health nut, too

Some people pride themselves in prioritizing physical health, including eating healthfully, exercising, and avoiding all unhealthy behaviors. But to suggest that smokers don’t similarly value healthfulness would be inaccurate. Many smokers also work out and eat healthfully; smoking, for them, provides a way for them to relax or ease stress. This coping mechanism is an unhealthy one, but understand that someone who smokes may not necessarily be unhealthy in the other parts of their life as well.

The vast majority of men and women who swear off dating smokers hate smoking because they have a psychological – and not a physical –reaction to it. Plain and simple, they think smoking is disgusting. While I can understand that you may be turned off by smoking, you shouldn’t be more turned off than you are by any other number of problematic behaviors you’ll come across in the dating world: lateness, flakiness, canceling plans at the last minute, having a bad temper, being self-centered or controlling, getting jealous, being financially stingy, flirting with others in front of you, preferring to talk mostly about themselves. infidelity, excessive drinking or other substance abuse, and so on. When you consider this list, maybe smoking doesn’t seem so bad?

If you meet someone who is a great catch – good personality, good job, and a willingness to commit to you – be very careful about saying “no” just because he or she smokes. The truth is that a relationship can survive and be happy if the smoker makes certain accommodations (smokes outside, or tries to smoke mostly when you’re not around, or brushes teeth prior to kissing or getting close).

If you’re the one who smokes

If you are the smoker, it goes without saying that you would serve yourself well to quit. But until that point, you shouldn’t feel deeply ashamed of yourself for smoking. After all, we all have flaws and weaknesses, and smoking is simply one of yours. Within the first few dates with someone new, tell the truth. Say, “Hey, I want to tell you that I do smoke, but I also want you to know that I am going to try to quit sooner or later. I hope that you can keep my good points in perspective, and that you’ll give me a chance because I really like you.” If someone won’t give you a chance because you smoke, don’t sweat it. In fact, you would serve your self-esteem well to just think to yourself, Okay, you don’t want to give me a chance because of this one bad habit? So be it, but you’ll be missing out on all the other great traits I have. I will find someone who accepts me for the overall package that I am.

Where do you stand on the smoking issue?

About the Author:

Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.