March 2013 Moms

how to handle in-laws who smoke

Hello ladies!

I have a bit of a dilemma and I don't know how to tactfully approach it. 

My in-laws smoke. A lot. Like, several packs a day. Whenever we visit them, you can barely see because the smoke is so thick. The smoke has always bothered me, but I want to avoid second hand smoke altogether now that I am pregnant. Luckily, my husband and I have been so busy, that we haven't had a chance to visit them lately. However, I am starting to feel anxious about the upcoming holidays, when we will be visiting them in their homes. 

Is it polite of me to ask them to not smoke indoors when we visit? My husband suggested we have them over at our house (smoke-free) for the holidays, but I already know there is no way I will want to play hostess for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I feel like asking someone to not smoke in their home is crossing a line and I don't want to cause any discomfort. 

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.



Re: how to handle in-laws who smoke

  • Short of just not going to their home, I don't know what you can do except for offer to host.  Even if they don't smoke while you're there, there is all sorts of stuff that is going to be coming out of all the surfaces in their home (walls, sofas, carpets, etc.).  I wouldn't feel comfortable with it either.  

    Good luck with your choice - that is tough. 

  • At this point, I would just offer to host.  I think its a good time to bring up the issue of them not smoking around the baby.  I'd host them at your house, and just use it as an opening for that conversation. 
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  • Even though you don't feel up to it, I think hosting is best.  It is pretty hard to dictate what someone does and doesn't do in their own home, plus there is all sorts of crap still in the air in a smokers home even if they are not currently smoking.  

    I agree with PP, I would start talking to them about the future with the baby.  There is no way I'd bring my children to a home where people smoke indoors.



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  • I have the same issue but they are not as heavy of smokers.  They all tend to light up at the same time so when they do I just excuse myself quietly and go outside.  We do not visit them at their home all that often so I just do my best to avoid it while I'm there.  I come home and immediately shower.  My DH knows how miserable it makes me and goes to visit them by himself most of the time.  I feel bad but I just do not want to expose myself to that.  I am going to offer to host Thanksgiving at our house this year and for Christmas we will be at his grandmothers which is smoke free.  I do not think that YOU should ask them not to smoke in their own home.  I would just offer to host or if it gets really bad just make up an excuse to miss.  My DH said that next time we go over together he will ask them to please not smoke around the pregnant lady.  I'm still trying to figure out how to bring up the fact that i will not want them to smoke in the house with our baby.  I'm really hoping DH steps up on that one.  I dont think he or his parents think there is anything wrong with it since they grew up with smoking parents.  I am dreading this convo.

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  • I feel for you! My paternal grandma smokes A LOT in her house and even if they won't smoke on Thanksgiving, there is still a ton of smoke coming out of everywhere in that house. I've decided not to go to my family Thanksgiving this year at her house and just do something separate with her while we're up visiting. My family lives 5 hours away so I definitely can't offer to host at our house. We'll probably take her out to dinner Friday night or breakfast Saturday or Sunday morning. I hope you can figure something out!
  • As others have said, it's pretty rude to try and dictate what someone does in their home. Wouldn't you be slightly ticked if the reverse was the case, them asking you not to do something in your house? Hosting really is your only option.

    In order to ease the load of cooking uou could always ask everyone to bring a side or a dessert.

    Like pp said, smoke and all the chemicals are all over that place. There is a reason Neonatal staff rec for parents not just to smoke outside but to quit all together. The chemicals are still in their clothes and holdong the baby next to their clothes can affect the baby. Food for thought. 

  • No matter what, it shouldn't be YOU who mentions it.  It should be your hubby talking to his family.  It is reasonable to offer to host.  If that is too much for you, then maybe start a new tradition with you/hubby/baby on your own.  You are right, asking them not to do something in their home may be too much, but hubby does need to start talking to them about smoking around the baby, too.  Better to get that settled now, before things get crazy in your life.

    (I'd like to thank Dear Prudie for that advice.  She is always telling letter writers to let the spouse deal with the in-laws.)

  • This is an issue I am going to have to tackle as well. MIL smokes and for the most part, it's easy for me to avoid at this point. Although, DH's family is the only one that is close, and I know that when Baby J gets here, and if we need a babysitter for any reason, they will be our go-to. Their entire house smells of smoke. Even if they don't smoke while Baby J is around, the smell will transfer... diaper bag, carseat, clothes, stroller, etc. I told DH that we're just going to have to lay down the law that if they have to babysit for any reason, it will be at our home (which would be more convenient for Baby J anyways). 

  • Here are things I would do (and did when my f-i-l was alive --- though I wasn't even pregnant then --- he smoked like a chimney, and eventually died of lung cancer):

    (1) Don't stay at their houses.  Stay in a non-smoking hotel (assuming they're far away).  If they ask you why you aren't staying at their house, be honest, and let them know that your doctor has advised you to avoid second-hand smoke while pregnant.

    (2) Bring extra clothes with you so that you can change out of those clothes when you visit them.

    (3) When they smoke, excuse yourself and walk outside or into a different room.


  • I am sorry you have to deal with this, but as another poster mentioned, this is not the last time this conversation will be had. The baby should not be around smokers either, as in, if they smoke, they should go shower and change clothes before they are allowed near your little one. I would find as much credible information to arm your husband with (American Cancer Society, American Ped. etc), so that your in laws don't feel like you guys are making this up, and let DH have the talk. Hopefully they will see this is not just a 9 month situation, but something that will affect the relationship they have with their grandchild. Good luck. You are that baby's guardian, you have to protect him/her from all things that can cause harm. If you don't want to host, maybe meet out somewhere.
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  • We have this issue with DH's parents.  They both smoke CONSTANTLY.  Like, put one cig out and immediately light another.  Luckily, DH hates the smoke as much as I do and tells them to stop (even when I'm not pregnant).  They refuse to come to our house (it's only an hour and a half away but you'd think it was the other side of the world).  The first time we went up there after finding out I was pregnant, his dad refused to not smoke around me, so we haven't been back.  And guess what?  They've been to our house since.  Sometimes you just have to put your foot down and protect your unborn baby (but DH really needs to be on board with you).  Oh, and he's made it very clear that if they can't go outside to smoke, they won't be keeping baby once he/she is here.  It REALLY needs to be him who handles this issue.  If he won't step up, then tell him you're not going.

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  • My ex in laws smoked so much in their apartment that they had the smoke haze as well.  Our "compromise" of sorts for when we'd go visit was that they had to open the doors and windows to allow fresh air in as they didn't open the doors and windows as a general rule and the air became extra stale.  They started opening the windows even before we'd come over when the visits were planned.  It didn't solve the entire problem but it did help.

    If you decide to host the holidays, try preparing as much as possible before hand and invite family members to help in the kitchen both before and after the meals.  My mom, my grandmother and my aunts would gather in the kitchen for family get togethers regardless of the occassion and they'd have a ball preparing and cleaning up after the meals.  In fact, some of my happiest memories of my grandmother revolve around helping grandma and her daughters in the kitchen. 


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  • Wow! Thank you for all the advice! I know that this will be a touchy topic to bring up, but I feel more confident after hearing everyone's opinion. I am lucky that I have a husband who is just as disgusted by smoke as I am, so I know he will defend me and our unborn child. 

    Thanks again, ladies, for all your help. I feel very fortunate that I can seek advice from so many knowledgeable women who have been in my shoes.


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