Dear Smokers,

Did you know that the smell from your smoking is triggering horrible headaches and migraines in arthritis patients such as myself along with my fellow patient friends? This trigger happens almost immediately after our first smell of the smoke too. There is no grace period to try to get to our pain meds either. Your smoking is causing pain to a group of people that already live their lives in pain.

Now, I realize that arthritis is an invisible illness. As smokers you have no way to tell whether people that are walking by are patients or not. We, as arthritis patients, have learned to hide our pain from the rest of the world so we can continue to work full-time, travel, work out, explore, love, perform charity, or go on adventures like healthy people do. Now don’t get my wrong, arthritis does not make for a bad life, however, it does frequently rob of us of many days in our lives though. The smell of smoke makes it much easier for arthritis to take even more days from us, which isn’t fair.



Just to let you know there is no hiding or masking the smell either. Perfume, cologne, aftershave, Febreze, or cacking windows does not help. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve got a horrible headache from a smoker masking the smell with too much perfume or cologne I would be writing this post from my beachfront mansion instead of my local Starbucks (that isn’t a joke either!) In fact, in most cases, attempting to mask the smell only makes the trigger more powerful for us patients.

Another powerful trigger for us patients is what the heat of summer can do to the smell of smoke. For example, walking outside after work to the smell of smoke in a 105-degree day can feel like walking into a brick wall. It physically hurts us as patients. Many times this has meant immediate headaches for me in the 6 to 8 range (this is compared to the night I fell rock climbing) on the pain scale. Summer heat magnifies the smell! Heat also helps the smell contaminate your work area, break rooms, restrooms, lunch spots, elevators, and even staircases. A very common and frequent scenario that I deal with is coming back from lunch with both knees and hips flaring which forces me to ride an elevator and a smoker wants on. Even riding an elevator to the 3rd floor can pretty much guarantee that I will not be able to be a functional member of society because of the incredible headache that this causes.

Most smokers have gotten a lot better about smoking in designated areas. However, a lot of these areas are downwind of doors to buildings, restaurants, or grocery stores or in frequently traveled public areas. Most designated smoke areas are not well placed I have found.  Please be aware of this next time you feel the need to light up.

I fully admit that I have no sympathy for smokers. I’ve never been able to stand the smell. Now that I’m battling multiple forms of this disease called arthritis I have even less sympathy. If you want to smoke in your house, car, or at bars that cater to smokers, that is fine with me. The trouble is your habit is causing others severe pain. We are unable to work, function, and in some cases become a danger to society because of the headaches or migraines that we get. Not only does smoking cause headaches, we have to play catch up with our pain relief because they happen so fast and forcefully.

Hopefully this letter will serve as a wake up call to smokers. As an arthritis advocate part of my job is to make others aware of this disease that has both kids and adults as patients. My point is that your right to hurt yourself is also hurting many arthritis patients such as myself. Although I do not believe smokers intentionally set out to cause severe headaches and migraines in others, your habit does just that. Please be aware of the power of that smell and what it can do to others every time you light up.

Thank you for your time!






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