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Cigarette smoke gets in your food

Scenario A:

Greek Resto X was a two hour drive from home and had delicious moussaka. I happened to be in the area on business and ordered take-out. My mouth was watering during the drive home bec it had been over a year since I’d been there. When I got home and warmed the dish it had absorbed cigarette smoke from the resto bar and was ruined.

Scenario B:

There’s a dear elderly friend who is always welcome at the holiday table. She is a great cook and often brings a side dish despite her advanced age and fragile health condition. Problem is she’s a chain smoker and her food sometimes tastes like cigarettes. It’s hit or miss depending on if the dish has come directly from the oven to the table or if it’s been sitting in the house for awhile. (Once she gave me a batch of cookies that were so saturated with smoke they were inedible.) I’ve never said anything bec she’s very sensitive and her friendship is more important. I just discretely push the food together to make it look like I’ve eaten some and dispose of the offending dish after she’s gone.

Can anyone relate to any of this?

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  1. Both of my parents smoked when I was growing up. My father was a heavy smoker but quit when I was 12. My mother smoked less than a 1/2 a pack a day but did not quit until she was 60. In all that time I never remember food that tasted like cigarettes. I also never remember my mother smoking anywhere near the stove or while she was standing over the stove. I suppose I can understand the cookies and food tasting of smoke but I'm a bit mystified about the Greek food. Is it common for restaurants to allow cooks to smoke IN the kitchen? The only way I could explain it is if the take-out styrofoam box absorbed smoke in some manner.

    16 Replies
    1. re: John E.

      Both of my parents smoked while I was growing up and since we were so immersed in the cigarette smoke permeating everything in the house (not to mention stores, restaurants etc., we went to back then in the 60s and 70s) we probably did not notice it in the food. But these days where I hardly encounter cigarette smoke anywhere, I can definitely smell it on food, etc., if it has been exposed to it. My partner's mother (a lifetime smoker) sends us candy and the like at different holidays and I can smell cigarette smoke as soon as I open the box. I can even smell cigarette smoke from the car in front of mine when stopped at a red light...with the windows closed. Some of us are just very sensitive to certain smells the same way others of us are very sensitive to certain flavors and tastes, like anchovies and cilantro for example.

      1. re: ttoommyy

        I do not disagree that some people are sensitive to cigarette smoke and back in the day we were probably used to cigarette smoke but I have never encountered it recently in food. I walked past somebody yesterday and got a huge whiff of cigarette smoke. Thankfully, that happens less and less these days. Just the other day the Minnesota Twins closed the only remaining place where smokers could light up at Target Field. It wasn't even in the ballpark, but on the plaza outside the ballpark but when the wind was just right the smoke wafted up and into the concourse. So while they used to allow people to leave and get a smoke and return, that is no longer the case.

        1. re: John E.

          "but I have never encountered it recently in food."

          Which is probably due to the fact that most places do not allow smoking anywhere near food these days. Perhaps the restaurant the OP visited was an exception.

        2. re: ttoommyy

          My BF's mom is a chain smoker. It hits me when I go in the house, but then I don't notice it while I'm there. I guess since I'm surrounded by it, I've never tasted it in the food. But I suppose if she were to bring a dish over to our house, it would be a different story.

          1. re: ttoommyy

            You can smell smoke from a car in froint of you at red light with its windows closed???????????????

            i think you need to talk to someone about this.....and not on Chowhoud

            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

              It wasn't specified whose windows were closed. If the poster's windows were closed but the smoker's were open, the smell could easily come in through the vents. Much like the stench from the sewage treatment facility I pass on the way to work every day.... >.<

              1. re: Kontxesi

                I will believe that when I see some empirical evidence........One car with a smoker at a redlight...IN FRONT....and another car....one or the others windoews closed? It defies belief

                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                  It's happened to me. My windows closed but A/C or vents on and smokers car in front of me at a red light with its windows open. I am very sensitive to the smell of cigarette smoke. Why can't you just believe someone when the say they are? Why would we make this up?

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    I can smell cigarettes in traffic too. I quit a few years ago but am aware when I am exposed to it. Strangely though, it doesn't offend me. Most ex smokers cannot stand the smell

                  2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                    No, it is definitely for real. I can smell it from the car in front of me at a light too. Most drivers that are smoking have their drivers side window open a bit and they tend to blow it out the window as much as they can. It drifts back to my car with the window open a crack or with my vents open. I notice it in the summer more than any other time.

                    It is disgusting because once it is in your car, it lingers long after the light changes!

                    1. re: sedimental

                      "Most drivers that are smoking have their drivers side window open a bit and they tend to blow it out the window as much as they can"

                      Non-smokers often describe the behavior of smokers. 'This is what the guy in the car in front of me is doing.'

                      I don't know any smokers who behave as you describe.

                      1. re: FrankJBN

                        Almost every driver I see (and know) that smokes, does not smoke in their car with the windows rolled up. They couldn't see or breathe air if they did, and they don't typically blow it in the direction of their passenger. Every single smoker I have been in a car with, cracks the drivers side window when they get into the car...then they light up. The drivers window is the one that is open.That is my experience and observation.

                    2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                      hey fried clam fanatic...I too love fried clams...i worked at Howard Johnsons as a kid and my free meal everyday was a clam dog...Over the years Ive noticed that clams just arent on menus the way they used to be and they are even hard to find frozen in stores too...Imagine my surprise when I went to a Golden Coral in Lakeland,(yes I said Golden Coral) and there was a huge pan of fried clams with tartar or red sauce...I jumped for joy and Ill go back there just for those...Im not sure if all of the Golden Corals have them but you might check out one near you...

                      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                        It happens to me constantly in LA traffic. This is from a smoker in front of me, blowing smoke out of their window. I can smell it, even though my windows are rolled up, because there is a vent that pulls outside air into my car. I've become adept at the quick - push the "shut the outside vent" button on my car maneuver. It has a "recirculate air" symbol on it - you can't do it indefinitely or you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If I don't do that, the smell seeps into my car.

                    3. re: FriedClamFanatic

                      i can smell smoke from a car in front of me at a red light when my windows are closed.

                2. It's some years since I stopped smoking (used to be 40 a day). The memory fades but I don't recall smoking when I was cooking but it's always possible that I did.

                  As for the bar/restaurant - where I am, smoking is banned by law inside public buildings. And, no, I don't agree with the law.

                  1. my grandma smoked while she cooked, ash used to fall in food sometimes and get spooned out. I never remember any smell or taste of smoking in our food.

                    I go to a very smokey dive bar once or twice a week to eat and drink and nobody there complains of smokey tasting food including the non smokers of whom there are many.

                    I think perhaps you are being overly sensitive.

                    1. Yep. There is a gas station/convenience store down the road from the house, and it is always full of smokers. I don't even buy bottled soda there, because the bottles smell like smoke. (I try not to go inside at all--2 minutes in line to pay for my gas and I reek of smoke all day.

                      I can certainly believe that the packaging for your moussaka had absorbed smoke, and during your drive it transferred to your dinner. Ditto for your friend's cookies--they sat on the counter to cool, she put them into something that was saturated with smoke--tobacco infused cookies.

                      1. Nope can't relate. I don't smoke myself but never had the slightest inkling of smoke smell on food.

                        I've heard of taste buds tasting things wrong, my Mom gets that from her allergies, maybe something like that?

                        1. I don't think that you're being overly sensitive at all, but I know that I, by nature of health issues, have an increased sensitivity to these things.

                          Luckily, I live in a state where indoor smoking is prohibited, so I don't have this problem.

                          If I got food that was contaminated heavily with cigarette smoke, I wouldn't even get to trying to eat it - I would have a nasty asthma attack, that would probably require significant pharmacological intervention, and I would be pretty ticked.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jw615

                            I grew up before the laws and as a non smokerI can say I ready did mind when when there were smoking non smoking sections as smoke always drifted over making our dining less plesent even more then screming kids did so i am so glad florida went non smoking and the only reason I do not join the american legon

                          2. No, never experienced that.

                            1. Isn't this what Southerners call barbecue?

                              [please note sarcasm]

                              1. Don't inhale, you'll be fine.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: beevod

                                  Surgeon General warns that second-hand food can be hazardous to your health.

                                2. The containers! Great points on that. Lady in Scenario B once returned a plastic container that reeked of tobacco. I did everything short of boiling in bleach to no avail. She lives in a small apt so nowhere for the smoke to go but in household contents.

                                  I didn't think about it til a few mentioned it but both my parents smoked and I don’t recall anything in food either. Guess it started bothering me as I got older.

                                  1. Hmm. I've travelled and eaten widely across the world, including countries where smoking in restaurants is still the norm and walks behind restaurants will show the cooks and servers puffing away ceaselessly, and can safely say I've never tasted the smell of cigarettes in the food, even when surrounding tables were full of smokers.

                                    I don't think you're tasting the smell of cigarettes, but you're smelling the smell of the smoke that got trapped inside a package. I suppose if you pinched your nose and ate the food you'd find the flavors unaltered. But it's certainly not a comfortable way to eat.

                                    1. well taste and smell are very clearly linked, your palate suffers when you have a cold for example, and some people's senses of smell/taste are less or more sensitive to smells and tastes, look at the cilantro thread!
                                      However, anti smoking has become a crusade in the past 10-20 years and I do think that Americans in particular are more outspoken and overly sensitive about smoking. Wonder how the OP's question would be answered in Europe, the Middle East or Asia?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: smartie

                                        Im a reformed smoker (25 yrs) and I can smell a smoker 20 ft away....I deliver mail now and I can smell who smokes on their outgoing mail!! its not just a whiff,it reeks!!! I worked as a waiter for years when I was a smoker and I shudder to think what I smelled like to my customers..I can smell a waiter or waitress who smokes when I go out to eat and its a turn off..I think it is possible that that smell could creep into food if there are smokers in the kitchen,and trust me,some places let the staff smoke in the kitchen...Just as a side note ...In "Breakfast at Tiffanys" Holly Golightly makes an exotic desert called "tobacco tapioca!!!" Yuck!!!!

                                      2. When smoking was allowed in restaurants, I ordered a whole lemon meringue pie from a local pie/restaurant chain. Took it home and the topping absorbed the smoke from the diners at the counter.

                                        1. Nonsmoker old enough to remember lots of smoky bar-restaurants, etc. In all those years, both back then and in the recent years of smoke-free venues (which I love), never had food that smelled/tasted cigarette-smokey.

                                          And then my stepdaughter moved to town. She is a chain smoker whose apartment, clothing and person all utterly reek, and she, of course, doesn't notice it. When my DH was alive, she would give us batches of soup and cookies and I couldn't eat it, it was so smoky. Now maybe it IS the containers, although I sure got it in reheated soup. I say it makes no diff if it's the containers or the food, it's a smell that ranges from annoying to disgusting when it's what I'm going to eat.

                                          1. Smoking police hard at work! Have the restaurant closed down by the HD, & tell your elderly friend you & your family have developed severe allergies . That should take care of it!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Joyfull

                                              Please don't claim severe allergies if you don't actually have them.

                                              Someone close to me has severe allergies to cigarettes (as in requiring ongoing medical treatment and at its worst a stay in the hospital) and people who claim allergies that they don't have make it so very much harder for those who *do* -- because of the "cry wolf" syndrom.

                                            2. When I owned a cafe and was working in the basement office, I could smell something starting to burn before my staff upstairs in the kitchen could. I can smell disgusting flavored coffee from a block away because I absolutely hate it and can't be around it. But can't say I've ever smelled cigarette smoke in food. I guess it depends on what you're sensitive to.

                                              1. when my MIL used to smoke, we had to put Christmas and birthday presents out in the garage until the smoke dissipated.

                                                But I've never had food at her house that tasted like smoke.