Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Smoker Co-Worker Causes Asthma Problems

DEAR NATALIE: Where I work, there is a seriously heavy smoker who, well, smells very bad. In addition to the fact that I have asthma and am very sensitive, it's a really disgusting odor. Of course, smoking is not permitted on work premises, but every break or lunch finds her hastening outdoors and returning smelling even worse. We share a work area, so avoiding her is impossible. She is not the only smoker at work but is the only one who carries the odor like a second skin. What to do? -- NONSMOKING SECTION

DEAR NONSMOKING SECTION: We have all been around that person who just reeks of cigarettes. Being around a heavy smoker, especially when you have a health condition, isn't fun and can even be dangerous for your health. It could cause your asthma to flare up, creating a major issue. Because of that, it goes beyond "a bad smell" and becomes a real health concern. For this reason, go to your supervisor privately and explain the situation. Say that your asthma has been kicking up because of the smoke smell, and you would like to move to another area. Get a medical note from your doctor if you have to in order to showcase the severity of the situation. While it won't improve your relationship with this woman -- but how could you have one with her anyway? -- at least it could give you some fresh air to breathe. In the meantime, try taking breaks when she comes back from smoking outside, so at least you aren't around her when the smell is worse than usual. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Humility wins. I was in a situation recently where a person felt it necessary to give everyone unsolicited career advice upon his first introduction, and let's just say it went over badly. Everyone talked about how rude he was after he left the group. Yikes! 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)