One hapless Redditor — who appears to be a young man renting in Brooklyn — has crowdsourced his question about how to make his roommate stop smoking.
“My roommate smokes 24/7 in the apartment and I don’t smoke at all,” he writes. “I want them to stop. What should I do?”
The roommate is smoking marijuana, which is now legal in New York for sale and for recreational use. This week, a pop-up dispensary opened in downtown Manhattan, marking the state’s second legal dispensary to debut since late December.
“It makes me smell like smoke, to the point that other people smell it on me and ask about it,” the young man says. His eyes sting, and he is worried about the health risks of secondhand smoke.
“Also, it’s just sort of an unpleasant energy to come into the living room and see. I want a more clean unsmoky room and non-smelly clean fresh air ideally.”
He wonders if he can seek legal recourse. “Don’t I have a reasonable expectation of a roommate with some amount of normalcy? For example, we didn’t discuss plutonium before we moved in together either, but if he stored plutonium near my bedroom and I got cancer, I’d think there be some valid legal concerns around that.”
The responders were quick to pooh-pooh his concerns, saying that smoking isn’t illegal but storing plutonium at home is.
This is the equivalent of asking “is there any legal recourse for my roommate not washing the dishes,” one says. “And I say this as someone who hates smoking and wouldn’t be able to live in an apartment with a smoker either.”
Another says: “Smoking is not against the law, and you can’t sue people for doing legal things that you don’t like.”
And another: “You should probably be more concerned that you’re comparing plutonium and doing dishes to weed smoke and you’re NOT the one who’s high.”
It’s unclear whether the roommates discussed the smoking situation beforehand. The Redditor did not respond to a request for comment.
What about complaining to the landlord? “That would make it difficult to live with someone who hates you, so what’s the point? Just leave,” another person offers.
There was a smidgeon of understanding. “I had more than a couple roommates in the past who said they didn’t care if I smoked — only to go back on their word after a couple months of living together,” one less unsympathetic person writes.
Rooming with a smoker — whether the smoke be marijuana or tobacco — might be disgusting, but it’s unlikely that secondhand smoke will cause cancer.
“There are an estimated 3,000 cases a year in the US believed to be from such exposure,” Alan Blum, MD, a prominent anti-tobacco doctor, told The Post.
“They are invariably the longterm spouses or co-workers of those who smoked, or else individuals who grew up in households where parents smoked.”
This unfortunate roommate will, however, become “nauseated from the acrid smell, and his clothing (and carpets, drapes, bedspread, and hair) will absorb the stench,” said Blum, a professor at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.
With laws legalizing recreational marijuana, “the resurgence of weed is a setback to all those who fought for smoke-free housing laws,” he said.
Assuming the sufferer is not on the lease, there is no legal remedy — or at least nothing worth doing, said real-estate lawyer Adam Leitman Bailey.
“The landlord is not responsible for the roommate’s conduct,” Bailey said. “The only remedy he does have, which is not a good one, is a nuisance case in state supreme court, which is expensive and difficult to prove.”
If the sufferer holds the lease, he could evict the roommate, as long as he gives appropriate advance notice. If both roommates are on the lease, they could agree to let one out of the lease, in which case that person would vacate.
An air filter is unlikely to work for weed. “To be blunt,” Bailey said, “marijuana has deep smells that infiltrate the apartment. It is smoke that acts like glue. I don’t know of an air filter that is going to get rid of it.”
Lawyers find smoking complaints to be seasonal, he said — in warm weather, people open the windows or smoke outside, which alleviates the problem, at least for half the year.
New York’s Smoke-Free Air Act prohibits smoking in common areas of residential buildings, but does not stop people from smoking inside their apartments.
The Department of Health acknowledges the difficulty of having a smoking neighbor, and advises using “a friendly approach,” but does not address the difficulty of having a smoking roommate.
If the building is smoke-free, “the grieving tenant is welcome to contact the landlord,” Bailey said, “but it is rare that a landlord will act.”
To strengthen such a complaint at least, someone can ask the neighbors in the building whether they are also bothered.
Basically, smokers gonna smoke. “These are people who will walk through fire to keep their smoking addiction, so asking nicely will not work,” Bailey said. “Too bad he didn’t discuss this before he moved in. Someone shouldn’t have to live this way.”
Roommate situations are often fraught, regardless of anyone’s smoking status.
One person offers Reddit wisdom for the ages: “If you think you have a ‘reasonable expectation’ that you will have a roommate with ‘some amount of normalcy’ I just don’t know what to say.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.