Saturday, August 29, 2009

Comparison with Smoking

I think a valid comparison can be made between asking guests to remove their shoes and asking them not to smoke for three reasons.

1. In asking guests not to smoke or to remove their shoes, you are asking them to observe a boundary.

One is asking the guest to behave differently than they might in their own home.

2. While there are health issues involved in both, the overriding issue is the inconvenience caused by either guests smoking or wearing shoes in the host's home.

If a guest lights a cigarette at a dinner party, nobody is going to die of lung cancer as a result. Likewise, if a guest walks a bit of weed-killer into the carpet, it is unlikely that somebody is going to die (not that one should not be concerned about the health implications of weed-killing being walked into the carpet).

The real issue is the inconvenience caused. Smoking will bring into the house smells that are not appreciated by the host and may result in cigarette ash getting into the carpet or furniture. A non-smoking host will not appreciate this. Likewise, the host will be inconvenienced by guests keeping their shoes on. Carpets and floors may be soiled or damaged.

3. There is a possiblity that the guest's comfort may be impinged by either being asked not to smoke or to remove her shoes.

If guests cannot smoke indoors, they will either have to suffer the craving or go outside in the cold to smoke.

Removing shoes is rather less likely to cause discomfort, but some guests might still be embarassed at being asked to remove their shoes or may be unused to being shoeless in another home. This can of course, be minimized if they are informed of the policy in advance.

Guests might also be embarassed at being asked to follow a 'house rule.' They might feel like they are being treated like children.

However, it is most likely that guests will not be at all bothered and will respect that the host behaves a certain way, whether in not smoking or not wearing shoes in the house.

If it is reasonable to ask guests not to smoke, it is perfectly reasonable to ask guests to take off their shoes.


Tiger Mouse said...

One of the reservations I have about a "shoes-off" policy is the (potential) irritation of having to take them off/put them on multiple times a day if one is going to be constantly in and out. But now that you've mentioned smoking, I wonder if perhaps the "irritation" I just mentioned could work in favor of someone who wants to quit smoking. (And no, I don't smoke myself.)

I don't know how it is in the UK, but here in the US, to "only" smoke outside if at all seems to be more of the norm these days.

Here's what I'm thinking. If there's someone you know who express a desire to quit smoking, first, ask them if they ever smoke indoors or if they only smoke outdoors. (If the answer is the former, then suggest they go outside whenever they want to smoke, even at home, regardless of weather.) THEN, ask them if they wear shoes (or at least outdoor shoes) in their home, like you say you have been so far. If they say yes, then suggest that whenever they wish to go outside to have a cigarette that they only put their shoes on right before they step out to do that (for that matter, maybe suggest that they get a pair of shoes that they wear "only" to go outside to smoke) and then take them off right after they come in.

I don't know about anyone else, but I personally am not a big fan of the idea having to only have shoes on long enough to check the mail, or anything else calling me outside for more than a minute or two. However, what I'm thinking is that for a smoker, all the trouble that he/she would have to go through to constantly put shoes on to go smoke then take them off
shortly thereafter that it could overpower their desire for a cigarette that they smoke less and less often. (Worst case scenario is that they either go back to smoking indoors or they forget to put shoes on before they go outside or they keep forgetting to take them off right after they come in. I hate to say it, but sometimes, depending on the situation, not wearing shoes indoors can lead to not wearing them outdoors either if one is not careful.)

Now, in this case, a "shoes off at the door" policy may be more for said smoker than for any guests he/she has (unless they wish to extend the policy to guests), but even if the person could care less about the state of their floor, if they can put their smoking and wearing shoes on their "outside only" list, then when they want to go smoke and realize that they would only have their shoes on long enough to do that, they can ask themselves, "Do I want a cigarette THAT badly?" Initially, the answer may be yes, but over time, the "yes" could become a "no". (And by the way, I've heard that people who do smoke won't quit unless they feel ready to do so. But if they are, and the gum, patch etc., don't work, maybe a "shoes off in the house" policy, at least for themselves, will.)

Celestial Fundy said...

That is a really interesting idea!

Here in the UK smoking is not allowed in public or commercial buildings. I am not allowed to smoke inside my rented apartment (not that I do).

I know some smokers who only smoke outside their homes.

Yes, smoking is a hard habit to kick. Nicotine has the same power of addiction as heroin.