Being a smoker, it must be very uncomfortable for you to be in a situation where it is hard to get a cigarette, but you can’t help looking out for one. You might be somewhere at a party with no department store to get a pack, or you ran out of money so wishing to bum one from a stranger. It is easy to feel embarrassed to ask for something from someone you do not know.
However, as you may already know, smokers do form some kind of community or tribe. With increased smoking bans in public places and more awareness of the health effects of smoking, the community seems to have shrunk a lot. Yet fewer the amount, greater the interest. Smokers are now more aware of their habits and have sympathy with other smokers.
Ask politely and respectfully if the person in question is willing to give you a cigarette. Explain the reasons why you are not able to buy your cigarettes at that very moment. If possible, offer to pay for the cigarette or help the person carry groceries, etc.
When you need to ask for a cigarette from a stranger
There are many situations when you would be badly in need of a cigarette and have to “borrow” one from a stranger as a last resort. Yet they all come down to two scenarios: either you do not have the money to buy a pack, or it is not possible for you to buy one.
You do not have the money to buy a pack
It is not so easy to buy one or just a few cigarettes instead of a pack nowadays if you do have some money. And if you do not, you certainly cannot get any of them. The excuse could be:
- You left home today forgetting your wallet.
- You run out of money buying many things today and do not have enough left to buy a pack.
- It is the end of the month, and you have not received your salary yet but are badly in need of a cigarette.
- You are in an unfamiliar place and want to try the cigarette brand there but would like to taste one first before buying the whole pack.
You can’t buy a pack
Money is not always the reason! It could be the availability or distance, or time that hinders you from getting a pack yourself. The reason could fall into any of the following:
- You are in an airport lounge, and you cannot buy single-packet cigarettes.
- You are at a party in the middle of the night with many people who do smoke.
- The only department store near you has run out of packs.
- You want to connect with the person who does smoke like you.
Principles you should follow
Whatever reason you have, asking for something from a stranger is not something easy. An elegant “tactic” would make the whole task much more manageable and with a higher chance of success. Here are some of the principles you should follow:
In many places, people avoid even eye contact with strangers in public, so you should be polite if you want to approach them (especially when you want to take something away from them).
It would be best to give them the trust that you are not trying to do any harm and build sympathy in them that you are in a desperate situation, and their help would make your day.
Whether the person you approached agrees to give you a cigarette or not, be respectful to them. Do not show them something like a frowny face or murmur under your mouth angry words or, at worst, blurt them out.
It would be unfair for them to be treated badly for not having enough cigarettes to share with you or sacrificing some of their hard-earned money.
Offer to give in return
Always the old rule: Give and Take! Offer something in return to the person who lends you a cigarette. Even if that person refuses to give or says sorry for not being able to help you out, thank them and wish them a great day.
- If you have the money, offer to pay for the cigarette; thank them warmingly if they decline. The price of a pack has gone up a lot these days, especially in countries that are working hard to reduce the smoking rate among citizens.
- If you do not have the money or they decline to take it for the cigarette, offer to help them with something if you can. It could be sharing a cake or suggesting to help them carry something. A win-win exchange would make your heart feel lighter and the helper not having the impression of being used.
Of course, it is always advisable to judge the situation well. Avoid asking someone who seems to be in a bad mood. If the stranger you want to ask seems to be rich, you may skip offering money in return. Be thankful and polite; who knows whether you will stumble on them again one day!
Sample phrases to follow
The sample phrases are divided into appropriate sections so you can get a better hang of the wording. Just bear this in mind: “courtesy costs nothing”!
If you do have the money
Your request sentence could either hint that you can or want to pay for the cigarette. The person you asked would then feel a sense of trust and have more sympathy towards you.
“Hi bro, sorry for bothering you. Could you please give me a cigarette? I can pay you back 1 dollar. I am desperate as I cannot buy any for now.”
“Excuse me. I have run out of cigarettes. Would you mind giving me one? I can pay you back 1 dollar in return. Thank you!”
“Hi, have you got some cigarettes to share? I am badly in need of one now, I can pay you back the money.”
“Hi guy, can you spare me one cigarette? I was heading to the department store for a pack but they ran out of it, so …”
“Sorry, I was wondering if you could give me a cigarette? I forgot my pack at home, I will pay you the money.”
“Hey, could you lend me a smoke? I searched, but here they only sell in packs, so …”
If the person you asked agrees to give the cigarette but refuses to take the money
“How kind you are! Have a great day!”
“Thanks, Buddy, you made my day!”
“God bless you, the generous man!”
If they refuse to lend, thank them politely
“I see, thank you.”
“Anyways, thank you.”
“Sure, have a nice day!”
“Oh, it’s a pity, thank anyway.”
If you do not have the money
Not being able to pay the money back in return, you could offer to help the giver with something. The key is being honest and sincere, they may or may not need your help, but they will feel more inclined to help you.
“Hey man, can you lend me a cigarette? The box seems heavy to you, I can help you carry it to the car.”
“Sorry, have you got a cigarette? I forgot my wallet at home, so cannot buy any for now.”
“Pardon me, could you please give me a cigarette? I always need one before the flight but forgot my pack at home rushing to the airport.”
“Hey dude, can I borrow you a cigarette? You seem to need help moving that desk, let me help you!”
“Would you mind lending me a smoke? Take this bottle, you seem to be thirsty.”
If the asked person does share with you
“Nice, thank you, bro.”
“Wish you a great day!”
“How lucky I am, thank you very much.”
“You are such a general man, may good things come to you.”
If the person refuses to give you a cigarette
“Oh it’s okay, thank you.”
“It’s a shame, thank you anyway.”
“Sure, never mind.”
“Got it, thanks.”
To conclude, just remember that you need to be polite and sincere when asking for a cigarette from a stranger. It’s best to have a win-win situation where you could pay something back in return to the giver.
Mention the reason that drove you to ask them, don’t make them feel that they are being used by some smoke panhandlers.
At the end of the day, anyone could fall into an occasional shortage of any kind, and it’s acceptable if you just ask for a small portion to go through that desperate stage, right?
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.