Riders’ options dealing with airborne irritants limited

Shelly Walji of Toronto writes “Your recent article on politeness and courtesy made me realize that riders also need to be aware of their scent. Many people are allergic to the chemicals used to make perfumes, colognes and other products — they can trigger severe symptoms from headaches to asthma attacks.”


Betty of Toronto writes that some people will step only a short distance from bus bays to light up a cigarette.


“The smoke usually drifts back into the bay and can be very unpleasant; particularly when we are already being exposed to bus fumes. These areas are clearly marked as ‘non smoking’ and announcements are made throughout the transit system reminding riders of the fact that smoking is not permitted on TTC property.


“What to do? In today’s society it is chancey to approach a stranger and ask them to please butt out. I’d speak to the drivers, however (some of them go a few metres from bus bays and) take a ‘smoke break’ as well.”


“Smells can range from the annoying — including ‘natural’ human scents — to those which threaten the health of others. TTC rules clearly prohibit smoking or carrying any goods which are likely to “inconvenience, cause discomfort, or injure any person.”

Nowadays, almost no one smokes inside vehicles, underground or in bus line-ups. The acceptance of smoking has diminished due to legislation and sporadic enforcement — aided by disapproving looks and direct requests from non-smokers. Riders in general now tolerate cigarettes only at the fringes of transit property.

So, how to convince all but the most tobacco-addicted to butt out while near others? It’s tricky — even conscientious smokers would balk at being told not to light up on a deserted outdoor platform.

I wouldn’t expect much help from transit staff in getting smokers to refrain. Some TTC drivers would actually like to enforce the rules, but worry they won’t be backed up if a conflict develops.

Advertising campaigns have a limited effect and must be updated regularly to stay in people’s minds. I would encourage GTA transit systems to invite riders’ help in devising new courtesy campaigns.

Artificial scents could be discouraged in the same way, although we might have to define how much perfume is too much.

In dealing with strong smells, the most practical response may be to simply try to grin and bear it — and move away if you can. Of course this approach won't “educate” the offender in any way, or make them aware of the discomfort they are causing.

Remember that being upset at someone’s inconsiderate actions makes it tougher to communicate your complaint directly. Even well-guarded inner anger can erupt during a conflict.