Smoke, gases from neighbor’s smoker sicken him

I’m usually a “live-and-let-live” type of person. I really don’t care what folks do so long as they’re not harming anyone (animals or the environment). I moved to this neighborhood in March after I had to move at the start of this pandemic (my landlord put the house on the market). I was very fortunate to find the lovely cottage where I now live. And there is someone regularly using a smoker.

It’s easy imagine that this person might not realize what is happening because their focus is on the meat that comes out of the smoker — not the smoke (and how it might affect others. Hey, I could deal with it, say, once a week — I’d just go somewhere else). But, this person is doing it two to six times a week. Again, folks should be able to do what they want, but the trouble is that the smoke and off-gases end up in my house so that I end up with near-immediate headaches, sinus swelling and wheezing. In general, I’m pretty protective of my health after brain surgery two years ago and, now, doubly so with this COVID-19 (respiratory) thing.

To date, in trying to deal with the things that I do have control over, I’ve spent over $1,000 (medical-grade hepa house air filter and a greenhouse exhaust fan) to try to clear my home when this happens. Now is the time for the other person to do their part, because as I said earlier, feel free to do your own thing ‘til it affects others. Yours doesn’t trump my right to enjoy my home, my sanctuary, without the intrusion of your smoke/off-gases.

If this is a business, maybe it’s time to move production out of a residential neighborhood. If I painted cars on my property and the paint fumes made their way into your house with the same frequency, you’d be looking for me to move my production elsewhere, too. It’s not an unreasonable request, or, maybe just throttle back your production.

I can already hear the push back, “I have rights,” “It’s my home and I can do whatever I want to do,” “Suck it up,” “Don’t be a ‘Karen,’” etc. Here’s the thing. I have zero control how my body reacts to smoke, otherwise I wouldn’t bother to bring it up because I know the difference between a “need” and a “preference.” There is the “give-and-take” and mutual respect of a healthy community, so before getting all worked up, I ask you to imagine I’m your auntie or a kupuna of yours asking you to mind your smoke — for the same reasons. Yeah, it’s like that.

Please, mind your smoke.


Kenji Griffen is a resident of Kapa‘a.

  1. ruthann jones July 18, 2020 1:20 am Reply

    As one of your former city council members suggested to me when I presented a similar problem…she suggested I just try to be neighborly and ‘bake the neighbors some cookies’!

  2. jake July 18, 2020 5:56 am Reply

    I have many problems with meat smokers in my neighborhood, too. Complaining does no good. Locals live in their own little world, and they’re going to do what they’re going to do, even if killed a neighbor or made them seriously ill. One thing you don’t ask self-centered, tradition addicted, career alcoholics to do is change. Those little brains just can’t handle it. They’re going to smoke their meat and give themselves cancer with it, even it if kills you.

  3. alien July 18, 2020 6:12 am Reply

    And you are not moving away from this situation????? Then obviously your are blowing smoke out your…

    1. ist July 27, 2020 12:03 pm Reply

      Not the best in reading comprehension?

  4. Kathy July 18, 2020 6:39 am Reply

    Kanji! I hear your pain. I live in a condo in Kalaheo and my neighbor started using a smoker abut a year ago. I have jalousi windows 14 feet above, so I cannot totally button up my house. I have two autoimmune disorders and the smoke and gases are very toxic to me as well. I have asked him to text me when he fires it up, so I can close up as best as possible. While it is not a solution, it is a compromise. He does not know that those fumes are also cancerous. Very sad. Sounds like your neighbor is running a business. Check on zoning laws and file complaint!
    There should be laws around this, but it is so prevalent, it will never happen.
    Kalaheo Kathy

  5. IKUDIAS July 18, 2020 6:43 am Reply

    Thanks Kenji, We also moved to the kapaa area after selling our north shore house. We couldnt afford to live there anymore with all the uber-rich buying out property around us and driving the property tax up. It was just not the same as when we bought here a while ago when the local people could be talked into selling their family land at ridiculously low prices.

    On the bright side, the sale allowed us to once again outbid the families on the east side for beautiful pieces of property, and we love it here. Were surrounded by mostly like minded neighbors, and have a wonderful relationship with them, and we’re starting to turn this community in to a non gmo, gluten & round-up free enviornment where we can experiment with organic bone broth recipies & Korean farming.

    But alas, there are still way too many families that own some properties scattered throughout the neighborhood that wish to not change with the times, even when we show them documents on the adverse affects of using pesticides, and not doing things like us, that are saving this planet.

    Its time we got together and worked harder to stop these people from continuing to do things like was done for generations and show them a better way, after all now that you are here, these neighbors should wake up and learn to have some respect for us.

  6. John stamos July 18, 2020 6:52 am Reply

    Instead of moving to new neighborhood which is zoned rural and trying to make it the city maybe kenji should move to california. Kauai is a small rural place. Providing food is essential. This is from a nextdoor post. Please stop trying to control others. No one asked kenji to move to wailua homesteads. We cant erode the country and make it the city. There is already the city.

  7. Paulo July 18, 2020 10:15 am Reply

    My neighborhood had something similar in the past. A couple with a fireplace was burning trash in it almost daily. The noxious smoke blew directly next door in the prevailing wind and penetrated the neighbor’s interior. This trash burning went on for several years with no apparent remedy. The trash burners were not open to any discussion and the practice went on during all seasons. My house was in a different direction and a considerable distance away but it affected me too depending on the wind. Fortunately for me it wasn’t often. Smoke is a carcinogen.

  8. numilalocal July 18, 2020 11:14 am Reply

    The same thing holds for noise. One of my neighbors seems to think that the entire neighborhood likes to listen to their music. And they also seem to feel that making noise in their garage until after 10 pm is perfectly ok. When they first moved in, their contractor started up a masonry saw at 7 am – legal but not very considerate. I guess my first mistake was telling them we have a nice quiet neighbornood…

    1. james July 21, 2020 7:29 am Reply

      And, thus, Kenji has his solution. Blast awful Broadway show-tune music at the smokers house with some big-ass speakers every time they start up the smoker. What’s the difference between noise and smoke?

  9. Jjjames July 18, 2020 1:48 pm Reply

    Consideration, courtesy, respect. Or, the lack thereof. That’s the part of ALOHA that has disappeared in Hawaii.
    I’ll trade you. I’ll take the smoke from the smoker if you’ll take the stench from sun baked dog feces in their back yard, upwind from my kitchen and living room. Or how about the idiots that insist on taking their dogs for a walk at 6:am, or 11:pm, getting all the dogs in the neighborhood going off.
    Sleep well!!

  10. jack custer July 18, 2020 4:30 pm Reply

    My first two questions are: have you spoken to this person about the smoke and if so, what was their response.
    Not only can I understand what you are talking about as far as the smoke making you sick, I am experiencing the same thing. My neighbor likes to use their fireplace during the winter. Almost every night, starting sometime in October, they have a fire and the smoke invades our house. We are situated down wind and slightly up slope from them. So anytime the trade winds are blowing our house is inundated with their smoke. My house has a V-shape facing into the wind and at the same level as their chimney. So the smoke gets directed into the V-shape and forces its way into our house. We close the jalousie windows, but the smoke is still forced through. It’s like a smoke machine! During the winter, I have to board up the windows and we’ve invested in an $800 air purification system that helps. But smoke/heat/gases still get through.
    My wife and I experience itchy irritated eyes, sore throat, dry mouth, bad taste, foul smell, headaches, wheezing, coughing, sneezing, etc. Even our dogs sneeze and wheeze. At a time when we want to keep all the windows open and enjoy the trade winds, instead we have to keep cooped up, stuffy and suffering until the fire next door finally burns out 6 or 7 hours later. Then we can finally open the windows, clear out the residual smoke and go to sleep.
    I’ve spoken to them and he says it’s their lifestyle (they are from California, I’m from here) and they use it to heat their home. I don’t know why they would need to start a fire at 2 in the afternoon when the temperature is 73. So they just like their fire, I get that. I told them how it affects us and he is just deaf to my pleas even when I beg in tears. He says there’s no law against it and he can do it if he wants to.
    I have another neighbor and when I sprayed my garden, he complained how it was going into their house so I stopped spraying. I tried spraying again a few weeks later with a different chemical and got the same response from that neighbor, so I just stopped spraying all together. Now I grow different things that I don’t need to spray. I know there is a law pertaining to spraying, but in an effort to be a good neighbor and responsible citizen, I stopped before they had to go as far as calling the police. I’ve called the police on the smoke neighbor 3 times over the last 2 years and they still burn.
    There are laws pertaining to the smoke of a single cigarette, but no law to address the smoke equal to 1000 cigarettes. It’s time that changed.
    I’m don’t want to criminalize chimneys, but I do want those with chimneys to be responsible for where their smoke goes and how it affects their neighbors, especially those with adjacent properties. Maybe burn only when there is no wind or it’s out of the south or east. I’ve been told by an attorney friend that I actually have a pretty good suit for harassment, but I don’t want to go to court over this. If I did and I won, I wouldn’t want any money. Instead, I would want the neighbors to be required to build a nice big fire in their fireplace and then come into my house, with all the windows open, and stay inside until the fire burned out, before being able to return home. Then I’d want them to have the whole next day to think about how horrible it was the night before and go through all the fears and emotions that we experience because they know that they have to come back to my house again for a second night of the same thing. Then they might understand what they are putting us through for the entire winter.

  11. MisterM July 18, 2020 4:47 pm Reply

    No, your neighbor doesn’t have a right to do as they want – they are creating a health issue that affects others outside their property lines – no different than blasting loud music, or burning or dumping garbage, etc etc. So why haven’t you talked to your neighbor, to the County and to the police to get this situation under control/eliminated rather than writing a letter to the editor?

  12. Kimo July 18, 2020 5:27 pm Reply

    You might as well talk to the wall. But, if you eat smoke meat, you might as well smoke cigarettes, too. Same poison, different bottle.

  13. Chris July 18, 2020 6:48 pm Reply

    People who use the name Karen are racist and have no intelligence to bring things into tranquility. All they do is qural. Seems they too are a Karen?

  14. Debra Kekaualua July 19, 2020 6:34 am Reply

    There is a great old song specific to our island homes and peoples! “Cane Fire”. I would lobby that, when your neighbor fires up the oven, that you go to a room in your house with a window AC and hang out there. Maybe the neighbor would work with you, so while you sleep in your AC room, the neighbor can continue the ability to be self-sustaining in storaging food of ALL kinds, because soon Matson is no longer going to deliver as the mainland americans will not have enough food remaining to feed these americans, much less feed a bunch of 3rd world Hawaii resident aliens or our HK National, protected! Ya, it’s li’dat!

  15. RSW July 19, 2020 10:51 am Reply

    This is a classic example property rights and the problem of externalities. One of the problems Kenji faces is the now longstanding denigration of private property rights by government and by many in society as well. This is usually a result of various efforts to control or obstruct a property owners rights to use his/her land as he/she sees fit. This makes it difficult and expensive to protect one’s property rights.
    If one takes the view that property boundaries are not just a line on the ground but extend vertically it is easy to see that Kenji’s neighbor’s smoke is violating his property rights and right to enjoy his property (even if it is rented). Unfortunately, given the political climate there is no cheap and easy way to resolve the situation. Below is an excerpt from FindLaw that describes the legal considerations:
    “The Law of Nuisance

    Lawsuits invoking the law of nuisance typically involve neighbors suing their neighbors or a public official suing a property owner for the benefit of the general public. By bringing suit, the plaintiff usually seeks to control or limit the use of the land owned by the defendant.

    There are two basic types of nuisance suits. These are private and public nuisance actions. A private nuisance means there has been a loss of the use or enjoyment of property without an actual physical invasion of that property. An action for a physical invasion of property is known as a trespass action. A public nuisance is one that has more far reaching effects. It has the ability to affect the health, safety, welfare, or comfort of the public in general.

    No matter what the type of nuisance, to be subject to injunctive relief, the interference with the property must be substantial and continuous. Relief that is injunctive in nature generally requires the defendant to take some specific actions to minimize the negative effect of its operations on the plaintiff, from limiting the hours of the action to placing an all out prohibition on the negative action. In constructing its relief, however, most courts will attempt to balance the relative hardships to both of the parties involved in the action. Especially where an ongoing business, as opposed to an individual, is the defendant in the action, the court will try to minimize the economic impact on the business.”
    Good luck, Kenji

  16. Everythingisawesome July 20, 2020 1:18 pm Reply

    There are some excellent comments on this LTE. Some of the descriptions you all have written, make me feel as if I am right there with you…a few of my faves…

    “I have jalousi windows 14 feet above”
    “we’re starting to turn this community in to a non gmo, gluten & round-up free enviornment where we can experiment with organic bone broth recipies & Korean farming”
    “The noxious smoke blew directly next door in the prevailing wind and penetrated the neighbor’s interior”
    “the stench from sun baked dog feces in their back yard” (my fav, just threw up a little in my mouth!)
    “People who use the name Karen are racist and have no intelligence”
    “the smoke equal to 1000 cigarettes”

    Fantastic, all of these. I hear you. I feel you.

    So enraptured was I with the illustrations, that I forgot what the original LTE was about. Oh, yes, nuisance smoke from an inconsiderate neighbor’s meat smoker.

    Kenji, is it possible that your neighbor is unaware that they are smoking meat? We could all be meat smokers and not know it, according to the USDA. Some meat smokers actually generate no smoke when smoking meat. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But someone who is an expert said it, so I think it’s true. We should be taking precautions as though ALL of our neighbors are meat smokers, whether they are generating smoke, or not. Until the scientists come up with a smokeless meat smoker, we need to do everything we can to stay safe. There are MANY that post comments on the TGI opinion page that I’m sure would agree with me when I suggest that your only options are to (1) put a cloth mask over your nose and mouth and (2) maintain adequate social distance. There just aren’t any other options.

  17. No Get Nutz July 21, 2020 4:21 am Reply

    Take right .
    Stop trying to change the way we live
    no one asked you to move here

    1. Get 'em July 27, 2020 12:05 pm Reply


  18. rk669 July 21, 2020 5:51 am Reply

    We’re in Hillbilly Heaven,what’s not to Like?
    Aloha is only a Word!

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