In which I get rid of cigarette odor from my home

TLDR; there is no TLDR.

I came back to my apartment after spending the winter break in Houston, TX, and was surprised to find that my living room smelled like a giant ashtray. To be certain, it smelled an awful lot like my neighbor’s apartment. He’s an ex-military cat and a chain smoker, and he regularly smokes indoors. That neighbor smokes Camel cigarettes, but that’s a story for another time.

While I have been a smoker for the past few years, I have never enjoyed the stale smell of cigarette smoke in an enclosed space. My friends who do smoke generally don’t do so indoors, and I can appreciate their reasons for choosing not to. The last time that I smoked inside of my own apartment was during one particularly troubled morning, when I decided that I would like to try smoking with my morning shower. I elected never to do that again after noticing how quickly my bathroom smelled began to smell like the public toilets in China.

I quickly moved my suitcases and my dog through the doorway, and it dawned on me that the culprit was likely my girl neighbor who I’d entrusted with the care of my apartment’s flora and fauna in my absence. Finding my potted plant still verdant, and my fish still swimming, I decided that I might as well ignore the odor for the moment. I knew I’d have to deliver a tongue lashing to her in time, though I distinctly recalled pointing these house rules out on the day that I’d given her my spare key.

I sat down and placed a call to a friend who had relocated to New York after finishing her last semester of college. We touched base while I began laying out my brown-bagged dinner from KFC (my dog was keenly focused on me at this time, or so I thought) when suddenly, my girl neighbor’s voice came to me from my 3 o’clock.

“Hi, welcome back!”

I bit my tongue, at least partly in surprise, thinking it best to defer any talk of the heavy musk of cigarette smoke that had welcomed me back moments earlier. Better not to get to fighting, lest I spook her.

“You surprised me. How long have you been here?”

At this point, Paul was jumping all over her. He’s very excitable.

“Oh, I came here at maybe 3? 4?” she responded while petting the dog, “I felt tired so I came here to sleep”

I ask her some more questions while eating. She gets some food out of the fridge that she bought earlier and heats it up. I forgot to ask her about her trip to Washington, but I suspect that I can ask about that later.

After the meal, I invite her to go outside with me to have a cigarette. She mentions that she’s smoked a few packs over the break, but she didn’t smoke any on her trip. Then I ask her whether she’s been smoking inside of my apartment.

“You can smell it? Last time I smoked in your living room was (some time ago)!”

I told her that the smell was in fact very strong. Further, I offered that she could help me do something about it. We finish our cigarettes and I head back inside to light a stick of incense.

Fast forward to the next morning, and we’ve vacuumed the whole apartment. I enlist her help in washing the bed sheets and pillow covers that have been used. I go to sleep that evening feeling hopeful, but enter the living room to find that the smell is still in the air.

So on the morning of the third day, I shut off the forced air heater, open the windows, and turn on the ceiling fans. I open the balcony door and step outside to watch as the hot air from my living room goes rushing out. Meanwhile, I retreat into my study to begin my day’s work. Within the first hour, the temperature in the living room has plummeted from a comfortable 68˚F to 51˚F. I close everything up after a few hours of air exchange and leave it at that.

A day later, the smell is much fainter, although it is still present. This, after vacuuming all of the carpets. I think I will try out some old tricks that I read about.


You get rid of the source of cigarette odors first, then take remedial action

Air out the space as much as possible before tackling lingering odors

Jawbone UP v2.0: Business School Case Study for the Future

Today, the tech community is abuzz with articles about the new Jawbone UP. Strictly speaking, it’s version 2.0 of the device, whose first iteration was made available to the market in November 2011. Jawbone’s handling of the UP from initial failure to reinvention will be studied by future generations of business school students.

I didn’t even know about the UP before it had been pulled from store shelves. It was probably released during one of my self-imposed media blackouts. Jawbone released the UP through two channels: 1) its own website and 2) select retailers. The UP was available for purchase for about a month before Jawbone announced that it was recalling them due to hardware issues that were causing a low mean time between failures.

Jawbone’s CEO, Hosain Rahman, wrote a letter to the UP community that was quickly reposted across the tech blogosphere. In it, he promised a “No Questions Asked Guarantee” for everyone who had purchased UP.

… for whatever reason, or no reason at all, you can receive a full refund for UP. This is true even if you decide to keep your UP band. We are so committed to this product that we’re offering you the option of using it for free.


That program is still active until December 31st, 2012. You can read about it here (archived link from April 23, 2012).

By the time that I was made aware of the Jawbone UP, the official distribution channels had already been closed down. Jawbone’s UP website displayed a message to prospective buyers that the UP would be coming back soon. I had to go through unofficial channels to purchase mine, where I paid close to $150 for a device that someone else paid $99 to acquire.

My first Jawbone UP lasted for nearly eight months of daily use. One day, late into its life, an LED inexplicably went dead. Shortly thereafter, the band refused to sync with my iPhone. I fired off an email to Jawbone Customer Service. They first came back with instructions on how to reset the Jawbone UP, but quickly escalated the case after I told them that it wasn’t responding to the reset procedure. It took ten (non-working days included) days from my first contact with Jawbone Customer Service to the time that I received my replacement UP.

Jawbone UP and iPhone 5 Incompatible?

I used the replacement Jawbone UP right up until I moved to an iPhone 5. I found that my UP no longer synced with the phone, and some brief Google searches found that there were a number of other UP users who had been similarly left out in the cold. Users on the Jawbone UP community forums reported no success getting the Jawbone UP to sync with the iPhone 5. I recall a response from the forum administrator that read something like, “You’ll need to keep your old iDevice around for now if you want to keep on syncing your Jawbone UP”.

I speculated that the problem wasn’t Jawbone’s alone – it was very possible that Apple had changed something about the iPhone 5 that made its headphone jack different from the iPhone 4S and earlier. I recalled thinking about the other devices on the market that used the iPhone’s headphone jack for data transmission: Square came to mind, but I noticed that their website claimed that the Square Reader was compatible with the iPhone 5. Who broke compatibility?

In any case, my Jawbone UP sat unused for the past month. I kept it plugged in to its USB charger so that it wouldn’t vibrate across the desk every morning. I thought about selling it to some other sucker – I was convinced that the world wouldn’t be seeing another UP for a while longer yet, but competing devices struck me as fairly lame. I looked briefly into the Nike+ Fuel band, but didn’t act on it.

I didn’t follow up on the Jawbone UP any further until today, when I read about its rerelease. As a Jawbone UP user, of course I was going to click through and read more. I poo-poohed the Jawbone UP first-generation users who were lamenting the fact that they would not be receiving free Jawbone UP v2.0 bands. I saw this message in the FAQ for Previous Band Owners and I was happy.

Will 1st Generation band work with iPhone 5?

Yes, as long as you use the same account to login. Your data is stored in your account, rather than a specific version of the app. If needed, you can delete specific events in your feed.

Lo and behold, my Jawbone UP does work with iPhone 5! I won’t have to buy another Jawbone UP band just because there’s been a second generation offering that’s been unveiled.

Activity on the Jawbone UP Community Forums

Then I realized something important. Those users on the Jawbone community forums who are complaining that they’ve been left out in the cold again may be on to something. There have been a plethora of threads whose titles reflect the angst of so many upset first-generation UP owners. Threads whose titles look something like..

Jawbone’s response to these threads will affect the existing UP community’s perception of the brand. At the time of writing, it is not unreasonable to think that the only people who are actively scanning the Jawbone UP community forums are first-generation Jawbone UP users and owners. The Jawbone UP gained a lot of awareness in the media in spite of its short lifetime on the market, so I will not be surprised if the UP gains significant traction now that it has been brought back to the market. It was probably one of the coolest products that you couldn’t buy last Christmas.

Additional Reading for My A+ Students:


20161008: Replaced broken link to Jawbone UP refund program with an archived link