Dear Amy:

I am a retired widow, living in a townhouse. My patio is adjacent to my new neighbor's. The only thing that divides our privacy is a wood lattice screen.

My neighbor is friendly and polite. However, he is an avid cigar smoker. He works flexible hours, so I cannot predict when he will be outdoors.

He cannot water his flowers, sit and read, or conduct any outdoor activity without a cigar.

I cannot sit outdoors or open my patio door in the summer without cigar odor invading my space.

I realize he has a right to his outdoor space, but I was a shut-in last summer because of this.

How should I deal with this? I want to be fair and neighborly without causing a conflict.

- A Loyal Fan

Dear Loyal:

I shared your letter with Ryan David Kennedy, a researcher at the University of Waterloo in Ontario who has studied the impact of secondhand smoke.

He says: "There is no easy fix to remove smoke from the air. Even in open-air, outdoor environments, secondhand smoke can be at levels considered dangerous. The only real solution is to remove the source. It is fair to tell your neighbor that cigar smoke contains higher concentrations of toxic and carcinogenic compounds than cigarettes."

You should point out how your neighbor's smoking has a direct impact on you - he may not realize it - and ask if he wouldn't mind enjoying his cigars elsewhere.

If you can't remove the source, you could replace the wood lattice between your properties with a solid screen, or plant ivy, which would densely cling to the lattice and be something of a smoke filter for you.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.