September 12, 2023

California Enacts Statewide Ban on Smoking in the Workplace

With the signing of SB 626 California initiates a statewide ban on smoking in the workplace. Finding the regulation of smoking in the workplace to be a matter of statewide interest and concern, the Legislature proposed SB 626 as a means of eliminating the need for local governments to enact workplace smoking restrictions within their respective jurisdictions.

Specifically, SB 626 “constitutes a uniform statewide standard for regulating the smoking of tobacco products in enclosed places of employment…and supersedes and renders unnecessary the [] enactment or enforcement of local ordinances regulating the smoking of tobacco products in enclosed places of employment and owner-operated businesses[i].”

The statute, with limited exception, applies “to all (100 percent) places of employment (which includes not only well recognized work areas but also covered parking lots, lobbies, lounges, waiting areas, elevators, stairwells and restrooms) and owner-operated businesses” within California.

The statue also addresses smoking by non-employees. An employer or owner-operated business who permits nonemployees access to their place of employment (or business) on a regular basis can avoid “knowingly or intentionally” violating the statute by taking the following reasonable steps:

  • Post clear and prominent signs, as follows:
    • Where smoking is prohibited throughout the building or structure, a sign stating “No smoking” shall be posted at each entrance to the building or structure.
    • Where smoking is permitted in designated areas of the building or structure, a sign stating “Smoking is prohibited except in designated areas” shall be posted at each entrance to the building or structure.
  • Request, when appropriate, that a non-employee who is smoking refrain from smoking in the enclosed workplace or owner-operated business.

To avoid putting employers and business owners in potentially confrontational situations, “reasonable steps” does not include:

  • Physically ejecting a nonemployee from the place of employment or owner-operated business; or
  • Requesting a non-employee refrain from smoking, under circumstances involving a risk of physical harm to the employer or any employee or owner-operator.

Violations of the statue will be considered an “infraction” carrying a fine not to exceed $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation within one year, and $500 for a third and for each subsequent violation within one year. The statute is to be enforced by local law enforcement agencies, including, but not limited to, local health departments, as determined by the local governing body.

[i] An “owner-operated business” means a business having no employees, independent contractors, or volunteers, in which the owner-operator of the business is the only worker.