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Community health
Smoking in public places

The people of Washington State voted to expand the state Clean Indoor Air Act, now called Smoking in Public Places Law, making all indoor public and work places smoke-free. The new law prohibits smoking in any indoor enclosed public place, including workplaces, bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, skating rinks, casinos, reception areas and most hotel rooms. There are no exceptions. The law applies everywhere, all the time. 

The Board of Clark County Commissioners passed county ordinance 2011-06-09 which went into effect June, 2011. The ordinance codifies into local code the Washington Smoking in Public Places Law (RCW 70.160) and authorizes Clark County Public Health to enforce

Electronic cigarettes

What Are Electronic Cigarettes?
E-cigarettes mimic tobacco cigarettes in appearance and use.  A heating element vaporizes a liquid solution containing nicotine and other ingredients that users inhale into their lungs. E-cigarettes are often sold with flavorings such as peach, strawberry, chocolate and mint that appeal to youth and are banned in tobacco cigarettes.

Because there are no federal or state age restrictions, minors can easily purchase e-cigarettes at mall kiosks, convenience stores, and through the Internet.  Manufacturers market the product as a harmless alternative to smoking, claims that may impact a young person’s decision to use an e-cigarette, which can lead to nicotine addiction.  

E-cigarettes are not a safer alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes.  Currently, e-cigarettes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and have not been tested by the FDA for safety or consistency.  It is not yet known what types or concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals e-cigarettes contain or how much nicotine they deliver. One ingredient found in e-cigarettes, diethylene glycol, is used in anti-freeze and is toxic to humans.  Initial research indicates e-cigarette vapor contains some of the same carcinogenic and toxins contained in secondhand cigarette smoke.

Although e-cigarettes are not regulated by Washington’s Smoking in Public Places Law, RCW 70.160, employers and businesses can prohibit their use just as smoke-free restaurants did before RCW 70.160 took effect.  Some counties, including King County, prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is prohibited by state law. 

Reasons to prohibit e-cigarette use indoors include:

  • Avoiding confusion between the use of conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes
  • Preventing release of toxins in e-cigarette vapor
  • Sending a clear health message to employees and customers

Business owners and employers: download free signage and more detailed information.

For help quitting smoking, talk to your healthcare provider, or consider using FDA-approved cessation aides, such as nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patches, and inhalers).

FDA: http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm172906.htm

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6235a6.htm

Frequently asked questions

  1. What is the Smoking in Public Places Law?
  2. What does Clark County Ordinance 2011-06-09 do?
  3. Does the law apply to me?
  4. What does the law require employers to do?
  5. Do business owners need to post signs?
  6. How would business owners apply the 25-foot rule?
  7. What do I do about a customer who refuses to comply with the law?
  8. What if I choose not to ask customers to stop smoking?
  9. How will the act be enforced?
  10. How do I report violations to the law in Clark County, WA, or get more information about the law?
  11. What are the penalties for individuals and businesses?
  12. Am I required to provide a smoking break room for my employees?
  13. Can I provide a covered area outside for customers or employees to smoke?
  14. How can I support my employees and patrons if they want to quit smoking?
  15. What is secondhand smoke?
  16. Why do we need to eliminate secondhand smoke in the workplace and public places?
  17. Why do we need to eliminate secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars?
  18. Why is the County prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors?
  19. How can I find more information?
  20. How can I report a violation to the Smoking in Public Places Law?

1. What is the Smoking in Public Places Law? The Smoking in Public Places Law (RCW 70.160) is a state law that prohibits smoking in public places and workplaces to protect employees and the public from secondhand smoke. The citizens of Washington approved Initiative 901 (I-901), which expands the Act and makes Washington the 10th state in the nation to have a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law.

2.What does Clark County Ordinance 2011-06-09 do?

The ordinance prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors under the age of 18, and authorizes Clark County Public Health to enforce the Washington Smoking in Public Places Law. Enforcement actions could include fines for violations to the law

3.  Does the law apply to me? Smoking is prohibited in public places or places of employment. "Public place" means any place used by and open to the public. "Place of employment" means any area under the control of a public or private employer through which employees are required to pass during the course of employment.

4. What does the law require employers to do?

If you operate a public place or place of employment, smoking is not allowed at your establishment. If you see customers, staff, or visitors smoking, you or your staff must tell them not to smoke indoors. Smoking outside your establishment is prohibited within 25 feet of entrances and exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes. Employers cannot require employees to work in or within 25 feet of outdoor designated smoking areas.

5. Do business owners need to post signs?

Yes. A "No Smoking" sign must be conspicuously posted at each entrance as well as in prominent locations in your establishment. You can download printable signs from the Department of Health or contact (360) 397-8000 ext. 7378.

You may also purchase "No Smoking" signs from many retailers, including office supply, hardware, and home improvement stores. Also consider posting signs near entrances, exits, windows, and ventilation intakes to advise smokers to move away from those areas to meet the requirements of the presumptive reasonable distance, referred to as the "25-Foot Rule".

6. How would business owners apply the 25-foot rule?

Smoking is prohibited within a presumptively reasonable minimum distance of 25 feet from entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited to ensure that tobacco smoke does not enter the enclosed area.

The responsibility of a business owner extends to areas of service under his or her control. Sidewalks, parking lots, and public streets are not usually areas of service for most businesses and therefore not included in the areas of business owner responsibility. Outside service areas, such as patio-seating and "beer garden" locations are under the control of the business owner and are subject to the law. Smoking is prohibited in these areas as well if employees work in or pass through these areas while on duty and performing work-related tasks. Individuals violating the law are under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement.

Businesses must make customers aware of the 25-foot rule and that non-compliance with the law could result in a ticket from local law enforcement.

7. What do I do about a customer who refuses to comply with the law?

The purpose of the law is to protect others from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. Use your normal protocol for removing an unruly customer from your premises.

8. What if I choose not to ask customers to stop smoking?

If you fail to comply with the law, an employee or member of the public may contact Clark County Public Health, which would alert you of the reported violation. Continued violations could result in a fine.

9. How will the law be enforced?

Compliance with the Smoking in Public Places Law is the responsibility of the owner, manager, operator, or another person in charge of an area open to the public or place of employment. Clark County Public Health will enforce the Smoking in Public Places Law and County Ordinance 2011-06-09 for businesses, including bars and restaurants, and local law enforcement agencies will maintain responsibility for individuals violating the law.

Additional enforcement will be achieved by a social compliance system. This means employees and the public may confidentially report violations of the law to their local health departments.

10. How do I report violations to the law in Clark County, WA, or get more information about the law?

You can report violations online that occur in Clark County, WA or call (360) 397-2550 and leave a message, describing the name and address of the business and the time of the violation. If you provide us with your name and phone number, we may contact you for more information. Your report of violations to the law are confidential. Calls are retrieved each business day.

11. What are the penalties for individuals and businesses?

A civil fine of up to $100 can be imposed on those individuals who violate the law by smoking or destroying a sign allowed by the law. Businesses will receive an initial warning serving as a notice for correction but then can be fined up to $100 per day as long as the infraction continues. Required fees of 105% increase the civil penalty up to $205 per day.

12. Am I required to provide a smoking breakroom for my employees?

No. In fact, the law prohibits employers from providing a smoking breakroom for employees. Businesses with separately ventilated rooms for their smoking employees or smoking customers cannot allow smoking in these rooms or anywhere else in the building. Be sure to communicate clearly with your employees to ensure they understand the smoke-free workplace law.

13. Can I provide a covered area outside for customers or employees to smoke?

Covered shelters are permissible. Local building and fire codes apply. Shelters can be covered but must be open on at least one side; shelters must be 25 feet or more away from doors, windows and air intake vents. Employees may not work in or pass through designated smoking areas in order to perform work-related duties. For specific questions and guidance on permissible shelters contact (360) 397-8000 ext. 7378.

14. How can I support my employees and patrons if they want to quit smoking?

If you smoke and want to quit, or to support your employees or patrons who want to quit, call the Washington State Tobacco Quit Line toll free at (800) Quit-Now (1-800-784-8669) for support from a trained specialist, or visit http://www.quitline.com/ for more information.

15. What is secondhand smoke? Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke exhaled by a smoker and the smoke from a burning cigarette. This combination is dangerous for both smokers and nonsmokers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including 50 known cancer-causing substances. Secondhand smoke kills 38,000 nonsmokers each year in the United States. People exposed to secondhand smoke greatly increase their risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, bronchitis, ear infections, pneumonia, croup, and sore throats.

16. Why do we need to eliminate secondhand smoke in the workplace and public places? Eliminating secondhand smoke will improve the health of employees and customers, reduce health care costs, and save businesses money by reducing cleaning and maintenance costs.

17. Why do we need to eliminate secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars? All workers deserve to be protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. Waitresses have higher rates of lung and heart disease than any other traditionally female occupational group, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The same study reports that one work shift in a smoky bar is equivalent to smoking 16 cigarettes a day. Two hours in a smoky bar is the same as smoking four cigarettes, according to the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health.

18. Why is the County prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors? Because there are no federal or state age restrictions, minors could easily purchase e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are often sold with vials of flavored nicotine that can be added to the cartridges. Flavorings such as peach, strawberry, chocolate and mint appeal to youth but are banned in tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes manufacturers market the product as a harmless and safe alternative to smoking. These claims may influence a young person’s decision to use an e-cigarette, which can lead to nicotine dependence

19. How can I find more information? For more information on the Smoking in Public Places law, visit www.smokefreewashington.com. If you have questions about the law, you can call Public Health at (360) 397-2550. Calls are retrieved and returned each business day.

20. How can I report a violation to the Smoking in Public Places Law? Violations to the state law can be made at http://www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/concern.html. You can also call 360.397.2550 and leave a message. Complaints can be made anonymously, but providing as much information as possible is helpful.

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