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Washington Smoking in Public Places Law and Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18

In 2005 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 places and workplaces smokefree. The law prohibits smoking in any indoor enclosed public places. The law applies everywhere, all the time.

In April 2015, the Clark County Board of Health amended Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18 which codifies the state Smoking in Public Places Law and prohibits the use on inhalant delivery systems where smoking is prohibited by state law. The sole exception to the code is in stores that exclusively sell, market and/or distribute inhalant delivery systems. Sampling of inhalant delivery systems sold in these stores is permitted by persons age 18 and older.

Frequently asked questions

  1. What is the Smoking in Public Places Law
  2. What does Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18 do?
  3. What is an inhalant delivery system?
  4. Do the laws apply to me?
  5. What do the laws require employers to do?
  6. Do business owners need to post signs?
  7. How would business owners apply the 25-foot rule?
  8. What do I do about a customer who refuses to comply with the law?
  9. What if I choose not to ask customers to stop smoking or vaping?
  10. How will the laws be enforced?
  11. How do I report violations of the laws in Clark County, WA, or get more information about the laws?
  12. What are the penalties for individuals and businesses?
  13. Am I required to provide a smoking break room for my employees?
  14. Can I provide a covered area outside for customers or employees to smoke or vape?
  15. How can I support my employees and patrons if they want to quit smoking or vaping?
  16. What is secondhand smoke?
  17. What is secondhand vapor?
  18. Why do we need to eliminate secondhand smoke and vapor in the workplace and public places?
  19. Why do we need to eliminate secondhand smoke or vapor in restaurants and bars?
  20. Does Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18 allow for any exceptions to where vaping is prohibited?
  21. How can I find more information?
  22. How can I report a violation to the Smoking in Public Places Law or Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18?

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 2015-04-18 do?

The code prohibits the sale of inhalant delivery systems to minors under the age of 18, and prohibits the use of these devices where smoking is prohibited by Washington Smoking in Public Places law. The code authorizes Clark County Public Health to enforce the code. Enforcement actions could include fines for violations of the law.

3. What is an inhalant delivery system? Inhalant delivery systems, also known as electronic smoking devices, electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems, e-cigars, e-cigarillos, e-pipes, e-hookahs, hookah pens, etc., are battery operated devices often designed to look like and be used in a similar manner to conventional tobacco products. Electronic smoking devices are used to inhale a vaporized liquid solution that frequently, though not always, contains nicotine. Because the liquid solution is converted into vapor, use of these devices is generally referred to as "vaping".

Many youth who have never smoked are using inhalant delivery systems. Nicotine is dangerous for youth, whether it's an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar. Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.

4. Do the laws apply to me? Smoking and vaping are 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.

5. What do the laws require employers to do?

If you operate a public place or place of employment, smoking and vaping are not allowed at your establishment. If you see customers, staff, or visitors smoking or vaping, you or your staff must tell them not to smoke or vape indoors. Smoking and vaping 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 or vaping areas.

6. Do business owners need to post signs?

Yes. A "No Smoking, No Vaping" sign must be conspicuously posted at each entrance as well as in prominent locations in your establishment. You can download printable signs here. You can also purchase "No Smoking, No Vaping" signs from many retailers, including office supply, hardware, and home improvement stores.

In addition to entrances, consider posting signs at exits, windows, and ventilation intakes to advise smokers and vapors to move away from those areas to meet the requirements of the 25-Foot Rule.

7. How do business owners apply the 25-foot rule?

Smoking and vaping are 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 and vaping are prohibited to ensure that tobacco smoke and vapor do 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 usually not areas of responsibility for business owners. 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 and vaping are prohibited in these areas if employees work in or pass through these areas while on duty. 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.

8. What do I do about a customer who refuses to comply with these laws?

The purpose of these laws are to protect others from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and secondhand vapor. Use your normal protocol for removing an unruly customer from your premises.

9. What if I choose not to ask customers to stop smoking or vaping?

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.

10. How will the laws be enforced?

Compliance with the Smoking in Public Places Law and Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18 is the responsibility 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 Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18 for businesses, including bars and restaurants. 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 Clark County Public Health.

11. How do I report violations in Clark County to the laws, or get more information about the laws?

You can confidentially report violations online or by calling (360) 397-2550 and leaving 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. Calls are retrieved each business day.

12. 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, vaping 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.

13. Am I required to provide a smoking or vaping break room for my employees?

No. The law prohibits employers from providing a smoking or vaping break room for employees or customers, even if these rooms ar4e separately ventilated. Be sure to communicate clearly with your employees to ensure they understand the laws.

14. Can I provide a covered area outside for customers or employees to smoke and vape?

Covered outdoor shelters are permissible. Local building and fire codes apply. Covered shelters 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 these areas in order to perform work-related duties.

15. 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, refer them to their health care plan for cessation benefits or call the Washington State Tobacco Quit Line toll free at (800) Quit-Now (1-800-784-8669) to find out if they qualify for assistance or go to www.becomeanex.org or www.betobaccofree.gov.

16. 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.

17. What is secondhand vapor?
Secondhand vapor is more than water; it has been found to contain other hazardous substances such as acrolein, tin, toluene and aluminum.

18. 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.

19. Why do we need to eliminate secondhand smoke and vapor from 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.

Exposure to secondhand vapor is also concerning. Secondhand vapor contains hazardous substances associated with a range of negative health effects such as skin, eye and respiratory irritation, neurological effects, damage to reproductive systems, and even premature death from heart attacks and stroke. Many of these same toxins are contained in secondhand smoke but at much higher levels. 

20. Does Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18 allow for any exceptions to where vaping is prohibited?
Yes, there is one exception. Stores that exclusively sell, market, and/or distribute inhalant delivery systems may allow customers 18years and older to sample products at the store before purchasing them.

21. How can I find more information? For more information about the Smoking in Public Places law, visit www.smokefreewashington.com. If you have questions about this law or Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18, you can call Clark County Public Health at (360) 397-2550. Calls are retrieved and returned each business day.

22. How can I report a violation to the Smoking in Public Places Law and Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18?

Violations to these laws can be reported online. You can also call (360) 397-2550 and leave a message. Reports can be made anonymously, but providing as much information as possible is helpful.

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