How to Deal with Smoking Policies

A new report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that if smoking-ban laws in the U.S. keep up at the rate they have been going for the past 10 years, the entire nation will have heavy restrictions on smoking by 2020 (if not sooner).

FIGURE. State smoke-free indoor air laws in effect for private worksites, restaurants, and bars as of December 31, 2010

States like Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Missouri, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia still allow smoking in certain designated or ventilated areas.

Is it the responsibility of a business to adequately protect non-smokers from the health hazards of second-hand smoke? How can a business create, implement and enforce policies and procedures that are legally compliant? What about outdoor events or open patio dining? Are barricades and crowd barriers doing enough?

There are all questions a facility manager or business owner may find himself or herself asking.

Every state is different but we’ll take our home state of New York for example. The law states that the smoking ban shall not apply to:

Outdoor dining areas of food service establishments with no roof or other ceiling enclosure; provided, however, that smoking may be permitted in a contiguous area designated for smoking so long as such area:

  1. constitutes no more than twenty-five percent of the outdoor seating capacity of such food service establishment,
  2. is at least three feet away from the outdoor area of such food service establishment not designated for smoking, and
  3. is clearly designated with written signage as a smoking area

Does that mean you can move a few tables on your patio three feet away from the others, throw up a system of barricades and a sign that says “Smoking Permitted” and call it a day? Technically, yes.

Should you? That depends on your unique business and customer base.

What about concerts and events? If you’ve created a queuing system where people are waiting in line outside, should they be allowed to smoke as they wait? I’m personally inclined to say no, however I am a non-smoker who lives in one of the very first states to adopt a smoking-ban. In some places, it’s totally acceptable.

What it comes down to is managing your guests and customers (both smoking and non) with crowd control efforts that will create a safe environment for everyone.

To find out more about your own state’s laws and regulations, we suggest an online search. If you live in Illinois for example, simply type in “Illinois smoking ban” and you’ll find information like this government website that provides a Guide for Workplaces as well a Guide for Restaurants and Bars.

Depending on the type of business, your typical customer base and your legal obligations, you may or may not have options that can keep everybody happy.

How do you currently deal with the issue? Let us know.