California Smoking Laws

By Paul Caruso ; Updated May 31, 2017
Woman smoker smoking a cigarette

If you are a smoker living in the state of California, there are a few laws you should know. The state has some of the most restrictive anti-smoking laws in the nation and is the de facto epicenter for anti-smoking laws that have swept the nation in recent years. Violation of these laws can result in fines.

Smoking in the Workplace

Under California labor code, it is unlawful for any individual to smoke tobacco products in an enclosed workplace. This is a statewide ban and there are no exemptions provided for municipal law.

Under California law, an enclosed workplace is defined as all indoor workplaces including the lobbies, lounges, waiting areas, elevators, stairwells and restrooms which are part of the building in which people are employed.

Since bars, restaurants, bowling allies and other places where a person may expect they can smoke are places of employment, this ban essentially prohibits smoking in all places--public or private--frequented by the general population.

Exemptions for Hotels

While the California smoking ban is quite comprehensive in its coverage, the law does provide for some areas where smoking is permitted. Under the law, smoking may be allowed in 65 percent of rooms in hotels, or other places of "transient lodging." Similarly, California law permits smoking in up to 25 percent of hotel lobbies or, if the lobby is less than 2,000 square feet, then the smoking area may occupy up to 50 percent of this space.

Hotels and other places of transient lodging may also allow smoking in meeting or banquet halls, provided that no food is being consumed, served, prepared or cleaned up. However, if the hall is being used for an exhibit, then no smoking may be allowed. If, under these circumstances, smoking is not allowed in a hall, then the hotel may allow guests to smoke in hallways or other areas immediately adjacent to the hall.

Indoor Smoking Areas

The California smoking ban does provide a small amount of leeway for employers who wish to offer their employees an indoor smoking area. Such areas may be provided if the air from the area is pumped directly outdoors by a ventilation fan. The ventilation system provided by the employer must meet ventilation standards as set by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board or by the Environmental Protection Agency. Also, the designated smoking area must be a place where no worker may ever need to enter for any work-related task.

Miscellaneous Exemptions

Other areas where smoking may be permitted under California law include: the cabs of trucks used in employment (so long as a non-smoking person is not present), tobacco shops and tobacco lounges, warehouses with more than 100,000 square feet of floor space and 20 or fewer full-time employees, gaming clubs such as private casinos and bingo halls, in theatrical productions where smoking is integral to the story, in medical research sites if smoking is integral to research, private residences as long as they are not being used as daycare centers, and designated patient smoking areas in long-term patient care facilities.

Fines

Any employer or employee found in violation of any of these laws may be fined $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within a year, and $500 for all subsequent offenses within a year.

About the Author

Paul Caruso is a freelance journalist with many years experience writing on a diverse set of subject matter. Caruso has written on technology, health, environment and international politics. His work has appeared in several publications, including Worlpress.org and NewsTarget.com.