Put Away Your Hookahs and E-Cigarettes; Increased Restrictions on Smoking in the Workplace

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Put Away Your Hookahs and E-Cigarettes; Increased Restrictions on Smoking in the Workplace

By: Anthony Oceguera

Smoking tobacco in enclosed spaces in the workplace has been generally prohibited in California since 1995.  This ban included requirements that employers take reasonable steps to prevent smoking by non-employees if non-employees are regularly permitted access to the workplace.  Employers have also been required to post clear and prominent signs stating that smoking is prohibited throughout the building or structure.  This includes posting a sign at each entrance stating “No smoking.” If employers permit smoking in certain designated areas, employers have been required to post at sign at each entrance stating “Smoking is prohibited except in designated areas.” 

These longstanding restrictions did not, however, reach all workplaces.  It was also mostly limited to cigarette use.  Several new bills signed into law recently will eliminate most of those exceptions and will expand the prohibitions to encompass increasingly popular cigarette alternatives like vaping and e-cigarettes. 

Assembly Bill X2-7 extends California’s workplace smoking ban to owner-operated businesses, hotel lobbies, bars and taverns, banquet rooms, warehouse facilities, and employee break rooms.  A small sliver of businesses are exempted, including 20% of a hotel’s guest rooms, retail or wholesale tobacco shops and private smokers’ lounges, cabs of motor trucks, theatrical production sites (if smoking is key to the plot) and private residences (excepting licensed family day care homes).  Employers who fail to comply with the workplace smoking ban are subject to monetary penalties, starting at $100 for an initial violation, $200 for a second violation, and $500 for each additional violation within a year.  This law went into effect June 9, 2016.

Additionally, Senate Bill X2-5 classifies e-cigarettes and similar alternatives as tobacco products subject to all of these same workplace smoking restrictions.  As a result, effective January 1, 2017, use of e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and hookahs in the workplace will also be prohibited.

Finally, employers should be aware that Senate Bill 151 raised the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.  This law went into effect June 9, 2016.


Because of these expanded restrictions, employers with smoking policies should review and update their policies immediately to ensure compliance with these new laws.  Employers who previously permitted vaping and e-cigarette use need to notify their employees that those activities will not be permitted except in specially designated areas.  Lastly, employers who do not have written smoking policies should strongly consider adopting a compliant smoking policy.

If you have questions about how to comply with workplace smoking restrictions, call the legal experts at the Saqui Law Group.


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