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Smoking in Public Places Law

On November 8, 2005, Washingtonians made a healthy choice by voting to pass Initiative 901. The initiative prohibits smoking in all restaurants and bars by amending the state’s 1985 Clean Indoor Air Act. Today, the definition of "public place" includes bars, restaurants, bowling centers, skating rinks, and non-tribal casinos. The definition also includes private residences used to provide childcare, foster care, adult care, or similar social services, and at least 75 percent of the sleeping quarters within a hotel.

The Smoking in Public Places law also prohibits smoking within 25 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited.

Washington was the tenth state in the country to implement a comprehensive statewide law prohibiting smoking in all restaurants and bars, and the fifth state to have a law that requires 100 percent of indoor workplaces to be smoke-free.

The initiative had widespread support, with all 39 counties in Washington voting in favor of the law. You can learn more about the law by visiting the Washington State Legislature Web site or by reading the Initiative's text.

Download smoke-free signs for your establishment.

Impact on public health

Since implementation, the law has had a significant and positive impact on public health:

  • Air quality monitoring tests conducted by the American Lung Association before and after the law took effect revealed indoor air pollution decreased by 88 percent.13
  • The rate of bar and restaurant employee exposure to secondhand smoke dropped from 29 percent in 2005 to about 3 percent in 2006.14
  • The restrictions on smoking also prompted many people to quit tobacco. During the month after the law’s implementation, the Washington State Tobacco Quit Line received a record number of calls.15
  • More than 90 percent of bar and restaurant owners and managers say they rarely receive complaints related to indoor smoking.16

To learn more about the Smoking in Public Places Law visit the Washington State Legislature Web site.

Beyond Washington

People across the United States and around the world continue to speak up for their right to breathe clean, smoke-free air. That's why a growing number of cities, states and countries are enacting laws that require all workplaces and public places to be smoke-free.

In the United States:

  • Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have smoking restrictions for private-sector worksites, restaurants and/or bars17:
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Montana (extends to bars Sept. 1, 2009)
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon (Jan. 1, 2009)
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah (extends to bars Jan. 7, 2009)
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Hundreds of cities and counties across the country have also taken action.

The truth about smoke-free laws

Did you know?  Entire countries have gone smoke-free too, including Ireland, Italy, India and Uganda.

When smoking laws go into effect, evidence shows that cigarette consumption and smoking rates go down among workers and the general public.

In fact, Philip Morris’s own research shows that prohibiting smoking in the workplace not only reduces consumption but also increases quit rates. A 1992 memo summarizing these findings states18:

"Total prohibition of smoking in the workplace strongly affects industry volume. Smokers facing these restrictions consume 11%-15% less than average and quit at a rate that is 84% higher than average."

The memo goes on to state that,

"If smoking were banned in all workplaces, the industry’s average consumption would decline 8.75-10.1% from 1991 levels and the quitting rate would increase 74% (e.g., from 2.5% to 4.4%)."

It just goes to show that tobacco companies know exactly what we do: that while smoking remains as bad for your health as always, smoke-free laws go a long way toward clearing the air and helping people quit for good.

When smoke-free laws go into effect, it's always important to make sure that people know they have more options than to simply smoke elsewhere. Visit the Washington State Tobacco Quit Line to learn more about how to get help quitting.

  • Last Updated: 09/25/12

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    This Web site contains information on the revised Clean Indoor Air Act (RCW 70.160). It is not legal advice. This information cannot be considered as a substitute for legal advice from and representation by a qualified attorney.

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