California voters will soon vote on Proposition 56, a ballot initiative that would raise the cigarette tax throughout the state from 87 cents per pack to $2.87 per pack, according to SFGate.com. Money from the increased tax on tobacco would go to help fund MediCal, along with education efforts and cessation programs to help prevent smoking in California. While voters debate this highly visible measure, many have failed to notice the more subtle, but still important changes to workplace smoking laws that passed this May.
Understanding California AB-7: Smoking in the Workplace
As Capital Public Radio reports, several laws that Governor Brown signed into law this year affect the use of tobacco in the state. One of the laws, Assembly Bill No. 7, expanded the state’s existing ban on workplace smoking. The law reduces the workplace settings where smoking is acceptable by removing exemptions for several different types of businesses or workspaces. This means that even if you work in a setting that has traditionally been exempt from the statewide ban on workplace smoking, you may now be working in a smoke-free area.
Here are some of the California workplaces where smoking is no longer allowed:
Most employers cannot allow smoking in their workplace. Up until recently, small businesses were an exception. Prior to this past May, businesses with five or fewer employees, including owner-operated businesses with no employees, had an exemption from the statewide ban on workplace tobacco use. Assembly Bill No. 7 changed all that. Now, no matter how small your place of work is, no smoking is allowed. Even if you are your own boss, your workplace must now be smoke free. This doesn’t apply if your place of work is your private residence, or the cab of a truck.
Entertainment and Hospitality Facilities
It was once the case that a variety of entertainment, nightlife and hospitality industries enjoyed exemptions for certain parts of their business so that people could smoke while they traveled or relaxed. The recent bill eliminates most of these exemptions. Hotels could, up until this year, allow smoking in part of their lobbies, but this exemption is gone. Bars and taverns were also cut out of the California smoking ban until this May, but no longer. This finally closes the last remaining loophole for smoking in bars in California.
The public policy rationale behind the workplace smoking ban in California has always been to protect the health of employees from the inhalation of secondhand smoke. This has led to a longstanding exemption for warehouses, on the logic that they often have plenty of space for smoke to dissipate. Specifically, the old law exempted warehouses with over 100,000 square feet of storage and 20 or fewer employees. The new law takes this exemption away.
Employee Break Rooms
The old law included an exception for employee break rooms that the employer designated for smokers. The room had to be exhausted directly to the outside and in an area where other employees didn’t have to be to do their job. This exemption has now gone out the window due to AB No. 7.
California Workplace Smoking Laws: For Further Reading
- AB-7 Smoking in the Workplace: Full Bill Text
- California Expands Laws Prohibiting Workplace Smoking via Managease.com
- Governor Jerry Brown Signs Life-Saving Tobacco Bills via Yeson56.org
You should never have to work in a facility that is detrimental to your health. If your employer is violating California workplace smoking laws and denying your right to work in a healthy workplace, an employment attorney can help. Contact our passionate California employment lawyers for a free consultation.