Smoking & Vaping in Public Places

Washington Smoking in Public Places law and Clark County Code Chapter 24.20

In 2005 the people of Washington State voted to expand the state Clean Indoor Air Act, now called Smoking in Public Places law, making all indoor public places and workplaces smoke free. The law prohibits smoking in any indoor enclosed public places. The law applies everywhere, all the time.

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In April 2015, the Clark County Board of Health amended Clark County Ordinance 2015-04-18 which codifies the state Smoking in Public Places law and prohibits the use of inhalant delivery systems where smoking is prohibited by state law. The sole exception to the code is in stores that exclusively sell, market and/or distribute inhalant delivery systems. Sampling of inhalant delivery systems sold in these stores is permitted by persons age 18 and older.

Compliance with the Smoking in Public Places law and Clark County Code Chapter 24.20 is the responsibility of the owner, manager, operator, or another person in charge of an area open to the public or place of employment. Clark County Public Health will enforce the Smoking in Public Places law and Clark County Code 24.20 for businesses, including bars and restaurants. Local law enforcement agencies will maintain responsibility for individuals violating the law.

You can confidentially report smoking violations online or by calling 564.397.2550 and leaving a message, describing the name and address of the business plus the time and a brief description of the violation. If you provide your name and phone number, we may contact you for more information.

Frequently asked questions

The Smoking in Public Places law (RCW 70.160) is a state law that prohibits smoking in public places and workplaces to protect employees and the public from secondhand smoke. The citizens of Washington approved Initiative 901 (I-901), which expands the Act and makes Washington the 10th state in the nation to have a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law.

The code prohibits the sale of inhalant delivery systems to minors under the age of 18, and prohibits the use of these devices where smoking is prohibited by Washington Smoking in Public Places law. The code authorizes Clark County Public Health to enforce the code. Enforcement actions could include fines for violations of the law.

**Inhalant delivery systems, also known as electronic smoking devices, electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems, e-cigars, e-cigarillos, e-pipes, e-hookahs, hookah pens, etc., are battery operated devices often designed to look like and be used in a similar manner to conventional tobacco products. Electronic smoking devices are used to inhale a vaporized liquid solution that frequently, though not always, contains nicotine. Because the liquid solution is converted into vapor, use of these devices is generally referred to as "vaping".

Smoking and vaping are prohibited in public places or places of employment. "Public place" means any place used by and open to the public. "Place of employment" means any area under the control of a public or private employer through which employees are required to pass during the course of employment.

If you operate a public place or place of employment, smoking and vaping are not allowed in your establishment. If you see customers, staff, or visitors smoking or vaping, you or your staff must tell them not to smoke or vape indoors. Smoking and vaping outside your establishment is prohibited within 25 feet of entrances and exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes. Employers cannot require employees to work in or within 25 feet of outdoor designated smoking or vaping areas.

A "No Smoking, No Vaping" sign must be conspicuously posted at each entrance as well as in prominent locations in your establishment. You can download printable signs here.

The responsibility of a business owner extends to areas of service under his or her control. Sidewalks, parking lots, and public streets are not usually areas of service for most businesses and therefore usually not areas of responsibility for business owners. Outside service areas, such as patio-seating and "beer garden" locations are under the control of the business owner and are subject to the law. Smoking and vaping are prohibited in these areas if employees work in or pass through these areas while on duty. Individuals violating the law are under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement.

Businesses must make customers aware of the 25-foot rule.

Yes, there is one exception. Stores that exclusively sell, market, and/or distribute inhalant delivery systems may allow customers 18 years and older to sample products at the store before purchasing them.

The purpose of these laws are to protect others from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and secondhand vapor. Use your normal protocol for removing an unruly customer from your premises.

If you fail to comply with the law, an employee or member of the public may report the violation to Clark County Public Health, which would alert you of the reported violation.

The law prohibits employers from providing a smoking or vaping break room for employees or customers, even if these rooms are separately ventilated. Be sure to communicate clearly with your employees to ensure they understand the laws.

Covered outdoor shelters are permissible. Local building and fire codes apply. Covered shelters must be open on at least one side; shelters must be 25 feet or more away from doors, windows and air intake vents. Employees may not work in or pass through these areas in order to perform work-related duties.

If you smoke and want to quit, or to support your employees or patrons who want to quit, refer them to their health care plan for cessation benefits or call the Washington State Tobacco Quit Line toll free at 1.800.Quit-Now (1.800.784.8669) to find out if they qualify for assistance or go to www.becomeanex.org or betobaccofree.hhs.gov/.

You can confidentially report violations online or by calling 564.397.2550 and leaving a message, describing the name and address of the business and the time of the violation. If you provide us with your name and phone number, we may contact you for more information. Calls are retrieved each business day.

For more information about the Smoking in Public Places law, visit Washington State Department of Health. If you have questions about this law or Clark County Code Chapter 24.20, you can call Clark County Public Health at 564.397.2550. Calls are retrieved and returned each business day.

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke exhaled by a smoker and the smoke from a burning cigarette. This combination is dangerous for both smokers and nonsmokers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including about 70 known cancer-causing substances. Secondhand smoke contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths among non-smoking adults and 400 infants each year in the United States. People exposed to secondhand smoke greatly increase their risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, asthma, bronchitis, ear infections, pneumonia, croup, and sore throats. Secondhand smoke includes nicotine, cotinine and other chemicals such as benzene, cadmium and formaldehyde according to the National Cancer Institute.

Secondhand vapor from e-cigarettes is more than water; it has been found to contain nicotine and ultra-fine particles of substances such as nickle, tin, and lead, according to the CDC.

Eliminating secondhand smoke will improve the health of employees and customers, reduce health care costs, and save businesses money by reducing cleaning and maintenance costs.

Exposure to secondhand vapor is also concerning. Secondhand vapor contains hazardous substances associated with a range of negative health effects such as skin, eye and respiratory irritation, neurological effects, damage to reproductive systems, and even premature death from heart attacks and stroke. Many of these same toxins are contained in secondhand smoke but at much higher levels.