State Smoking Prohibitions in Public Places: Effectively Protecting Employees and the Public from Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Michael A. Tynan


Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing an estimated 438,000 premature deaths annually. Secondhand smoke contains more than 50 carcinogens and causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults. In 2006, the Surgeon General concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and that eliminating smoking from all indoor areas is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from the adverse health effects of secondhand smoke.Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings do not provide adequate protection against secondhand smoke.


Private worksites, restaurants and bars are locations where employees and the public are likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke, sometimes in high concentrations. Smoke-free laws that prohibit smoking in all indoor areas of these public places are the only way to protect nonsmokers from the adverse health effects of secondhand smoke.A Health People 2010 Objective (no. 27-13) calls for establishing smoke-free laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


Using the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionís (CDC) State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation (STATE) System, this presentation will examine the extent to which states have passed laws that provide adequate protection against secondhand smoke in worksites, restaurants, and bars.

According to the STATE System preliminary results reveal that as of June 30, 2008: 24 states prohibit smoking in private worksites, 24 states prohibit smoking in restaurants, and 13 states prohibit smoking in bars.While findings indicate that the number of states that have enacted smoking bans in these three locations has increased substantially in recent years, just over half of the states offer either inadequate or no protection for nonsmokers in these locations.