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Background for Lawyers
 

Strong, comprehensive smokefree laws not only protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, they also prevent youth tobacco addiction and help smokers who want to quit. There is also compelling evidence that smokefree laws have no negative economic impact on restaurants and bars. State and local smokefree laws have been tested extensively in the courts, with the conclusion that they are among the most successful and legally sound public health laws on the books.

During the past ten years, local smoking ordinances have become both stronger and more comprehensive, and many states have joined cities and counties in adopting comprehensive smokefree laws. However, the recent wave of smokefree laws has deep roots in a public health movement that goes back more than 30 years. In the late 1970’s, a handful of communities in California and other states adopted the first local smoking restrictions, and by the 1980’s this trickle of relatively weak ordinances had grown into a flood of increasingly strong laws protecting nonsmokers in workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars.  

In the 1980’s and 90’s, public health efforts shifted from nonsmoking sections to 100% smokefree environments. In 1990, Congress eliminated smoking on commercial airline flights within the continental United States. At the same time, a handful of communities in California and Colorado adopted the first smokefree restaurant ordinances, and laws covering private workplaces evolved as exemptions were eliminated.

By January 2009, there were more than 300 local ordinances in the US eliminating smoking completely in workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Thirty states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, now have smokefree laws covering at least restaurants, workplaces, or bars. Fifteen of these cover all three areas.