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Can you believe California restaurants and bars went smokefree 15 years ago?

Publication Date: 2013-01-02

Happy 15th anniversary to California's smokefree restaurants and bars!

January 1st marked the 15th anniversary of the full implementation of California's 100% smokefree restaurant and bar law!  Can you believe it�s been 15 years since workers and patrons have had to breathe smoky, toxic air while working a shift or enjoying a night out?

Smokefree bars in California showed the world that vibrant nightlife and hospitality jobs don't have to come with deadly secondhand smoke. Thank you ANR members and partners for your efforts that have saved so many lives.

The landmark law, AB13, went into effect in 1995 for public places and most workplaces, and in 1998 for bars, bar areas of restaurants, and non-tribal gaming facilities. California's law was an extremely influential public health achievement, and led the way for numerous other states and communities to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke exposure.

smokefreelogo “The tobacco industry and its allies fought hard to prevent the phase-in of the bar and gaming provisions,” recalled Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of ANR. “In fact, the National Smokers Alliance, a Philip Morris (PM) front group seeded with PM employees and smokers who signed up for cigarette discount coupons, staged “smoke ins” at a few bars in a feeble attempt to make it look like the law was going to ruin everything in CA. Fortunately, the law went into effect and despite the posturing and cries of economic doom-and-gloom from the industry, the law had extremely high public support, revenues remained high, jobs in the hospitality industry increased, and the law resulted in immediate public health benefits. Just six months after the law went into effect, bar workers reported better health. Four years later, Delaware and New York enacted smokefree laws including bars and gaming, and the rest is history. Smokefree air is good for health and good for business!”

How has California's smokefree law improved your life? Please share your stories with us of how it has benefited you, and what life was like before the law. We would love to hear your experiences! Please send your stories to

Despite protecting the majority of Californians from workplace exposure to secondhand smoke, the state law unfortunately contains a number of exemptions that still expose far too many workers to secondhand smoke on the job, especially those in workplaces with 5 or fewer employees, warehouses, cigar bars, retail tobacco shops, employee break rooms, and hotel lobbies. Multiple attempts over the last few years to strengthen the law have not yet succeeded, but health groups and advocates continue to fight to close the loopholes.

"It's outrageous that 15 years later, some Californians are still suffering from secondhand smoke exposure while on the job. We've created a second class of workers who do not enjoy the same health protections as most California employees, and this inequality has gone on for too long.  Now is the time to close the gaps in California's law to protect all workers.  The state set the stage for the rest of the country in the 1990's.  Let 2013 be the year we catch up to other states with stronger laws that better protect ALL workers," Hallett said.

This anniversary is the perfect opportunity to share your support for stronger smokefree air protections with your local and state elected officials.
  Let them know that their constituents care about smokefree workplaces, and encourage them to get engaged to support legislation that will create healthier, safer workplaces for all California employees.

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