Protect Local Control

Ensuring Community Rights
To Pass Smokefree Ordinances

State Status

Any Preemption


"The anti-smoking movement has become more sophisticated in its efforts to enact bans and restrictions on smoking.... They have adopted a 'Pac-man' strategy where they attempt to gobble up one community at a time.... The 'Pac-man' strategy makes sense for the antis because it is easier for a group of extremists to have an impact on the local level than in larger jurisdictions.... The solution to 'Pac-man' is statewide pre-emption."

Tina Walls
Philip Morris


As of September 11, 2008, all non-hospitality workplaces in Pennsylvania are 100% smokefree. Unfortunately, the law permits smoking in bars, enclosed bar areas of restaurants, and casinos. Employees and patrons in these establishments will remain exposed to secondhand smoke. Also, the law is preemptive and prohibits all municipalities from enacting local smokefree laws that differ from the state law. Philadelphia is exempt from the provisions of the state law and may continue to enforce its stronger city law. See below for history.

For more information about the law, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
To report a violation, call the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Helpline at 877-835-9535.

Read more about current tobacco-related legislation in Pennsylvania.

Current tobacco-related statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control's Tobacco Control State Highlights, 2010.

Pennsylvania's 2018 Legislative Session: January 2 - TBD

In 1988, Pennsylvania enacted a Clean Indoor Air Act, which included a clause preempting most municipalities from enacting their own smokefree air laws. However, in 1999 the preemption clause was repealed by the Legislature. Then in 2000, the Legislature enacted a measure purporting to repeal the 1999 repealer. For complicated reasons, it was never clear whether the 1999 repealer was valid. Thus, the state was left with a legal conundrum: did the Clean Indoor Air Act of 1988 still prevent municipalities from enacting their own smokefree laws?

The uncertainty remained for several years, as two trial courts came to opposing conclusions about whether state law preempts local legislation. Then, in an appeal of a trial court ruling supporting local control, an appellate court ruled that state law does in fact preempt local legislation. Thus, it currently stands that Pennsylvania municipalities--except for Philadelphia--do not have the right to enact local laws.

In November 2006, Allegheny County enacted a strong smokefree law, which was challenged in court by two bar owners on the ground that state law preempted the County from acting. This argument was rejected in Mitchell's Bar & Rest. Inc. v. Allegheny County, No. GD 06-29159 (PA Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Dec. 22, 2006). The court ruled that, given the uncertainty of the status of the original preemption clause, it must presume that the County law is valid. The court did, however, enjoin enforcement of the law with respect to bars until April 30, 2007 to give the Legislature an opportunity to assert its right to preempt the field of smoking regulation.

In January 2007, Erie County enacted a strong smokefree law, which was also challenged in court on the ground of preemption. In Bowen et. al. v. Erie County, Pennsylvania et. al., No. 10504-2007 (PA Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Mar. 2, 2007), the court also ruled that the 1999 repealer never went into effect. Thus, the court determined that municipalities have no right to enact their own laws on the subject of smokefree air and permanently enjoined enforcement of the County law. This ruling is now being appealed.

In May 2007, on appeal of the Allegheny County ruling, the state Commonwealth Court reversed the trial court's refusal to permanently enjoin the law and found that Pennsylvania communities do not have the right to adopt smokefree laws because the purported repeal of the preemption clause in the 1988 Clean Indoor Air Act was, in fact, never effective. (Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, No. 192 C.D. 2007, May 22, 2007.)

In June 2008, the legislature enacted SB246, which makes all non-hospitality workplaces smokefree, but allows for exemptions for bars, bar areas of restaurants, and casinos. Very significantly, the law ruled that Pennsylvania municipalities do not have the right to local control and are prohibited from enacting or enforcing smokefree laws that are stronger than state law. Philadelphia is exempt from the provisions of the state law and may continue to enforce its stronger municipal law.

Strong smokefree workplace ordinances that were previously enacted by municipalities other than Philadelphia, including Scranton, Allegheny County, Erie County, and New Hope, cannot be enforced due to court rulings and ultimately the preemption clause in the state law.

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