"When you have 95,000 local units of government in this country, and you have a finite amount of resources, then the smart thing to do is to try to limit the potential for mischief [i.e. seek preemption]."Walker Merryman
In 2016, California achieved the tremendous accomplishment of strengthening its smokefree air law by closing many workplace loopholes. The law went into effect on June 9, 2016 and requires non-hospitality workplaces to be 100% smokefree. Smoking is no longer permitted in businesses with five or fewer employees, employee break rooms, warehouses, hotel lobbies, and owner-operated businesses. View an infographic and fact sheet about California's smokefree laws.
California's landmark statewide smokefree law for 100% smokefree restaurants and bars was adopted in 1994. It went into effect in January 1995 for public places, most workplaces, and restaurants without bar areas, and then in January 1998 it went into effect for all restaurants and bars. However, the exemptions that allowed smoking in some non-hospitality workplaces meant that employees were breathing smoke on the job for 22 years longer than most California workers. Read California's 100% smokefree law.
California communities have long led the way in adopting strong and innovative smokefree air and tobacco control laws. There are 116 municipalities that enacted local laws that do not contain the same loopholes as the state law and qualify as 100% smokefree for non-hospitality workplaces. Likewise, numerous municipalities have adopted laws that expand smokefree protections to outdoor public places, including patio dining areas, parks, and beaches, shopping districts, and service lines; and more than two dozen California municipalities now require all multi-unit housing to be 100% smokefree. Contact your county tobacco control program to learn how you can get involved in supporting smokefree air in your area.
California law does not preempt local governments from adopting smokefree air laws. Despite the conflicting language in CA Labor Code Sec. 6404.5 regarding preemption, subsequent interpretation of the law and legal opinions demonstrate that California communities do have the right to enact smokefree air laws, including with respect to areas addressed by the Labor Code provision. A favorable ruling in the case City of San Jose v. Department of Health Services et al.: H016744 (Santa Clara County Super.Ct.No. CV752231), regarding regulating smoking in nursing homes, found that both the CA Labor Code Sec. 6404.5 and a prior law, the California Indoor Clean Air Act of 1976 (Health & Safety Code section 118875 et seq.), allow local governments to regulate smoking in ways that are not inconsistent with or already covered by state law. Indeed, more than two dozen communities have enacted laws that cover areas addressed by Labor Code Sec. 6404.5 without challenge.
Current tobacco-related statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control's Tobacco Control State Highlights, 2010.
California's 2018 Legislative Session: January 3 - November 30
- 4/8/2019AB1465â€”(marijuana cafes and lounges)â€”An Act relating to cannabisâ€”Amended and passed Assembly Business and Professions Committee on 4/23
- 3/8/2019AB1718â€”(state beaches and parks)â€”An Act relating to parks
- 1/31/2019SB8â€”(state beaches and parks)â€”An Act relating to parksâ€”Hearing scheduled in Natural Resources and Water for 3/12
- 6/9/2016Californians are breathing easier!
- 5/4/2016Fantastic news! Gov. Brown signs smokefree air and tobacco control bills!
- 4/23/2016California tobacco control bills sent to Gov. Brown
- 3/22/2016Tobacco lobbyists threaten California for public health action
- 3/10/2016Californians, please ask Gov. Brown to sign the smokefree air and tobacco control bills!
- 3/3/2016Californians, please take action to support closing loopholes in the state smokefree workplace law!
- 8/5/2013Updated information on California's e-cigarette bill
- 7/29/2013Do you think e-cigarettes should be allowed in California workplaces?
- 4/12/2013Californians, do you support smokefree air in apartments and condominiums?
- 1/2/2013Can you believe California restaurants and bars went smokefree 15 years ago?
- 2/4/2011What's happening in the U.S. Territories and Commonwealths?
- 7/31/2019States Are Thwarting Cities' Attempts to Govern Themselves
- 4/29/2019In Washington, Juul Vows to Curb Youth Vaping. Its Lobbying in States Runs Counter to That Pledge.
- 10/13/2017State lawmakers choose winners and losers through preemption
- 7/6/2017Blue Cities Want to Make Their Own Rules. Red States Won't Let Them.
- 5/10/2017The Threat of Super-Preemption
- 3/6/2017Preemption Prevents Innovation
- 2/21/2017City Rights in an Era of Preemption: A State-by-State Analysis
- 2/2/2017Red State, Blue City
- 1/5/2017GOP aims to rein in liberal cities
- 9/26/2016College students can still light up after Brown vetoes smoking ban
- 9/9/2016How ALEC, ACCE, and Preemption Laws are Gutting the Powers of American Cities
- 8/22/2016Blue Cities, Red States
- 6/28/2016Colorado Preemptions of Local Government: The Need for the Colorado Community Rights Amendment
- 6/23/2016State and Local Comprehensive Smoke-Free Laws for Worksites, Restaurants, and Bars--United States, 2015
- 5/31/2016New smoking laws go into effect June 9
- 5/13/2016New workplace smoking laws
- 5/4/2016California Raises Age Of Tobacco Purchase To 21 And Tightens Vaping Rules
- 4/22/2016California tobacco bills head to Gov. Jerry Brown 43 days later
- 4/6/2016From Fracking Bans To Paid Sick Leave: How States Are Overruling Local Laws
- 4/5/2016California Legislature admits holding tobacco bills to stall threat
- 4/1/2016Growing Southern cities are increasingly targets of state pre-emption
- 3/31/2016Bills on smoking still haven't been sent to the governor as tobacco politics play out
- 3/25/2016Beyond North Carolina's LGBT Battle: States' War on Cities
- 3/7/2016Lawmakers show surprising courage against Big Tobacco
- 2/4/2016Corporate Interests Take Aim at Local Democracy
- 8/27/2015California lawmakers act to raise smoking age to 21, restrict e-cigarettes
- 8/6/2015Blowing the Whistle on ALEC's Little Brother ACCE
- 7/7/2015Four Ways ALEC Tried to Ruin Your State this Year
- 5/17/2015Say no: States increasingly blocking cities and counties from imposing mandates on businesses
- 5/8/2015State lawmakers hate federal meddling even as they preempt local government
- 4/15/2015New bills renew California's anti-smoking effort
- 3/30/2015The ALEC-Backed War on Local Democracy
- 2/23/2015Govern Yourselves, State Lawmakers Tell Cities, but Not Too Much
- 8/7/2014California lawmakers kill measure to ban sale of e-cigarettes in vending machines
- 5/2/2014League of California Cities Board Supports Legislation to Regulate Electronic Cigarettes
- 6/5/2011Smokefree workplace legislation approved by California Senate
- 6/3/2011Measure curbing exemptions to smoke-free law advances
- 4/14/2011DeSaulnier: Workplace smoking legislation advances in Senate Committee
- 2/18/2011Concord Senator Mark DeSaulnier introduces smoke-free workplace bill
- 1/14/2011Bar smoking ban turns 13
- 5/5/2010California Governor vetoes statewide ban on smoking in beaches
- 2/5/2010State Preemption of Local Smoke-Free Laws in Government Work Sites, Private Work Sites, and Restaurants United States, 2005-2009
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State Specific Resources
- 10/15/2003California Initiative