Protect Local Control

Ensuring Community Rights
To Pass Smokefree Ordinances

State Status

No Preemption

Pending Legislation


"Because regulations in general may be more effective if generated and enforced at the local level, considerable energy is devoted to the issue of opposing or repealing preemption of local authority by states. Public health analyses have resulted in strong recommendations that state laws not preempt local action..."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Reducing Tobacco Use: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2000


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.

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