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Smoke Free Workplace Act Requirement and Enforcement Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I report a violation?

By phone: toll-free, 1-866-559-OHIO (6446)

By e-mail: nosmoke@odh.ohio.gov

How far from the door of a business does a smoker need to stand while smoking?

The law does not specify a specific distance that smokers must be from the entrance to a building. It states that the proprietor of the business, as much as he/she is able, is to prohibit smoking where smoke will enter the building through a window, door or vent. The law permits the proprietor to establish that smokers maintain a minimum distance from the doorway or building.

Why don’t you ticket individuals for smoking?

The law states the following: the proprietor shall not permit smoking in the business; the individual shall not refuse to immediately discontinue smoking in the business when asked to do so by the proprietor or an employee. No authority to “ticket” an individual for smoking was authorized in the law. 

I have called in multiple complaints of smoking on a business, why don’t I see the law being enforced?  

Complaints about smoking law violations received by the Ohio Department of Health are investigated by the city, county or state agency responsible for enforcement at that location. The investigation typically occurs within approximately 30 days, during which the investigator must witness a violation of the law. Otherwise, the case is dismissed. While a finding of violation results in a warning or fine to the business, the Smoke-Free Workplace Act does not permit other actions to be taken against the proprietor, such as “shutting a business down."  Another investigation cannot occur without another complaint, so if violations continue, call in another complaint so the second investigation can take place. Sometimes a business does not copy until they receive multiple violations.

Why are so many cases dismissed?

A case may be dismissed for the following reasons:

  • There is insufficient information to follow up with an investigation (e.g. an incorrect/incomplete address, or business name is not correct for the business at the address given).

  • The complaint is not a violation of the Smoke-Free Workplace Act (e.g. complaints of smoking in someone’s own apartment, complaints of smoking outside the door of a business).

  • No violation was found during the investigation of the complaint (e.g. no one was smoking, there were not ashtrays present, the No Smoking signs were posted as required, etc.).

I live in an apartment and have a neighbor who smokes, what can I do?   

There are steps you can take to limit your exposure to second-hand smoke, such as keeping doors and windows closed, caulked and sealed, but the only way to eliminate your exposure is to live in smoke-free housing. 

Some multi-unit buildings have adopted smoke-free policies. Secondhand smoke can enter adjacent areas through doors, windows, even through wall outlets! ***Read more about multi-unit housing smoking policies here.***

Is smoking allowed in company vehicles?

Smoking is prohibited in the following vehicles that are registered by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles:

  • A motor vehicle when it is occupied by one or more non-smoking persons at the same time while being used for business purposes.

  • A motor pool vehicle that is shared by non-smoking employees. 

  • A vehicle used for public mass transit. 

  • Tourist or scenic railcars.

What are the responsibilities of a business owner/manager to prevent smoking?

The owner/manager shall not:

  • Permit smoking in the public place or place of employment.

  • Permit smoking in areas directly or indirectly under their control, immediately adjacent to entrances of the public place or place of employment.

  • Discharge, refuse to hire, or in any manner, retaliate against any individual for exercising their rights under the Smoke-Free Workplace Act.

The owner/manager shall:

  • Take reasonable steps to ensure tobacco smoke does not enter a no-smoking area under their control, through entrances, windows, vents, etc.

  • Post No Smoking signs in accordance with the law.

  • Remove ashtrays from no-smoking areas.

  • Identify himor herself upon the request of the investigator.  

What are the responsibilities of the individual in regards to the law?

An individual shall not: 

  • Refuse to immediately discontinue smoking in a public place, place of employment or areas under the control of the proprietor declared no smoking, when requested to do so by the proprietor or his/her employee.

  • Retaliate in any manner against any individual for exercising any right, including reporting a violation or performing any obligation under this law.

Where can people smoke?

  • Outside: The smoke free workplace law does not regulate smoking outdoors unless smoke is entering a regulated area or smoking is occurring on an outdoor patio that does not meet the criteria to permit smoking. The smoking law gives a proprietor the right to declare outside areas as non-smoking areas or for local municipalities to enact laws that are more stringent than the Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Act.

  • On Outdoor Patios: In order to permit smoking, an outdoor patio must allow thorough, unobstructed circulation of air to all parts of the patio. The patio must not have more than two walls if it is covered.  Also, smoke must not enter a regulated area from the patio. If in doubt, ask the proprietor.

  • There are some other narrow exemptions for certain venues, but the two areas listed above are the most common areas where smoking is permitted.

Can you smoke in a family-owned business?

A family-owned business is exempt from the law and smoking is allowed as long as all employees are related to the owner, the business is not open to the public and the business is the only business in a free-standing structure.

Is smoking allowed in private clubs?

In Ohio, smoking is not allowed in private clubs.  The law prohibiting smoking is being enforced in private clubs.