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Smoke-Free Workplace Law

Enforcing SFWL

The Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Law

Ohio voters approved a smoking ban in November of 2006 which prohibits smoking in public places and places of employment. The ban provides a statewide minimum standard of protection from the health hazards associated with exposure to secondhand smoke.

Enforcement of the ban by the Ohio Department of Health became effective May 3, 2007. Many of Ohio’s local health departments have partnered with the Ohio Department of Health to help provide enforcement of the law and rules, and have been designated to enforce the Smoking Ban in certain areas of Ohio.

A Report of Violation Prompts an Investigation

A report of a smoking violation is necessary to prompt an investigation by the Ohio Department of Health. If you witness a violation of the smoking ban, report the violation to the Ohio Department of Health for investigation by calling 1-866-559-OHIO (1-866-559-6446) or emailing NoSmoke@odh.ohio.gov

The law prohibits retaliation against anyone for reporting a violation, against businesses for enforcing the law, and against professionals for enforcing the law. A report of retaliation will also be followed up with an investigation. While anonymous complaints are permitted, it will be necessary to provide contact information when reporting retaliation so the report can be thoroughly investigated.

The smoke-free workplace law does not prohibit smoking outdoors and does not specify a distance from an entrance or exit that smoking can occur. However, smokers must stand far enough away from the door of a building that smoke does not enter the building.  If smoke is entering the building a report of violation can be made for infiltration.

The smoking law gives proprietors the right to declare a No Smoking area by posting a No Smoking sign in accordance with the law O.R.C. 3794.06. The sign should define the No Smoking areas (e.g. within 25’ of a door or window) and provide a phone number to report violations (not the state enforcement line).

While local municipalities and proprietors are permitted to enact laws that are more stringent than the Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Law, enforcement of these laws is not conducted under the state law.

Outdoor Patios

To be exempt from regulation, a covered outdoor patio must not have more than two walls and be at least 50 percent open. An uncovered outdoor patio may have walls on all four sides.

The outdoor patio must allow thorough, unobstructed circulation of air to all areas off the patio must be physically separated from an enclosed area(s) and smoke must not migrate into the No Smoking area(s) from the patio.

No Smoking Signs

No Smoking signs must be posted in public places and places of employment at all entrances/exits and in areas of transition between smoking permitted to No Smoking areas. No Smoking signs must comply with the requirements of O.R.C. 3794.06 and OAC 3701-52-06.

Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Act

In 2006, Ohio voters passed the Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Act. 

The Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program actively assists Ohioans with information about the clean indoor air act. For questions concerning Smoke-Free Ohio, call 1-866-634-7654. To report a violation of Ohio’s clean indoor air act, call 1-866-559-6446.

For more information about the smoking ban please visit: http://www.ohionosmokelaw.gov/


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 him or 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.    


Exemptions From the Smoke-Free Law in Ohio

Private residences are not required to be nonsmoking except:

  • When being used as a business, such as a child care or adult care facility for compensation
  • When being used as a business in which employees who are not residents of the private residence or are not related to the owner enter the business
  • When the general public is permitted to enter the business during business hours, regardless of whether by walk-in or appointment
  • Common areas of multi-family homes must be no smoking areas, but smoking may be allowed in individual rooms, apartments or on outdoor patios.
  • An outdoor patio that does not have a roof/overhead covering, or has a roof/overhead covering but has no more than two walls so that the sides are at least 50 percent open, is exempt from the smoking ban.

Nursing homes are permitted to allow smoking in individual patient rooms. They are also permitted to designate an indoor smoking area - if it is separately ventilated and smoke doesn't enter the no-smoking areas. Only residents are permitted to use the indoor smoking area, and employees cannot be required to accompany a resident into a designated indoor smoking area or perform services in such an area when it is in use for smoking.

Hotels, motels and lodging facilities may designate as many as 20 percent of sleeping rooms for smoking. The other 80 percent of sleeping rooms and all other areas such as common areas, meeting rooms, and offices, etc. must be no smoking areas.

Family-owned businesses MAY permit smoking if all of the following are true:

  • All employees are relatives of the owner
  • Enclosed areas are not open to the public
  • Smoke from the place of employment does not migrate into any no smoking areas
  • It must be the only business located in a free-standing structure
  • A retail tobacco store may apply for exemption annually.  

File a Complaint

File a Complaint

A complaint that reports an alleged violation must be investigated unless the report is determined to be frivolous, not made in good faith, or too old to be reasonably investigated.

Information to Provide

When reporting a violation, please provide detailed information to assist the investigator. If it is a large facility or has multiple rooms or buildings, specify where the violation occurred. Provide information that does not pinpoint you as the complainant, as the details of the complaint will be available during the investigation.

The report of violation shall contain at least the following information:

1) Nature of the violation including the date and approximate time

2) Name of the business or individual alleged to be in violation

3) Complete address

4) County in which the business or individual is located    

Options for you to report a violation:

What Happens Next?

The complaint report is sent to the designated local health department or assigned to state health department staff for investigation.

A Notice of Report will be sent to the subject of the complaint, informing them that an investigation is underway. The investigating agency will print out a Notice of Report, which is a letter explaining that a report of an alleged violation was received and that it will be investigated.

The Notice of Report and a copy of the complaint details are sent to the subject by mail or hand delivery, followed by the investigation. If a violation is found, a violation letter is sent; if no violation is found, the investigation is dismissed. After an investigation is completed and closed, there will not be another investigation until another complaint is received. If violations continue, continue to report them so they can be investigated.

Smoking Ban

Enforcing the Ban

Enforcing the Smoking Ban

1. Owner/managers shall not permit smoking inside a public place or place of employment, or other area declared no smoking, or permit tobacco smoke to enter the nonsmoking area through an entrance, window, door, vent, etc. Due to a 10th District Court of appeals decision on December 31, 2007, Private Clubs are not exempt from this law and must comply with the smoking ban.

2. Owners/managers must remove ashtrays from the no smoking areas, including any container(s) used to dispose of smoking materials such as a can, bottle, cup, etc.

3. Smokers must immediately discontinue smoking (public place, place of employment, or another area that is declared no smoking) when requested to do so by the proprietor or employee of the public place or place of employment.

4. No person shall retaliate against someone for reporting a violation, enforcing the law, investigating a complaint, or performing any other duty required under this law.

Have a Written Smoking Policy

A written smoking policy should outline where smoking is prohibited and may designate specific areas where smoking is permitted. The policy should prescribe consequences/penalties when the policy is violated.

It should be posted and may be provided to employees, patrons, and guests. It may be necessary to provide employee training on the specifics of the policy and document receipt and understanding of the policy and their responsibilities. View a sample smoking policy here.

Suggest an area where smoking is permitted

When someone is smoking in a no smoking area, the proprietor must ask the person to immediately stop smoking or to leave the no smoking area. Direct the smoker to an area where smoking is permitted, such as a designated smoking area or an outdoor patio that meets the requirements to permit smoking.

Contact the Ohio Department of Health:

Call 1-866-559-OHIO (6446) or email nosmoke@odh.ohio.gov


O.R.C. 3794

Fact Sheet: Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Law In Public Places and Places of Employment

Retail Tobacco Stores

Retail Tobacco Stores

The exemption for a retail tobacco store to allow smoking indoors is not automatic and must be requested annually. Failure to respond to requests for information from the Ohio Department of Health results in automatic denial of exemption.

Application Process

The Ohio Department of Health receives a signed/notarized affidavit from a business that is seeking an exemption for that year. A questionnaire is sent to each business for which an affidavit is received that must be completed and returned to the Ohio Department of Health.

Clarification or additional information (such as gross sales information for the previous year) may be requested from the business and must be sent to the Ohio Department of Health. The Ohio Department of Health reviews all information provided and sends a letter to each business that either grants or denies an exemption for one year.

Other Exemption Requirements

The business must meet the definition of a retail tobacco store in O.R.C. 3794.01 and OAC 3701-52-01:

The retail tobacco store must be the only business located in a freestanding building if the business is established after Dec. 7, 2006.

The retail tobacco store cannot be a department or section of another establishment in that building. Smoke from a retail tobacco store (that has been granted an exemption) must not migrate into an area where smoking is prohibited, such as a neighboring place of employment or public place.

This can result in a finding of violation and/or loss of exemption status.

Additional information can be found in OAC 3701-52-05.

Local Municipalities

Ohio Municipalities and Counties with Smoke-Free Laws:

  • Strongsville, Ohio: adopted a tobacco-free campus policy effective October 2013.
  • Athens County: Tobacco-free Parks effective December 2014.
  • City of Bexley: prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products and electronic nicotine delivery devices to individuals below the age of 21 effective June 2015. 
  • Cleveland banned smoking in outdoor city-owned or controlled areas including parks, swimming pools (some golf courses and piers are excluded) effective June 2011. 
  • Cleveland Zoo went smoke-free effective June 2011. 
  • Dayton & Montgomery County: Tobacco-free policy for new employees, current employees may not use tobacco while on duty, promotions only to those who are tobacco-free. Effective January 2014. 
  • Euclid banned the use of tobacco in all enclosed or open area public places by employees (including remote work sites and vehicles), contractors, and the public effective November 2012. 
  • Grandview Heights adopted an ordinance prohibiting tobacco and electronic cigarette sales to purchasers under 21 years effective October 2015.
  • City of Grandview also prohibits smoking in parks and recreational facilities effective October 2015. 
  • Hamilton County: Tobacco-free workplace includes e-cigarettes effective September 2014.
  • Marysville: Tobacco-free effective October 2013.
  • City of New Albany in November 2015 prohibited the sale or distribution of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to persons under the age of 21.
  • North Royalton, Ohio smoke-free except for designated areas in April 2008.
  • Oakwood: Tobacco-free and e-cigarette free parks and all city property effective November 2014.
  • Oberlin: Added e-cigarettes to public smoking ban in June 2014.
  • Shaker Heights prohibited the use of tobacco on the grounds of designated city buildings, including private and city vehicles in August 2013.
  • Springfield Township in Hamilton County banned the use of tobacco and electronic cigarettes within 25 feet of buildings, and employees are to avoid the use of tobacco products when interacting with the public (adopted in May 2013).
  • Strongsville: Tobacco use prohibited on the grounds of designated city buildings, includes private and city vehicles in October 2013.
  • Union County: Tobacco-free property in April 2014.
  • Upper Arlington prohibited the sale and distribution of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to the under 21 population in June 2015.
  • Village of Lincoln Heights, Ohio declared all village-owned properties smoke-free in May 2010.
  • Village of Woodlawn, Ohio adopted a policy in January 2011 that stated that all tobacco products are banned from indoor and outdoor facilities and properties of the Village of Woodlawn.

Has your municipality adopted a smoke-free or tobacco-free policy? Tell us about it by contacting the Ohio Department of Health Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program at tobaccoprevention@odh.ohio.gov.

Counties with tobacco-Free Policies in Certain Areas:

  • Allen County  (exterior grounds)
  • Ashland County  (exterior grounds)
  • Ashtabula County  (exterior grounds)
  • Carroll County  (Health Department only)
  • Hamilton County (exterior grounds)
  • Licking County (county buildings)
  • Marion County  (exterior grounds)
  • Montgomery County  (Dayton-Montgomery County Health Department Commissioner, administrators, board, new employees, current employees have a set time to quit tobacco)
  • Morrow County  (exterior grounds)
  • Putnam County  (exterior grounds)
  • Union County (exterior grounds)