California Leads The Way With Smokefree Spaces

July 2, 2021

California has so many attributes that make it a great state – it boasts beautiful beaches and landscapes, iconic cultural institutions and diverse cities and communities. And fortunately, most of these places are protected from the harm of secondhand smoke.

This is important because secondhand smoke is considered a toxic air contaminant1 that kills ten of thousands of non-smoking Americans each year.2 It can also contribute to a range of health issues, including heart disease and lung cancer3, and is especially dangerous for children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.

California and its cities and counties have led the way in protecting residents and visitors from these harms through an array of smoking bans that include cigarettes, little cigars (or cigarillos), e-cigarettes, marijuana and hookah. The vast majority of California’s indoor spaces are protected from secondhand smoke, ensuring people breathe clean air while they are at work, school or play. Smoking is prohibited in most indoor places including public and private office buildings, public and private schools and universities, factories, warehouses, restaurants, bars, pool halls, movie theaters, hotel and motel lobbies and meeting rooms and even covered parking lots, among many, many other spaces. There are only a small number of exceptions to these state laws. Because American Indian tribes are sovereign entitities, their lands are not covered by state laws that prohibit smoking in indoor spaces. Many tribal casinos have adopted some policies restricting smoking in tribal gaming casinos and a few have adopted 100% smokefree policies.

Many of California’s outdoor spaces are also protected through local laws as well. To start, many of our parks and beaches have banned smoking to make visiting them more enjoyable to everyone. More than 100 cities and counties have passed comprehensive outdoor secondhand smoke ordinances that prohibit smoking in outdoor dining areas, public events, such as concerts and fairs, recreation areas, worksites and sidealks. Hundreds more cities and counties have restricted smoking in the entryways of buildings, as well as service areas, which include places such as ATM lines, public transit stops, taxi stands and ticket lines.

Much work has been done to protect Californians, but there is more to do. A recent report by the California Department of Public Health found that more people are reporting being exposed to secondhand smoke, with the biggest increases being from e-cigarette aerosol and marijuana secondhand smoke4, due to the rising number of people using these products.

Extraordinary progress has been made against secondhand smoke in California since 1995 when California was the first state to ban smoking in the workplace. We need to make sure this work isn’t lost with new products, so that all Californians have the opportunity to breathe clean air.

To learn about actions you can take to protect yourself and your family, please visit

References renameme

  1. California Air Resources Board. Environmental Tobacco Smoke. Accessed January 3, 2019.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Secondhand smoke: An unequal danger. CDC Vital Signs. February 2015. Accessed January 4, 2019.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Secondhand Smoke What It Means to You. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health (2006).
  4. Vuong TD, Zhang X, Roeseler A. California Tobacco Facts and Figures 2019. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health; May 2019.