The Tennessee Departments of Health and Labor and Workforce Development are two weeks away from enforcement of the Non-Smokers Protection Act, which was signed into law by Governor Phil
Bredesen on June 11 of this year. Under the law, which takes effect on October 1, 2007, smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public places within the State of Tennessee with a few exceptions.
“The most effective way to protect workers from deadly secondhand smoke is to require smoke free workplaces,” said Governor Bredesen. “The goal of this legislation is to protect Tennesseans who are
simply trying to go to work each day and earn a paycheck. I’m proud to see Tennessee join the ranks of only a few other states that have taken the necessary steps to protect the health of employees and patrons by preventing exposure to secondhand smoke.”
Both the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development have authority to enforce the law. The Department of Health will enforce the law in establishments it inspects. Among them are restaurants; public and private educational dining
facilities; health care facilities; hotels, motels and bed and breakfast facilities; organized camps; tattoo and body piercing parlors; sports arenas, including enclosed public areas in outdoor arenas; and child
care and adult day care facilities.
“The U.S. Surgeon General released a comprehensive report earlier this year detailing that non-smokers have an increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer as a result of secondhand smoke in their environments,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “With enforcement of any new law, we understand there is an adjustment period where we learn and become familiar with the changes. The Department staff plans to spend the next few weeks continuing to inform and educate the public about the law, so they can fully comply with it.”
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development will enforce the law in establishments it inspects including manufacturing facilities; construction sites; convenience and grocery stores; retail stores and shopping malls.
“A strong element of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s mission is to improve workplace safety and health throughout Tennessee,” said James Neeley, commissioner for the
Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. “We are committed to supporting the state’s smoke-free legislation for a healthier Tennessee for workers and the public.”
The law provides exceptions to smoking ban for some locations and establishments. They are as follows.
Private homes and private residences are exempt unless they are used for child care or day care.
Private motor vehicles are also exempt.
Non-enclosed areas of public places, including open air patios, porches or decks, those that are enclosed by garage type doors when all such doors are open; and any that are enclosed by tents or awnings with removable sides or vents when all such sides or vents are removed or open are exempt. However, smoke from these areas must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited.
Venues that restrict access to persons who are 21 years of age or older at all times are exempt. Employees must also be 21 or older in these establishments.
Private businesses with 3 or few employees are exempt, and may only allow smoking in an enclosed room not accessible to the general public. Smoke from such a room must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited.
Private clubs are exempt.
Smoking rooms in hotels and motels are allowable, provided that no more than 25 percent of the rooms in a hotel or motel are designated as smoking rooms.
Tobacco manufacturers, importers and wholesalers are exempt.
Retail tobacco stores that prohibit minors from entering are
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are also exempt from this law, but are subject federal regulation and the policies and procedures established by those facilities.
Commercial vehicles are exempt when the vehicle is occupied only by the operator.
To comply with the law, employers and business owners are required to post "No Smoking" signs at every entrance to every public place and place of employment where smoking is prohibited; to notify and inform all existing and prospective employees that smoking is prohibited; and inform patrons and customers who are found smoking on the premises that it is prohibited.
Those who knowingly violate the ban do face penalties. An individual who knowingly smokes in area where smoking is prohibited is subject to a civil penalty of $50. A business that knowingly fails to comply with the requirements of the act is subject to a written warning from the Department of Health or the Department of Labor and Workforce Development for a first violation in a 12 month period; a civil penalty of $100 for a second violation in a 12 month period; and a civil penalty of $500 for a third or subsequent violation in a 12 month period.
Beginning October 1, violations of the Non-Smokers Protection Act can be reported via the Internet at health.state.tn.us or by calling 1-800-293-8228. Information will then be routed to the appropriate
department for handling.