California Laws on Smoking in the Workplace

Learn whether California employers must prohibit smoking in the workplace.

By , J.D. · University of Missouri School of Law

Which employers must comply with California smoking laws?

Workplace smoking laws apply to virtually all places of employment in California. The exceptions include:

  • 20 percent of the guestroom accommodations in a hotel, motel, or similar transient lodging establishment
  • retail or wholesale tobacco shops and private smokers' lounges, and
  • private residences, except those licensed as family day care facilities.

Even owner-operated businesses with no employees must comply with California's workplace smoking laws. That is also true where the only workers are volunteers or independent contractors.

In California, in what parts of the workplace is smoking prohibited?

An employer may not knowingly or intentionally permit smoking in any enclosed workplace. That includes covered parking lots, lobbies, lounges, waiting areas, elevators, stairwells, and restrooms that are a structural part of the building.

Employers must also take reasonable steps to prevent nonemployees from smoking.

Does California's workplace smoking ban include vaping and marijuana?

Yes, California's ban on workplace smoking also includes vaping and marijuana.

What are the requirements for smoking areas in California workplaces?

In California, smoking areas must be in a non-work area that is not enclosed. Employers may not offer "break rooms" for smokers.

Are employers required to have a written or oral policy on workplace smoking in California?

Most California employers are required to post "No Smoking" signage at each workplace entrance.

In the few California workplaces where smoking is allowed (see the exceptions above), employers must post a sign stating that "smoking is only allowed in designated areas."

Does California provide employees with protection from smoking-related discrimination?

An employer may not discharge or discriminate against an employee for engaging in lawful activity during nonwork hours away from the employer's premises.

Where can I find California law information on smoking in the workplace?

If you want to go right to the source and look up California law on workplace smoking laws -- or if you're writing a letter to your employer or employee and want to cite the applicable law -- the relevant statute(s) can be found at Cal. Lab. Code Section 6404.5.

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