Smoking in Public Places Law

Smoking in Public Places Law
On November 8, 2005, Washingtonians made a healthy choice by voting to pass Initiative 901. This became RCW 70.160. The law prohibits smoking in all restaurants and bars by amending the state's 1985 Clean Indoor Air Act. Today, the definition of "public place" includes bars, restaurants, bowling centers, skating rinks, and non-tribal casinos. The definition also includes private residences used to provide childcare, foster care, adult care, or similar social services, and at least 75 percent of the sleeping quarters within a hotel.

The Smoking in Public Places law also prohibits smoking within 25 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited.

Washington was the tenth state in the country to implement a comprehensive statewide law prohibiting smoking in all restaurants and bars, and the fifth state to have a law that requires 100 percent of indoor workplaces to be smoke-free.

The initiative had widespread support, with all 39 counties in Washington voting in favor of the law. You can learn more about the law by reading the full RCW 70.160 or by downloading the initiative's text.

Impact on Public Health
Since implementation, the law has had a significant and positive impact on public health:

  • Air quality monitoring tests conducted by the American Lung Association before and after the law took effect revealed indoor air pollution decreased by 88 percent.1
  • The rate of bar and restaurant employee exposure to secondhand smoke dropped from 29 percent in 2005 to about 3 percent in 2006.2
  • The restrictions on smoking also prompted many people to quit tobacco. During the month after the law's implementation, the Washington State Tobacco Quit Line received a record number of calls.3
  • More than 90 percent of bar and restaurant owners and managers say they rarely receive complaints related to indoor smoking.

The Truth About Smoke-free Laws
When smoking laws go into effect, evidence shows that cigarette consumption and smoking rates go down among workers and the general public.

In fact, Philip Morris's own research shows that prohibiting smoking in the workplace not only reduces consumption but also increases quit rates. A 1992 memo summarizing these findings states6:

"Total prohibition of smoking in the workplace strongly affects industry volume. Smokers facing these restrictions consume 11% to 15% less than average and quit at a rate that is 84% higher than average."

The memo goes on to state that,

"If smoking were banned in all workplaces, the industry's average consumption would decline 8.75 to 10.1% from 1991 levels and the quitting rate would increase 74% (e.g., from 2.5% to 4.4%)."

It just goes to show that tobacco companies know exactly what we do: that while smoking remains as bad for your health as always, smoke-free laws go a long way toward clearing the air and helping people quit for good.

When smoke-free laws go into effect, it's always important to make sure that people know they have more options than to simply smoke elsewhere. Visit the Washington State Tobacco Quitline to learn more about how to get help quitting.

To register a complaint regarding indoor smoking, contact Chelsey Eaton or Delphine Bailey at 509 382-2181.

(Visit the Washington Department of Health Smoking in Public Places Law page) (from the Smoke Free Washington website)