Non Smoking Signs
Do Not Smoke Signs
No smoking signs help enforce smoking laws by informing smokers where smoking is prohibited.
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State and federal no smoking laws

In light of the dangers of Second Hand Smoke (SHS), such as lung cancer, heart disease, and asthma, public health officials have pushed for stricter smoking legislation in public and even private places. No Smoking signs complement these regulations by helping to inform smokers where lighting up is permitted or prohibited. Signage needs will depend on federal and state law, which can affect where signs are needed.

Federal Law

  1. Smoking Ban in Federal Buildings: In 1997, President Clinton signed an executive order outlawing smoking in all Federal buildings except for designated smoking areas. In 2011, Representative Susan Davis introduced the Smoke-Free Federal Buildings Act (H.R. 3382) that would strip Clinton’s designated area provision and prohibits all smoking in federal buildings. The bill currently sits in the House subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, pending approval.

    FDA Regulations: In 2009, President Obama signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1256), granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate the tobacco industry. The FDA has the authority to regulate the content, marketing, and sale of tobacco products. The FDA can also require tobacco companies and importers to reveal all product ingredients as well as seek FDA approval for all new tobacco products. Moreover, the mandate required new warnings and labels on tobacco packaging in order to discourage youths from smoking. Similarly, the Act limits tobacco advertising to minors.

State Law

States currently have the jurisdiction and power to regulate or ban smoking altogether. State bans feature varying degrees of restrictiveness: banning smoking in a mixture of outdoor and indoor places, as well as public and private places. In addition to state law, municipalities have the freedom to amend or supplement the law.

  1. Private Places (workplaces, bars, and restaurants):
    1. Some states outlaw smoking in private workplaces, restaurants and bars. Those that ban smoking in these places entirely are known as having “comprehensive bans” by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) As of 2010, 26 states exhibit fully implemented comprehensive bans, while 10 additional states ban one or two of these venues –for breakdown by state see CDC Table (Linked here).
    2. Eight states exhibit less restrictive bans, making exceptions for designated smoking areas or ventilated areas. Lastly, seven states have no smoking restrictions in these areas whatsoever. However, in 2006, the US Surgeon General reported that any amount of Second Hand Smoke (SHS) is unsafe and therefore the only effective solution to eliminate exposure is by completely eliminating smoking in all indoor areas.

  2. Public Outdoors (i.e. parks):
  3. As of 2012, 27 states have enacted smoking bans in all enclosed public places. A recent Gallop poll from 2011 illustrated that for the first time, a majority of Americans support public smoking bans.

Interestingly, according to the CDC’s table, the South is the least restrictive region of the US, while the Mid-West and New England have the most stringent bans. The state with the strictest ban is California according to a Bloomberg report. Apparently, a Los Angeles suburb called Calabasas bans smoking everywhere and violators can be slapped with a $250 fine and charged with a misdemeanor.

New York State: As an example, New York first banned smoking in public restrooms and taxicabs in 1988 in the Smoke Free Air Act. The Act was later amended in 2002 to include in all indoor workplaces, bars and restaurants. The statute requires owners of enclosed spaces to post “No Smoking” signs at all entrances as required: including bathrooms, stairwells, bulletin boards, and other prominent places. In addition, in 2011, New York City implemented an outdoor smoking ban in all parks, boardwalks, beaches, recreation centers, swimming pools, and pedestrian plazas.

Keep this information in mind when you look to buy and place No Smoking signs. Most statutes will specify signage instructions, like New York City’s, but if they don’t, they will often leave it to the owner to use his or her discretion. Make sure to note what penalties, if any, there are for violating smoking signage.

In general, place signs in a conspicuous area, especially where smokers may want to smoke. In the workplace for instance, ideal placement areas include building entrances, break rooms, parking lots, elevators, restrooms etc. In public places, signs should be large enough to be seen by a multitude of people. Similarly, posting more than one signs improves sign recognition.

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