Smoking Regulations in District of Columbia


Overview

D.C. Code § 7-1701 states that the purpose of the Code is to protect the public health, comfort, and environment by prohibiting smoking in certain facilities, vehicles, and restaurants open to or used by the general public.[i]

Places Where Smoking is Prohibited

 In the District of Columbia, smoking is generally prohibited in elevators, in public selling area of retail stores (except a tobacco shop or store selling tobacco and smoking equipment), in government public assembly or hearing room, and in educational facilities. [ii]  Smoking is not permitted in health care facility frequented by the general public, including hallways, waiting rooms and lobbies.[iii]  Tobacco smoking is also prohibited in brew pubs, clubs, nightclubs, taverns, bars and bar area of a restaurant.[iv]

 Smoking is also prohibited in passenger vehicles owned or operated by the District of Columbia government.[v]  However smoking in a limousine with the prior consent of all occupants of the vehicle is permitted.

 In case of health care facilities that permit patients to smoke in bed space areas, reasonable efforts should be taken to determine a patient’s individual nonsmoking or smoking preference.[vi]

 Hospital staff, visitors and the general public cannot smoke in bed space areas utilized by nonsmoking patients.  A “No Smoking” sign is also required to be posted in such bed space areas.[vii]

 Generally, smoking is also restricted in restaurant and public or private workplace.

 Smoking in Workplace

The law of the District of Columbia requires places of employment as well as public places to adopt a smoking policy that is consistent with the requirements of the law relating to smoking regulation.[viii]  The law mandates all employers to notify all employees, both orally and in writing, of the smoking policy in the place of employment.[ix]  The employer’s smoking policy will apply to all persons including visitors to the workplace.[x]  The employer is required to post a written smoking policy in the place of employment in the same place as the Worker’s Compensation notice or any similar employee notice is generally put.[xi]  The law requires the employer to generally prohibit smoking in the enclosed area of a place of employment[xii], but the employer may permit smoking in an outdoor area under his or her control, subject to the terms and conditions of the lease or contract between the owner and the tenant.[xiii]  In case of a restaurant, tavern, club, brew pub, or nightclub where smoking is permitted in an outdoor area, the employer shall ensure that no area designated for smoking encompasses areas where smoking is prohibited.[xiv]

 Prohibition on Distribution of Free Cigarettes

The municipal regulations of the District of Columbia prohibits any person, agent, or employee of any person from distributing free cigarettes or other tobacco products on any public street, public sidewalk, public park, playground, in a public building, public property, or private property open to the public.[xv]

A person may however distribute free cigarettes or other tobacco products at a tobacco store, at a convention, or at a conference.  In all these cases, the person to whom such free cigarettes are distributed should be above the age of eighteen (18) years.[xvi]

 

Exemptions

In the District of Columbia, there are some areas where smoking is not prohibited under law.  These places include tobacco shops or stores primarily concerned with selling tobacco and smoking equipment, on the stage by performers during the course of any theatrical performance if smoking is part of the theatrical production, in taverns or nightclubs as defined in § 25-101(52) and (33), respectively and in rooms or halls that are used for private social functions, which includes weddings, banquets, and parties.[xvii]

Apart from these places, the municipal regulations of the District of Columbia also exempt certain places from the smoking regulations.  These places include retail stores whose primary source of revenue is the sale of tobacco products and smoking accessories.[xviii]  However to avail the exemption, no more than twenty-five percent (25 %) of the revenue the store generates should be from non-tobacco products[xix] and the store should not share space with any other establishment.[xx]  Tobacco bars[xxi], outdoor area of a restaurants[xxii], taverns, clubs, brew pubs, nightclubs, hotel rooms or motel room rented to one or more guests are all exempted from smoking regulations.  Smoking is also permitted in medical treatment, research, or nonprofit institution where the activity of smoking is conducted for the purpose of medical research or is an integral part of a smoking cessation program.[xxiii]  Smoking is also permitted on the stage of a theatrical performance, if smoking is part of the theatrical production.[xxiv]

Signs and Symbols

In places where smoking is prohibited, the person in charge of the place should post signs that read, “No Smoking Under Penalty of Law”, “No Smoking Except in Smoking Areas”, or “Smoking in Accordance With Employer’s Smoking Policy Only”.  Such sign should include the following warning: “Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may cause fetal injury, premature birth, and low birth weight in pregnant women.”  The signs should state the maximum fine for a violation of these provisions and should be visible to the public.[xxv]

The Municipal Regulations for the District of Columbia also mandates the owner of a building where smoking is prohibited to post “no smoking” boards or symbols.[xxvi]  Such signs should be conspicuous and should state that smoking is prohibited under penalty of law and that the maximum fine is one thousand dollars ($ 1,000).

The law also makes it unlawful for any person to obscure, remove, deface, mutilate, or destroy such signs.[xxvii] 

Violation and Penalty

Any person who smokes in an area where a “No Smoking” sign is posted or any person who removes a “No Smoking” sign, or a person who fails to post warning signs is liable to be punished by a fine of not less than $ 10 or more than $ 50 for a 1st offense; and not less than $ 50 nor more than $ 100 for each 2nd or subsequent offense. [xxviii]  Any person who obscures, removes, defaces, mutilates or destroys any sign so posted shall be punished with a fine of not more than $ 300.[xxix]  A person who fails to post “No Smoking” signs will be punished with a fine of not more than $ 300.[xxx]

Every day that the violation continues will be taken as a separate offense, and the penalties provided will be applicable to each separate offense.  Civil fines, penalties, and fees will also be imposed as alternative sanctions for any infraction of these provisions.[xxxi]

The municipal regulations of the District of Columbia also impose penalties and fines in case of violation of smoking regulations.  Under the municipal laws, a person smoking in an area where a “NO SMOKING” sign is posted, or any person who disfigures or removes a “NO SMOKING” sign or any person who fails to post warning signs as mandated under law is liable for punishment.[xxxii]  Punishment is by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($ 100) or more than one thousand ($ 1,000) for a first offense; and not less than two hundred dollars ($ 200) nor a more than one thousand dollars ($ 1,000) for each subsequent offense.  Any person found covering, removing, disfiguring, or otherwise destroying any sign relating to smoking shall be fined five hundred dollars ($ 500).[xxxiii]   A person who fails to post or maintain the required “No Smoking” signs is liable to be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($ 500).[xxxiv]  Each day that the violation continues shall constitute a separate offense and the penalties provided in this paragraph shall be applicable to each offense.

The municipal law also prescribes punishment for a person who fails to warn a smoker observed to be smoking in violation of the rules.  Such a person is liable to be punished by a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($ 500).  Each day that the violation continues is taken as constituting a separate offense.[xxxv]

Any person licensed to sell tobacco products who violates the legal requirements is guilty of a misdemeanor and for a first offense may be fined not more than five hundred dollars ($ 500) or less than one hundred dollars ($ 100), or imprisoned not more than thirty (30) days, or both.[xxxvi]  In case such person commits a subsequent violation it shall be treated as a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, is liable for a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($ 1,000) or less than five hundred dollars ($ 500), or imprisoned not more than ninety (90) days, or both.[xxxvii]

A person, who distributes free cigarettes or other tobacco products in public, is liable for a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($ 250) for each violation.[xxxviii]

[i] D.C. Code § 7-1701  

[ii] D.C. Code § 7-1703

[iii] D.C. Code § 7-1703 (6)

[iv] CDCR 20-2100  

[v] D.C. Code § 7-1703 (5)

[vi] D.C. Code § 7-1703 (6) (A)

[vii] D.C. Code § 7-1703 (6) (B)

[viii] CDCR 20-2101.1

[ix] CDCR20- 2101.2

[x] CDCR 20-2101.3

[xi] CDCR 20-2101.4

[xii] CDCR20- 2101.5

[xiii] CDCR 20-2101.6

[xiv] CDCR 20-2101.7

[xv]  CDCR 20-2107.1

[xvi] CDCR 20-2107.2

[xvii] D.C. Code § 7-1708

[xviii]  CDCR 20- 2105.1 (a)

[xix] CDCR 20- 2105.1 (a) (1)

[xx] CDCR 20- 2105.1 (a) (2)

[xxi]  CDCR 20-2105.1 (b)

[xxii]  CDCR 20-2105.1 (c)

[xxiii]  CDCR 20-2105.1 (e)

[xxiv]  CDCR 20-2105.1 (f)

[xxv] D.C. Code § 7-1704

[xxvi] CDCR 20-2103.2

[xxvii]D.C. Code § 7-1704

[xxviii] D.C. Code § 7-1706 (a) (1)

[xxix] D.C. Code § 7-1706 (a) (2)

[xxx] D.C. Code § 7-1706 (a) (3)

[xxxi] D.C. Code § 7-1706 (d)

[xxxii] CDCR 20-2108.1 (a)

[xxxiii]CDCR 20-2108.1 (b)

[xxxiv] CDCR 20-2108.1 (c)

[xxxv] CDCR 20-2108.1 (d)

[xxxvi] CDCR 20-2108.3

[xxxvii] CDCR 20-2108.4

[xxxviii] CDCR 20-2108.5