Title 22, Chapter 15a of the Alabama Code is known and may be cited as the “Alabama Clean Indoor Air Act.”[i]
The law of Alabama prohibits persons from smoking in a public place or at a public meeting. Some places are excluded from this regulation. These excluded places include bars and lounges, retail tobacco stores and tobacco businesses, limousines used under private hire by an individual or corporation, hotel and motel rooms rented to guests, except for those rooms designated by the hotels and motels as “no smoking” rooms. Smoking by patients in a chemical dependency treatment program or mental health program may also be allowed provided the area is separated and well-ventilated pursuant to a policy established by the administrator of the program. Moreover, the program should also have identified that prohibiting smoking would interfere with the treatment of persons recovering from chemical dependency or mental illness.[ii]
In Alabama, smoking in work places must be regulated by the employer. An employer having an enclosed place of employment can adopt a written smoking policy. Such policy shall state that employees shall have the right to designate his or her work area as a nonsmoking area and to post the same with appropriate sign or signs, which shall be provided by the employer. The employer shall prohibit smoking in all common work areas, unless a majority of the workers who work in that area agree that a smoking area will be designated.
An employer is also required to communicate the smoking policy to all employees within three weeks of its adoption. Employers shall also supply a written copy of their smoking policy upon request to any existing or prospective employee. Employers also have the right to designate any place of employment, or any portion thereof, as a nonsmoking area.[iii]
The law also requires persons in charge of a public place to designate an area for the use of smokers. However, persons may not smoke in child care facilities, hospitals, health care clinics, doctors’ offices, physical therapy facilities, dentists’ offices, elevators, buses, taxicabs, and other means of public conveyance unless it is enclosed and well ventilated. Smoking is also prohibited in government buildings, except private offices, restrooms, service lines, public areas of aquariums, galleries, libraries, and museums, lobbies, hallways, and other common areas in apartment buildings, senior citizen residences, nursing homes, and other multiple-unit residential facilities if it is not enclosed and well ventilated. Smoking is not allowed in polling places, schools or other school facilities or enclosed school sponsored events, retail establishments, excluding restaurants, except areas in retail establishments not open to the public, lobbies, hallways, and other common areas in multiple-unit commercial facilities that are not enclosed and well ventilated. As a general rule, smoking is permitted in all these areas only if they are enclosed and well ventilated.[iv]
In case of a designated smoking area, the ventilation systems should be used to minimize the toxic effect of smoke. More than one-fourth of the total square footage in any public place within a single enclosed area should not be reserved and designated for smokers unless clientele dictates otherwise. The designated smoking areas should not contain common facilities which are generally used by the public.
The owner, operator, manager, or other person who controls any establishment or facility can enforce a nonsmoking policy in the entire establishment or facility.
In case of a restaurant that is deemed by the owner as being too small to have a designated smoking area, it is left to the discretion of the owner if the facility will be a “smoking” or a “nonsmoking” facility.[v] However, the owner, operator or person in charge of a restaurant may not designate a restaurant as a smoking facility unless the restaurant seats less than 50 people inside the facility, and the restaurant does not have existing partitions to minimize exposure to the toxic effect of smoke. In cases where a restaurant is declared a smoking facility, the management shall notify the Heath Department regarding this. A restaurant of any size may not be declared to be a smoking facility if a municipal ordinance prohibits smoking in the facility or if the restaurant has chosen to be a non-smoking facility pursuant to a local ordinance.[vi]
The person in charge of a public place where smoking is prohibited shall post and maintain a “No Smoking” sign or symbol in such areas. The person in charge of the public place who observes a person in possession of a lighted tobacco product shall inform that person that smoking is not permitted in that area.[vii]
Compliance with the rules regarding smoking is regulated by the department or division of health. The authority on coming to know about violation of the rules shall issue to the proprietor or other person in charge of the public place a notice to comply the rules. If such person fails to comply within 30 days after receipt of notice, the department or the division shall assess a civil penalty against the person not to exceed fifty dollars ($50) for the first violation, not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) for the second violation, and not to exceed two hundred dollars ($200) for each subsequent violation.
The civil penalty is imposed according to the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act. If a person refuses to comply with the rules even after he has been assessed a penalty, the department or the division may file a complaint in the circuit court of the county in which such public place is located to require compliance.[viii]
A person who violates the rules relating to smoking is punishable by a fine of twenty-five dollars ($25) for each violation. The jurisdiction is with the appropriate district or municipal court. A charge of a violation is treated in the same manner as a traffic citation.[ix]
Chapter 420-3-28 of the Alabama Administrative Code deals with enforcement of the Alabama Clean Indoor Air Act. The purpose of this chapter is to establish procedures to be followed by enforcement personnel in investigating complaints of violations of the Alabama Clean Indoor Air Act and specifying procedures by which appeals may be taken by aggrieved parties.[x]
[i] Code of Ala. § 22-15A-1
[ii] Code of Ala. § 22-15A-4
[iii] Code of Ala. § 22-15A-5
[iv] Code of Ala. § 22-15A-6
[v] Code of Ala. § 22-15A-6
[vi] Ala. Admin. Code r. 420-3-28-.04
[vii] Code of Ala. § 22-15A-7
[viii] Code of Ala. § 22-15A-8
[ix] Code of Ala. § 22-15A-9
[x] Ala. Admin. Code r. 420-3-28-.01