Governor Edward G. Rendell signed into law the Clean Indoor Air Act, announcing that the Act “will protect Pennsylvanians from the deadly health effects of secondhand smoke by prohibiting smoking in most public places, including restaurants, workplaces and a portion of casino floors.” The new law is effective September 12, 2008.

The Act covers the indoor areas of all “workplaces” which includes all places of employment and those where volunteer activity is conducted. It seems the all too familiar outdoor smoking areas at workplaces survived the Act’s prohibitions, unless the owner of the public place prohibits smoking on the entire property (indoor and outdoor), which is expressly allowed under the legislation. Signage is required designating both smoking and nonsmoking areas.

The Act contains exemptions to smoking prohibitions for rooms within lodging establishments, tobacco sellers and manufacturers, long-term care facilities, private clubs, and drinking establishments. The Act does not expressly address issues created when an exempt area is also a workplace, although a common sense reading would allow smoking in exempt areas even if work were performed there. Perhaps the Department of Health will clarify this technical inconsistency. The Act has anti-retaliation provisions that state “a person may not discharge an employee, refuse to hire and applicant for employment or retaliate against an employee because that individual exercises a right to a smoke-free environment required under this act.” 

Penalties for violations of the act range from $250 for the first offense escalating to $1000 for subsequent offenses. An affirmative defense is provided for good faith efforts to prohibit smoking. Employers must comply with the Act by posting a sign containing the international no smoking symbol and enforcing no smoking policies including relegating smoking activities to designated outdoor areas.

UPDATES: Pennsylvania Workplaces Must be Smoke-free by September 11, 2008 (includes action steps for compliance with the law;  Department of Health Issues Guidance for Employer Compliance with the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act