What is the minimum distance smokers may smoke in front of a public building?

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Smokers must be greater than 20 feet from a public building’s entrances or operable windows while in the act of smoking.  This is governed by California Government Code, 7597.  This doesn’t apply to portions of the building that don’t have operable windows, doors, or the like.  You should also consider posting signs near any HVAC air intake vents.

7597. (a) No public employee or member of the public shall smoke any tobacco product inside a public building, or in an outdoor area within 20 feet of a main exit, entrance, or operable window of a public building, or in a passenger vehicle, as defined by Section 465 of the Vehicle Code, owned by the state.
(b) This section shall not preempt the authority of any county,
city, city and county, California Community College campus, campus of the California State University, or campus of the University of California to adopt and enforce additional smoking and tobacco control ordinances, regulations, or policies that are more restrictive than the applicable standards required by this chapter.

7598. Except as provided in Section 7597, a public employee or other person may smoke in any outdoor area of a public building unless otherwise prohibited by state law or local ordinance and a sign describing the prohibition is posted by the state, county, or city agency or other appropriate entity.

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55 thoughts on “What is the minimum distance smokers may smoke in front of a public building?

  • We live in the beautiful Southern California Mountains. We just bought a few things at the store. Both going into the store & leaving the store we were assailed by cigarette smoke. The people were NOT 20 ft from the entrance. Why do people live in beautiful clean air, & then smoke, plus force others to inhale their poisons? This makes no sense whatsoever.

    • Beth,

      If it is owned by a government agency, then the law remains the same. 20 feet from entrances.

  • What’s the distance for schools?? I smell and see parents smoking cigarettes in a dirt lot across from the school. The smell travels and I can smell it while on school property

    • Sabrina, Schools are public agencies so they are bound by the same rule – 20 feet. Unfortunately, 20 feet isn’t much and smoke can travel great distances. Who owns the lot? You may ask the owner to post a no-smoking rule on his property. If it is the schools property, then it must be 20 feet from there also.

  • What is the regulation in front of supermarkets? Was assailed by smoke as my toddler and I neared the entrance where someone was smoking not even 3 feet from the entrance.

      • But isn’t a supermarket a public place? What’s the difference between public and private owner? Aren’t all businesses considered privately owned? What would a strip mall be considered? You have a Chinese food store, nail salon, pizza store, supermarket, Radio Shack. What would these businesses be considered? If they’re privately owned and don’t have smoking signs in front, can anyone smoke 1 foot from the front door?

        • Tom, Public is publicly owned as in government owned. Meaning schools, cities, and the like. Privately owned is by individuals or corporations. Public owned is subject to the 20 foot rule. The rest is up to the private to consider. If you are that concerned with the private businesses then the suggestion would be to boycott them or find another location. I understand it is annoying, but it is outside the scope of the public law. Sorry.

  • If the owner purchased alot from a business sector and the business is not government or public does any rule apply for smokers and smoking away from the building? Can the owner implement the 20 feet rule?

    • Marty, yes the owner can implement the 20 foot rule. You can designate any property you own as non-smoking. But if the public right-of-way is within 20 feet then you may have trouble enforcing the rule and just rely on people to be courteous when observing it. Your employees would be a different story.

  • The company I work for all the employees that smoke smoke right next to the front door to enter the building isn’t that illegal

  • What about this question if someone parks at a school parking lot to pick up out kids can people some in the parking Lot? I know the answer is No but just wated to ask

  • I actually think 20 feet is not even close to where the distance should be…smoke travels especially on a windy day…it could easily be 100 feet if even allowed at all…it is a extremely annoying habit that everyone is forced to share!

  • My daughter is Schizophrenic and smoking calms her down. New tenants complain about her smoking. She can’t smoke inside the unit because I’m in oxygen for part of the day. The HOA is fining us (as the owners) $500 each time the people upstairs complain. We bought our condo 15 years and the new tenants have been renting for three months. My daughter argues that she can smoke 20ft away from their windows and doors, and she keeps that distance when she smokes. We bought her e-cigarettes, vap- cigarettes and patches. For Schizophrenics the nicotine calms them down in combination with her other cigaretts. There are no “No Smoking” signs around the complex, the CCRs (1987) mention something about fines for “nuisance” activities but no cigarettes. The manager says that there is no smoking nowhere considered a common area. I think that a $500 fine is abusive and our daughter could smoke 20ft away as an accommodation for her dissability, we are doing everything possible to make her quit.

    • Twenty feet is an arbitrary and IMO ridiculously low number. If the smoke is drifting into your neighbors’ houses then this is a nuisance regardless of how far away you are. If your neighbor down the street was playing their drum kit at 3AM you would not accept the more than 20 foot away excuse. HOAs have a lot of latitude in certain states when it comes to strict non-smoking policies. Homeowners as well when it comes to tenants, even if it’s for medical reasons such as with marijuana. Someone’s medical condition does not give them license to assault their neighbors. It seems like smokers greatly downplay the nuisance that second hand smoke causes, as though it’s simply and unpleasant smell. In some people it causes an immediate and extreme allergic-type reaction, as well as the obvious and well-documented long term health consequences. As sympathetic as I might be to someone’s medical condition, the suggestion that causing constant daily distress and long term health consequences to your neighbors is a reasonable accommodation falls woefully short. It’s not comparable to an accommodation such as designating a nearby parking space as handicapped which causes neighbors to have a park a little farther away. This is obviously a difficult situation, but the onus is on your family to take care of this and not just expect your neighbors to sacrifice their health and comfort.

      • Unfortunately it’s you and people just like you. you guys complain about the very problem that you created. The funny part you all LOVE THAT TAX
        MONEY!!! So make up your minds, don’t continually let them produce something that we know kills people!and profit off Sales (tax’s) shouldn’t that product be taken off the market?
        Are we ready for the economical disaster that’s going to occur after you all get what you say you
        Want! People are going to smoke legally or illegally. That’s just a fact. So you want change
        Start thinking of ways that control the areas,
        That people smoke and offers every thing
        That the non smoker gets. See the law forced
        The smokers outside and now your Complaining about that. So is it about the smoke!! or just controlling people that are doing something that you maybe don’t agree with.Make a decision then you’ll see some change. Otherwise just keep bitching

  • I manage a private commercial building. We have a lot of our tenants that will smoke outside. Can we put up signs that say more than 20/25 ft from building (say 50 or 100 ft from entrances) or do we have to stick with the 20ft?

  • I work for a dog grooming shop. In a privately owned complex each business is owned by somebody else but not the buildings period in front of our shop is a Chinese restaurant, the Chinese employees come out the back door and stand at the corner of our business and smoke coming into in the Smoke comes into our place through the air conditioning more than 20 ft away. But where they’re standing is in apartment and they smoke directly in front of them. So my question is more than 20 feet from us and the apartment since our windows are next to the apartment where does the 20 ft begin and what Regulation Code is it.

  • I work for a government office they have a sing that says we have to be 20 feet from all oprebol windows exits and entrance but we do as asked and they still come out and bother us what can we do

    • The first thing you could do is stop smoking – that would be the healthy choice. Seriously, report it to HR and tell them you are being harassed.

  • The standard for safety is No Smoking around doorways. 25 feet is a minimum. The thing to remember is: Second Hand smoke kills. Plus it is preventable. It is also illegal in most places to smoke in a public garages and definitely, illegal to run a car in a garage structure because of the Carbon Monoxide.
    Find a way to be less obtrusive with your habit and respectful of those who cannot tolerate the smell or the smoke.
    Thank you.

  • What is the distance that tenants can smoke in a privately owned building that is used for a commercial building?
    Does the owner of building have the right to make the building and outdoor parking lot smoke free?
    Can the tenants be fine for smoking by entrance and exist of building?

    • 25 feet is the standard for everyone. Yes, if an employer owns the property and it is private, they can make everything smoke free.

  • I work at a mini market, we sell tobacco products. Customers stand near the door and smoke. We ask/tell them they are not allowed to smoke near the front area of the business. They constantly argue that it’s public property, I always tell them no that they must be 20feet from a business to smoke and besides it affects me and my asthma. Am I wrong by enforcing this rule?

    • You are not wrong to enforce the rule, but becareful, some people become violent when confronted. You can always call the police if it escalates.

  • I live in a Senior Mobile Home Park owned by the City of San Dimas Housing Dept. I have always been bugged by people smoking by the pool & spa. They aren’t allowed to smoke in the Clu House, but after reading this I don’t think they should be smoking by the pool because the City owns the property!

  • If you can’t smoke within 20 feet of the building why are diesel generators allowed to be operated right next to the building which spews a heck of a lot more toxic exhaust than one little cigarette. Is there a regulation against using this kind of generator right next to the building that has a whole lot of exhaust coming out no smoke

  • At the gardens Casino in California, their is a small side patio for smoking where people smoke right near the doors and the draft sucks the smoke into the building. So people closest to the door get exposed to strong second hand smoke. Is this violating the smoking laws somehow? Does the Casino have the responsibility to stop this from happening?

  • my roommate smokes these horrible cigarettes that make me sick and cause headaches.she is stubborn about changing,although I usually light incense to counteract the smell,which makes my birds sick too.if she goes out at 3 a.m. to smoke it draws cold air inside.I have enough other health problems to be assaulted by her inconsiderate, toxic behaviour

  • I live in a High Rise Senior Building run by HUD. And tenants are smoking close to building that their smoking is coming in our windows! SMOKE TRAVELS! ITS HORRIBLE!

  • I live in a 55 plus community where there is a 25 feet rule on smoking. Does this mean that our community cannot extend the ruling to 100 feet?

  • Laurie, the HOA could decide that it is a non-smoking outside areas. Not much you can do about inside the privacy of someone’s home. I would be careful about pushing too far as the next step may be something that limits your freedoms also. I think it is better to work on educating people to be considerate of where they smoke.

  • Hello I work in Madera California. I would like to know what the rule is. How far away do you have to be from a public building? I work at a fast food restaurant and it drives me crazy when people are smoking in their cars while on the drive thru window. I get very nauseous. is their anything we can do? Plus even if I wouldn’t get nauseous I don’t want to do second hand smoking. I thing its a disgusting habit.

    • Jessica, the rule I wrote about is for all of California. So that applies. In regard to your fast food restaurant, you should ask management to post signage at the order menu and again at the window.

  • I am extremely affected by tobacco smoke. I will go into bronchitis and then into pneumonia. Last time I was close to an E cig for only a few seconds and spent 8 days in the hospital. It’s not just inconvenient or uncomfortable for me, it’s life threatening. I’ve had pneumonia 9 times. Even if people drop their cigarette on the ground and don’t put it out, it’s still putting off the same fumes and affects me adversely. Smoke will blow a long distance when the wind is blowing and if gets in my nose…….I’m doomed. The VA in Waco Texas has a closed in canvas room for smokers, but if you have to go by it, the stench is so bad it make you nauseous. People will come out of a restaurant and lite up right by the door and passersby have to inhale it, or sit in the car until they leave (still having to smell it) or leave and go back home. People if you want to smoke, do so in your own vehicle with the windows up. .Please don’t make me pay for you habit.

  • There is a cigar shop right next to a Starbucks and daily cigar smokers sit outside the cigar shop almost right next to Starbucks smoking their cigars. Very annoying when grabbing my coffee. Who can this be reported to and done something about, there is almost an outside restaurant area less than 20 feet away.

  • I live in a block of flats and there is a ciggerett distinguisher right on the wall outside the communal door I often have to walk pass other tenants smoking right by the door and often when the put the butt end in the distinguisher it burns with others butts that are in there. my question that I would like answered is how far away should this distinguisher be away from the communal door entrance

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