Client Bulletin #377

Kaz Kikkawa

For PDF version of this Client Bulletin, click here

Where is smoking prohibited under the new law?

Smoking is now prohibited in all enclosed public places within the State of Tennessee unless specifically exempted by law.  As such, smoking is now prohibited in every enclosed workplace, including the following:

  • Restaurants, hotels and motels, retail stores and shopping malls;
  • Public and private educational facilities;
  • Health care facilities, child care and adult day care facilities;
  • Sports arenas, including enclosed public areas in outdoor arenas;
  • Restrooms, lobbies, hallways and other common-use areas;
  • Manufacturing plants, offices and office buildings;
  • Lobbies, hallways and other common areas in apartment buildings and other multiple-unit residential facilities;
  • All other enclosed workspaces except those specifically exempted by law (listed below).

What areas are exempt from the smoking ban?

  • Tobacco manufacturers, importers and wholesalers;
  • Retail tobacco stores that prohibit minors;
  • Nursing homes and long-term care facilities;
  • Venues that at all times restrict access to persons who are 21 years of age or older;
  • Private businesses with three or fewer employees, where smoking may be allowed only in an enclosed room not accessible to the general public (smoke from such a room must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited);
  • Private homes, residences and motor vehicles unless used for child/day care;
  • Commercial vehicles when the vehicle is occupied only by the operator;
  • Private clubs;
  • Non-enclosed areas of public places, including open-air patios, porches or decks; any that are enclosed by garage-type doors when all such doors are open; and any that are enclosed by tents or awnings with removable sides or vents when all such sides or vents are removed or open (smoke from these areas must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited);
  • Smoking rooms in hotels and motels, provided that no more than 25 percent of the rooms in a hotel or motel can be designated as smoking rooms.

What does the new law require employers or business owners to do?

  • Post "No Smoking" signs at every entrance to every public place and place of employment where smoking is prohibited.
  • Notify all existing and prospective employees (upon application of employment) that smoking is prohibited.
  • Inform customers who are found smoking on the premises that it is prohibited.
  • Note:;The law makes it unlawful for an employer to let anyone -- not only employees, but also customers, vendors, or visitors -- smoke in prohibited areas that are under the employer's control.

What are the penalties for violating the smoking ban?

Any person who knowingly smokes in an area where smoking is prohibited is subject to a civil penalty of $50. The penalties for knowing violations by businesses are as follows:

  • First violation in a 12-month period: Written warning from the Department of Health, or the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
  • Second violation in a 12-month period: Civil penalty of $100.
  • Third or subsequent violation in a 12-month period: Civil penalty of $500 per violation.

How Will Violations Be Identified?

Anyone can report a violation to the Tennessee Department of Health.   The Department of Heath and Department of Labor and Workforce Development are authorized to enforce the new law.

Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLC has counseled employers, exclusively, on labor and employment law matters since 1946. The firm represents Fortune 500 corporations and small companies across the country. More than 100 lawyers work with clients to provide cost-effective legal services and sound preventive advice to enhance the employer-employee relationship. Offices are located in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Missouri, and Texas. For more information about the firm's labor and employment services, visit, or call toll free at 866-843-9555.

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