On May 4, 2016, Governor Brown signed 5 new bills related to smoking. Two of these laws change some of the rules relating to smoking in the workplace.
No smoking. In California, smoking of tobacco products in an enclosed space at a place of employment has been unlawful since January 1, 1995. Assembly Bill X2-7 (Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley) expands Labor Code Section 6404.5 to prohibit smoking in owner-operated businesses, and to eliminate most of the exemptions that permitted smoking in certain work environments, such as hotel lobbies, bars and taverns, banquet rooms, warehouse facilities, and employee break rooms.
In expanding the no smoking provisions of Labor Code 6404.5, the Legislature stated its intention to prohibit the smoking of tobacco products in 100 percent of enclosed places of employment in California, thereby eliminating the need of local governments to enact workplace smoking restrictions in their local areas, and to reduce employee exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
The law now defines an “owner-operated business” as a business that has no employees, independent contractors, or volunteers, in which the owner-operator of the business is the only worker. An employer or owner-operator of an owner-operated business is prohibited from allowing smoking at a place of employment or in an enclosed space.
Certain businesses are exempted from this law, including 20% of the guestrooms in a hotel, motel, or similar transient lodging establishment, retail or wholesale tobacco shops and private smokers’ lounges, cabs of motor trucks, theatrical production sites (if smoking is an integral part of the story in the theatrical production), and private residences, except for private residences licensed as family day care homes where smoking is prohibited by law.  This law is effective June 9, 2016.
Vaping and e-cigarettes.  SBX25 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, effective January 1, 2017, classifies e-cigarettes as tobacco products. Therefore, the provisions of Labor Code Section 6404.5 that prohibit smoking in enclosed spaces in the workplace will now extend to vaping and e-cigarettes. Under this new law, the definition of “tobacco products” includes electronic devices that deliver nicotine or other vaporized liquids to the person inhaling from the device, including, an electronic cigarette, cigar, pipe, or hookah.
Vaping groups criticized the reclassification of e-cigarettes and other vaping products as tobacco, saying the move will stigmatize a product that helps smokers quit. “That’s what is going to fuel the most anger, because the industry and its consumers don’t believe they are selling or using a tobacco product,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, an industry-funded vaping advocacy group.
In a January 2016 nationwide “Smoking in the Workplace” survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 53% of organizations responding to the survey permitted smoking in their workplaces. More than 85% of survey participants have smoking policies in place, and over 44% have policies that regulate vaping in the workplace. Since smoking in the workplace has been unlawful in California since 1995, it is prudent for employers to update their “no smoking” policies to include restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes.
Another new law, SB7X2 by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa, makes it unlawful to sell tobacco to anyone under age 21, with an exemption for active military personnel. California is the second state in the nation to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21, although many California cities have raised the smoking age to 21.