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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

      1. 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?

        1. 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.

  4. 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?

    1. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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

    1. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

    1. 25 feet is the standard for everyone. Yes, if an employer owns the property and it is private, they can make everything smoke free.

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