November 24, 2003


On January 1, 2004, a new law affecting public buildings goes into effect.  AB 846 (Vargas) Chapter 342, Statutes of 2003, was signed by Governor Davis and amends Sections 7596-7598 of the Government Code.  This new law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of main entrances, exits, and operable windows of any building owned, leased, and occupied by the state, county, or city, and buildings of the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and California community colleges.  The previous law (Government Code 19994.30) prohibited smoking within five feet of the doorways of buildings owned, occupied, or leased and occupied by state government agencies only, excluding UC, CSU, and community colleges.

This bill was signed to further protect Californians from secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure, SHS has been know to cause 4,700 deaths annually in California, including deaths from lung cancer and heart disease.  It has also been shown to be responsible for asthma, eye irritation, and respiratory problems in nonsmokers.

Your community may already have a law that prohibits smoking within 20 feet or more of doorways.  This new law does not impede enforcement of current no smoking laws that go beyond 20 feet of a doorway or operable window. In addition, this law does not prevent government entities from adopting and enforcing future no smoking laws that go beyond 20 feet.

While funding for signage is not provided for in this law, it is important that signs and ash receptacles be placed accordingly.  If you currently have an ordinance or policy that prohibits smoking less than 20 feet from doorways, and signage to support it, then those signs should be replaced to reflect the 20-foot non smoking boundaries.  In addition, ash receptacles should be moved accordingly.

Prototypes of a sign and stickers to place on windows are available through your County Health Department's Tobacco Control Program (TCP).  The law does not provide funding for enforcement.  However, local governments may determine enforcement protocols and the applicability of related laws, such as those addressing trespassing and nuisance.

Based upon experiences of cities and counties that have adopted smoke-free entryway ordinances in the past, it is anticipated that clear signage and placing ash cans at least 20 feet from affected entrances, exits, and windows will make the law virtually self-enforcing.

Should you have further question, contact Joanne Wellman-Benson, Program Consultant, Local Programs Unit, Tobacco Control Section, at, or (916) 449-5514.