By BLR® —Business & Legal Resources
Beginning on Oct. 29, 2013, an amendment to New York’s smoking law prohibits smoking anywhere on the grounds of a general hospital or residential health care facility. The amendment also prohibits smoking within 15 feet of any entrance or exit of a building and within 15 feet of any entrance or exit of the grounds of a general hospital or residential healthcare facility. Although there is a narrow exception for patients of residential health care facilities and their visitors or guests, there’s no exception for employees of such facilities. Therefore, those employers should take immediate steps to notify their employees of the new smoking restrictions and ensure that they comply with them.
The existing laws governing smoking in the workplace in general are not affected by this legislation. The New York Clean Indoor Air Act, also codified in the New York Public Health Law, has prohibited smoking by employees in the workplace for years. That law doesn’t prohibit smoking outside on an employer’s premises, which has been a matter of discretion for all New York employers until this amendment was enacted.
The amendment, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on July 31, 2013, modifies New York Public Health Law Sec. 1399-o, Subdivision 2, which governs smoking in outdoor areas. As a result of the new law, general hospitals and residential health care facilities must prohibit their employees from smoking on their grounds and within 15 feet of all entrances to or exits from their grounds.
Depending on how the law is eventually interpreted, smoking might be permitted in employees’ private vehicles parked on the grounds of general hospitals and residential healthcare facilities under a “private automobile” exception in a preexisting provision of the smoking law. The New York State Department of Health hasn’t yet issued guidance on the issue—or on the new law generally.
Before the amendment, the only outdoor areas subject to the law were certain outdoor areas of schools and railroad stations. The smoking law’s restrictions on smoking in indoor areas (including indoor areas of general hospitals and residential healthcare facilities) are contained in a separate section and are not modified by the amendment.
As noted above, the law contains an exception for patients of residential health care facilities and their visitors or guests. That narrow exception permits those individuals to smoke in a designated smoking area that is at least 30 feet away from any building structure (other than a nonresidential structure wholly contained in the designated smoking area). The exception doesn’t apply to patients of general hospitals and their visitors or guests.
The bottom line for New York employers is this: Employees in all workplaces are generally prohibited from smoking indoors. The new statutory amendment goes further for hospitals and residential health care employers, limiting employee smoking in outdoor areas as well.
Contributed by BLR®—Business & Legal Resources. Read plain-English analysis on Smoking in New York.