Skip to Content

Frequently Asked Questions

The Law: Provisions and Exemptions

Question: Where can I find a copy of the amended bill?
Answer: A copy of the bill can be obtained by going to the Web site www.legislature.state.tn.us/bills/currentga/Amend/HA0739.pdf.

Question: When will this law take effect?
Answer: Public Chapter 410, known as the "Non-Smoker Protection Act", was signed into law by Governor Bredesen on June 11th, and will become effective on October 1, 2007.

Question: Which version of smoke-free workplace bill passed both the House and Senate and was signed by Governor Bredesen? Answer: House Bill 1851 was passed by the State House of Representatives. The original language of the bill was amended and completely replaced with stronger smoke-free workplace requirements. That amendment is House Amendment No. 2. Senate Bill 1325 passed the State Senate. The language of this bill was amended and replaced with language mirroring HB1851.

Question: Where is smoking prohibited under the new law?
Answer: Under this new law, smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public places within the State of Tennessee with a few exceptions. The smoking ban applies, but is not limited to:

  • Restaurants
  • Public and private educational facilities
  • Health care facilities
  • Hotels and motels
  • Retail stores and shopping malls
  • Sports arenas, including enclosed public areas in outdoor arenas
  • Restrooms, lobbies, reception areas, hallways and other common-use areas
  • Lobbies, hallways and other common areas in apartment buildings and other multiple-unit residential facilities
  • Child care and adult day care facilities

Question: Is there a required distance, mandated by the Non Smokers Protection Act, people should keep from the entrance of smoke-free buildings while smoking?
Answer: There is no distance requirement mandated by the Non Smokers Protection Act. Employers, however, may set guidelines. Smoke should not be able to infiltrate the building when the door is opened.

Question: What areas are exempt from the smoking ban?
Answer: The following are exempt from the smoking ban provisions:

  • Private homes, private residences and private motor vehicles unless used for child care or day care
  • 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.)
  • Venues that restrict access to persons who are 21 years of age or older at all times
  • Private businesses with 3 or few 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 clubs
  • 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
  • Tobacco manufacturers, importers and wholesalers
  • Retail tobacco stores that prohibit minors
  • Nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which are subject to the policies and procedures established by those facilities.
  • Commercial vehicles when the vehicle is occupied only by the operator

Question: Are bars exempt?
Answer: To be exempt under this law, an establishment must restrict access to persons who are 21 years of age or older at all times. This means that bars within restaurants, bowling alleys and hotels must be smoke-free unless the entire establishment limits access to persons 21 or older at all times.

Question: In order to allow smoking, can an establishment be smoke-free during the day, and limit access to 21 and up at night?
Answer: No, an establishment must limit access to patrons 21 and up at all times to be exempt from this law.

Question: Are establishments with separately ventilated smoking rooms exempt?
Answer: No, they are not.

Restaurants and Bar establishments

Question: I operate a restaurant. If I prohibit smoking and allow customers of all ages in the establishment during the daytime hours but at night restrict access to only those who are twenty-one years of age or older, can I allow smoking during the night when no one under 21 will be permitted inside?
Answer: No. An "age-restricted venue" under the Act means a legal establishment that affirmatively restricts access to its building or facilities at all times to persons who are twenty-one (21) years of age or older. An establishment that is age-restricted only at night but allows people of all ages during the daytime hours would not be an establishment that restricts access at all times to persons twenty-one years of age or older.

Question: Will all restaurants be smoke-free?
Answer: All restaurants in Tennessee will be smoke-free unless they choose to limit access to people 21 and older at all times. This includes restaurants with bars, as well as chain and hotel restaurants. Restaurants can allow smoking on outdoors patios.

Question: I know that I have to prohibit smoking in my restaurant, but can I build a smoking room in my restaurant with a separate entrance and limit access to that room to smokers twenty-one (21) years of age or older?
Answer: No. A restaurant is a public place and the Act bans smoking in public places. You would have to restrict access to the entire restaurant to people, including employees, twenty-one (21) years of age and older in order to qualify for an exemption.

Question: I own a restaurant. I know that people can smoke in an open air patio. How far from the entrance to the restaurant must my first smoking table be placed?
Answer: The exemption for open air patios still requires you to keep smoke from that area from infiltrating into areas where smoking is prohibited. There is no minimum distance requirement. However, no matter how far away your first smoking table is from an entrance to the restaurant, if any smoke from the patio gets back into the restaurant, then you will be in violation of the Act.

Defining work places

Question: I am a new home builder. I usually have crews of 5 to 10 workers build the new home. Since the home under construction is not a public place can I allow my workers to smoke while working?
Answer: The Act prohibits smoking in enclosed public places and places of employment. The new home under construction is a "place of employment" and therefore comes under the coverage of the Act. As to whether the workers would be prohibited from smoking while building the new home will depend upon when the new home under construction becomes an "enclosed area" under the Act. A site becomes an "enclosed area" under the Act when all space between a floor and ceiling is enclosed on all sides by solid walls or windows, exclusive of doorways, which extend from the floor to ceiling. Therefore, the new home becomes a "place of employment" that is an "enclosed area" where smoking is prohibited when the ceiling, all walls and windows are installed.

Apartment Complexes

Question: I live in a multi-resident housing complex. If my neighbors are smoking outside on their patio/porch and their smoke infiltrates into my residence through the heating and/or air conditioning unit, is this a violation of the Act?
Answer: No. The Act provides no protection against the secondhand smoke of your neighbor infiltrating into your residence. The Act does prohibit smoking in lobbies, hallways, and other enclosed common areas of apartment building and other multiple-unit residential facilities.

Requirements of Compliance

Question: What is required of employers or business owners?
Answer: Employers and business owners are required by law to do the following:

  • Post "No Smoking" signs at every entrance to every public place and place of employment where smoking is prohibited.
  • Notify and inform all existing and prospective employees that smoking is prohibited.
  • Inform patrons and customers who are found smoking on the premises that it is prohibited.

Enforcement and Penalties

Question: Who is responsible for enforcing the smoking ban? Answer: Both the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development have authority to enforce the law.

Question: What are the penalties for violating the smoking ban?
Answer: A person who knowingly smokes in an area where smoking is prohibited is subject to a civil penalty of $50. A business that knowingly fails to comply with the requirements of this act shall be subject to the following:

  • For a first violation in a twelve-month period, a written warning from the Department of Health or the Department of Labor and Workforce Development
  • For a second violation in a twelve-month period, a civil penalty of $100
  • For a third or subsequent violation in a twelve-month period, a civil penalty of $500

Filing a Complaint

Question: How do I register a complaint about a violation of the smoking ban?
Answer: There are three ways to file a complaint or report a violation of the Non-Smokers Protection Act.

  • Click here for the Web based complaint system Note: For best results please use Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher
  • Call: 1-800-293-8228
  • Mail information to the Tennessee Department of Health, Office of Environmental Health, 425 5th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37243 or the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Office of General Counsel, 220 French Landing Drive, Nashville, TN 37243