Workpace Law

Adapted from information provided by the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health (

The Massachusetts Smoke-free Workplace Law prohibits smoking in workplaces, including private offices, taxis, restaurants and bars in order to protect employees and the public from secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), is the combination of smoke exhaled by a smoker and smoke from a burning cigarette, cigar or pipe. This combination is dangerous for both the smoker and the nonsmoker. Secondhand smoke contains a mixture of more than 4,000 chemicals, more than 50 of which are cancer-causing agents (carcinogens).

Exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to lung cancer and heart disease in non-smoking adults and to lower respiratory infections, asthma, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome in children. Secondhand tobacco smoke is especially harmful to pregnant women and to fetal development. Though they are not smokers themselves, an estimated 1,000 or more Massachusetts adults and children die each year from exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Massachusetts Smoke-free Workplace Law not only protects nonsmokers from involuntary exposure to the toxins in tobacco smoke, but may also have the added benefit of reducing tobacco consumption by smokers and increasing the number of smokers who quit.

Key provisions of the law include:

  • The employer is responsible for providing a smoke-free environment for all employees working in an enclosed workplace.
  • Smoking is prohibited in common work areas, hallways, conference and meeting rooms, offices, employee lounges, restrooms and staircases; auditoriums, theaters, concert halls and convention centers; museums, libraries, schools, colleges and classrooms; restaurants, bars, taverns, food courts and supermarkets; medical facilities, health facilities, child care centers, camps for school age children; public transportation such as trains, planes, taxis, buses, airports, train and bus stations, terminals and enclosed outdoor platforms; and public buildings owned by the commonwealth or a political subdivision, such as a city or town.

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Smoking may be permitted if certain conditions are met. (Please see full text of law for exemption details, conditions and requirements):

1)    Private residences, except when the residence is being used to operate a group childcare center, school age day care center, school age day or overnight camp, a health care related office or a facility licensed by the office of child care services;

2)    Membership Associations (Private Clubs), defined as non-profit voluntary groups, organized under M.G.L. Chapter 180, while not open to either the public or non-members who are not invited guests;

3)    Guest rooms in hotels, motels, or similar accommodations that have been designated as “smoking” rooms;

4)    Retail tobacco stores that prohibit entry to anyone under the age of 21;

5)    “Smoking” or “Cigar” bars that derive a majority of their revenue from tobacco sales and are granted permission to allow smoking from the Department of Revenue;

6)    Religious ceremonies where smoking is part of the ritual;

7)    Nursing homes and acute care substance abuse treatment centers under the jurisdiction of the commonwealth that have received approval from the local board of health may have a designated smoking area for permanent residents only; and

8)    Tobacco laboratories/tobacco testing facilities that conduct medical or scientific research on tobacco smoke.

Note: Signage is required to indicate where smoking is not permitted or for those areas exempt from the law.

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Smoking in a place where it is prohibited may result in a $100 civil fine to the smoker.  Employers or business owners may receive fines ranging from $100 to $300 for permitting smoking.  Local boards of health, municipal governments, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission and the Department of Public Health may enforce this law.

Filing a Complaint

If your workplace is not compliant with the Smoke-free Workplace Law, you may file a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health by calling 1-800-992-1895.


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Page last updated:  Tuesday, September 29, 2020 08:51 am