Author: Attorney J. David Douthit
Effective December 1, 2009, smoking in many public places, including most Virginia restaurants, will be prohibited by the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act Va. Code Title 15.2, sections 15.2-2820 through 15.2-2833). Governor Kaine signed the Act into law on March 9, 2009, after it was approved by both houses of the General Assembly. The Act bans lighting or smoking of pipes, cigars, cigarettes, or any other "lighted smoking equipment", in most Virginia restaurants.
The Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act does contain some limited exceptions. A restaurant is allowed to have "smoking area" that is structurally separate from non-smoking areas, is separately ventilated, and has a separate door between the "smoking area" and the non-smoking areas of the restaurant. The Act does not apply to "open air" outdoor areas of public restaurants. The Act does not apply to private clubs or to portions of a restaurant that are used exclusively for private functions.
A restaurant proprietor is required to post signs advising that smoking is not permitted, and to remove all ashtrays from non-smoking areas. (A "proprietor" is defined as "the owner or lessee of the public place, who ultimately controls the activities within the public place. The term 'proprietor' includes corporations, associations, or partnerships as well as individuals.").
In addition to banning smoking in public restaurants, the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act bans smoking in many other public spaces, such as public schools, school buses, elevators, indoor service lines, and and indoor cashier lines. The Act also bans smoking in hospital emergency rooms and in public health department buildings.
Violations of the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act by the proprietor of a restaurant or by a patron are punishable by a civil fine of not more than $25 for each violation. A restaurant proprietor can avoid liability if he has properly posted signs, if he refuses to seat or serve a patron who violates the ban, asks the patron to cease violating the ban, and if a patron refuses to cease after the initial warning, asks the patron to leave the restaurant.
About the Author: Dave Douthit is a personal injury attorney in the Richmond, Virginia office of Allen & Allen. His background with big insurance companies and knowing how they work behind the scenes is an advantage for his clients when he is negotiating and fighting for their rights.