North Dakota residents voted on November 6th to expand the statewide ban on smoking in enclosed public places and places of employment to include bars, hotel rooms and other locations previously exempt from the law’s coverage.  When “Measure 4” takes effect on December 6, 2012, it also will prohibit smoking within 20 feet of the entrances and exits of buildings and require that building owners and employers take certain actions to ensure smoking does not occur on their premises.

Unlike most states that ban smoking in public places, North Dakota is now one of only a handful of states without an exception allowing hotels and motels to designate certain rooms as smoking rooms. North Dakota law now also bans smoking in bars, separately enclosed areas that are part of a truck stop, and tobacco stores.  Electronic cigarettes have been added to the statewide ban and cannot be used in any of these places.

Exceptions to the smoking ban include private homes (unless they are used as a licensed child care, adult day care or health care facility) and owner-operated businesses where the owner is the sole employee.  Smoking as part of a traditional American Indian spiritual or cultural ceremony also is permissible under the law.

All proprietors, which include the owner, operator, manager or other person in control of a public place or place of employment where smoking is prohibited, will be required to post “no smoking” signs or the international no-smoking symbol. They also must post at every entrance a sign stating that smoking is prohibited.  Employers or business owners must also comply with the following requirements:

  • Post on every vehicle that constitutes a place of employment a sign stating that smoking is prohibited;
  • Remove all ashtrays from any area where smoking is prohibited;
  • Communicate to all existing and prospective employees that smoking is prohibited; and 
  • Take specific actions to direct smokers to comply with the law and report violations. 

Individuals who smoke in prohibited places are subject to a fifty-dollar fine, while, for employers, fines for noncompliance generally range from one hundred to five hundred dollars.  

While comparable smoking bans already are in place in other North Dakota cities, such as Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks, employers in these locales will need to examine the specific provisions of Measure 4 to determine what, if anything, they need to do in order to comply.

More than half of U.S. states already have in place comprehensive smoking bans like the new law in North Dakota.