Frequently asked questions on tobacco control:

Can smoking be banned in a multi-unit building owned/operated by the municipal Housing Authority?

Yes. Smoking can be banned in housing authority buildings. There are a number of large and small housing authorities in Massachusetts who have/are in the process of banning smoking. Contact Chris Bathin and the Public Health Advocacy Institute for technical assistance.

Is smoking allowed in common areas of multi-unit housing?

Common areas are considered a workplace because they are Cleaned and/or monitored by someone, and therefore, are covered as a place where smoking is banned under the state smoke free workplace law.

Since municipal buildings are smoke free, are there automatic buffer zones around the entrances?

Unless the municipality passes a regulation, there are no buffer zones around municipal buildings. The state smoke free work place law is silent on the issue of buffer zones.

Can outdoor “smoking areas” be designated at places like a senior center?

Outdoor smoking areas can be designated, but they must be placed in such a way as to not allow smoke to migrate into the building either through doors or open windows.

Can a restaurant allow smoking on an outdoor patio?

Smoking can be allowed outdoors as long as any patio enclosure meets the requirements of the smoke free workplace law, and the smoke does not migrate inside via the doors or open windows. Smoking can be banned on outdoor decks and patios through a Board of Health regulation, town by law or city ordinance.

Is smoking allowed at outdoor public swimming pools?

Smoking is allowed, but can be banned through a Board of Health regulation at pools, beaches, and playgrounds. Contact DJ Wilson at Mass. Municipal Association for template language to amend your existing regulations.

Can a Board of Health ban smoking in a cigar or hookah bar?

Through a Board of Health regulation, ordinance or bylaw smoking can be banned in ‘smoking bars” which includes cigar and hookah bars.

How do you deal with smoking at a municipal building like the DPW?

Instead of issuing fines, you want to work with the department by providing the proper signs, strategies for enforcement, and a list of local cessation resources.

Can a membership club allow smoking when it is rented out and open to the general public?

No. When a membership association is open to the general public, or rented out, smoking must be prohibited.

Can the use of electronic cigarettes be banned in public facilities?

Through a Board of Health regulation, bylaw or ordinance, the use of electronic cigarettes can be banned in any area covered by the state smoke free workplace law. Additionally, a business owner can ban their use within his/her facility by posting appropriate signs. Contact DJ Wilson of Mass. Municipal Association for more information.

What is a reasonable price for a retail tobacco permit fee?

There is a database for tobacco permit fees. The fee should generally recoup the cost of issuance, enforcement and any penalty follow-up including any court challenge. Contact Sarah McColgan of MHOA for information on your surrounding communities.

What is the process for issuing non-criminal disposition tickets?

First, ensure that your community has provisions for issuing non-criminal tickets by checking with your town clerk. State law requires that there be authorization by ordinance or bylaw before a board can utilize this method of civil ticketing. Non-criminal tickets must be issued within 15 days of the violation, but in the instance of a tobacco sale to a minor, it is best to issue the ticket or notify the vendor within 24 hours of the sale, whenever possible. The vendor has 21 days to either pay the fine, or appeal it to the appropriate court.

How to conduct a tobacco permit suspension hearing?

Frequently people ask me if there is guidance available on how to run a tobacco permit suspension hearing.  My thanks to Mary Kersell of the South Hadley Board of Health Tobacco Collaborative for putting her thoughts and expertise to paper.