Smoking

Smokers do not have the right to smoke in public places. Laws, regulations, building codes and city ordinances prohibiting smoking in public buildings, structures and even on sidewalks have been upheld. Most states prohibit smoking in public places, such as concert halls and courthouses. Hospitals generally do not allow smoking on their premises.

Some states prohibit smoking in private offices in public places. Additionally, most states require restaurants and bars, at a minimum, to separate smoking patrons from non-smoking customers, and some cities have "outlawed" smoking entirely in restaurants, bars and clubs.

Even parents who smoke in the presence of their children may be acting unlawfully. Further, smoking has become an issue in determining who will be the custodial parent in divorce cases.

Smoking has also affected the ability to obtain life and medical insurance, as well as increasing its cost. Increasing policy premiums or refusing to insure a smoker is not illegal discrimination. Additionally, courts have upheld non-payment of insurance claims where the insured lied about smoking. For instance, an insurance company may be allowed to retain payments for death claims if the decedent lied about smoking, even if the death was unrelated to his or her smoking. Smoking is considered a medical condition, and falsifying medical information voids the policy.

Employers may also regulate smoking on their premises. The employee who insists on smoking at work can be legally terminated, absent a contract. However, the off-site smoking employee is specifically protected in states that have enacted "lifestyle discrimination" laws. Employers in these states may not penalize employees for their after hours legal activities, including smoking.

Smokers are not a protected group, and laws against smoking only need a rational basis (protecting air quality) to meet constitutional standards. Smokers cannot complain that their civil rights are being violated because they have not been given any in the first place.

I smoke because I am addicted to nicotine. Is my addiction a disability?

No. A smoker is not disabled and not protected by the ADA. The act of smoking does not impair major life activities.

Why can the city outlaw smoking in the restaurant I own when it allows smoking in bowling alleys?

A city, through its officials, is empowered to enact laws that are designed to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of its inhabitants. Although restaurants are being singled out, the ordinance is constitutional because non-smokers can more easily avoid a bowling alley than a restaurant. The city's justification for the ordinance only has to be rational.

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