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Nebraska Goes Smoke-Free

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The statewide smoking ban takes effect on June 1, and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and local health departments are working with businesses to help them comply with Nebraska’s new smoke-free law.

DHHS has developed a website with information to help businesses. The site is available at www.smokefree.ne.gov, and contains resources such as questions and answers, informational brochures and the finalized regulations.

“We want to help businesses take steps to be in compliance,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health. “Guidance available online defines an ‘indoor area’ and outlines where smoking is restricted.”

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The act protects the public health and welfare by prohibiting smoking in indoor places and places of employment. On June 1, every indoor workplace and public place must be smoke-free.

DHHS has fielded questions about outdoor smoking areas, which are allowed by the law. Such areas must have a minimum of 20 percent of the total wall area permanently open to the outdoors. The Nebraska State Fire Marshal's Office has developed a list of construction and safety reminders to help business owners develop outdoor smoking areas. Guidance and other information is available online at www.smokefree.ne.gov.

There are limited exceptions to the law, such as facilities researching the health effects of smoking and private residences, except when they are being used as licensed child care programs.

DHHS will not inspect all businesses for compliance with the act. The law will be enforced on a complaint basis, meaning complaints from citizens will trigger inspections. In most cases, inspections will be conducted by local health departments.

An injunction can be issued against the proprietor or business requiring them to stop allowing smoking on the premises. In addition, business proprietors can be found guilty of a Class V misdemeanor (maximum $100 fine) for the first offense and a Class IV misdemeanor (minimum $100, maximum $500 fine) for second and subsequent offenses.