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October 29, 2013

New York Bans Smoking on Hospital and Residential Health Care Facility Grounds

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed a law, which is effective October 29, 2013, banning smoking on the grounds of general hospitals and residential health care facilities. The law expands upon New York’s current indoor smoking ban under the Clean Indoor Act (the “Act”). Specifically, the new law amends Section 1399-o of the Public Health law to now prohibit individuals from smoking on the grounds, or within fifteen (15) feet of all entrances to or exits from the grounds, of general hospitals or residential health care facilities.

The law recognizes a narrow exception for patients of residential health care facilities and their guests to smoke on the grounds so long as the smoking is confined to a designated “smoking area.” This smoking area cannot be within thirty (30) feet of any building structure (other than a non-residential structure wholly contained in the designated smoking area). The exception does not apply to hospital patients and their guests; nor does it apply to employees of either hospitals or residential health care facilities.

It is unclear as of yet whether employees (or hospital patients and guests) may be able to claim a “private automobile” exception, similar to the exception that applies under the Act. In short, the Act explicitly states that it does not apply to smoking in private automobiles. The new law however, does not contain a similar exception, and the Department of Health has not yet issued guidance or regulations interpreting this law.    

Takeaway for Employers

Covered employers must take immediate measures to ban all smoking on and within fifteen (15) feet of their premises, including prohibiting employees from engaging in this now unlawful conduct.

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If you have any questions regarding the new smoking ban or its impact on your bargaining obligations please do not hesitate to contact us.