Can you smoke in parking garages?

When thinking of acts that aren’t illegal but discouraged, smoking will likely be in the top three. Due to the health risks associated with smoking, many people are against it. This also means there are regulations on where you can smoke.

Can you smoke in a car garage?

There are no specific laws regulating smoking in parking garages. But if you’re in one of the 39 states that have banned public smoking, it’s not advisable to smoke in parking garages as they may amount to public spaces. You can tell if smoking isn’t permissible when you see the no-smoking sign.

However, if you’re going to smoke in a parking garage, it’s best to do it inside your car. You also need to ensure you’re not flouting local and city laws on smoking. Here, we discuss the smoking laws in the US, why there’s a ban on public smoking, and whether you can smoke in a parking garage.

Smoking Laws in the US

There are no laws banning people from smoking. But the federal government and many other state governments ban smoking in public spaces or buildings. This means that smoking in a parking garage would most likely be illegal as it generally constitutes a public space. In addition, parking garages form parts of buildings. So, if the building prohibits smoking, it’ll likely extend to its parking garages.

The federal government has banned smoking cigarettes or cigars in all federal buildings. In addition, state and local municipalities further extend this ban to public spaces such as movie theaters, workplaces, shopping centers, restaurants, and bars. Beyond this, several states have comprehensive smoke-free laws that cover all public spaces, including hotel lobbies, public restrooms, restaurants, etc.

How To Tell If a Public Place is Smoke-Free?

Since there are no federal laws that ban smoking in public places, it’ll usually depend on state and local laws. This means that there is a variety regarding smoking. It might be difficult for anyone to keep up, especially when new to an area.

The best way to determine whether a place is smoke-free is to look for the no-smoking sign. Whether written in words or with the universal symbol, this sign is all you need to know smoking isn’t permissible in an area. Once you see it in any building, it’s advisable not to smoke anywhere near the building, including in the parking garage.

States That Have Public Smoking Laws

Thirty-nine states in the US have some form of smoking laws that ban smoking in public places. In several cases, these laws have multiple exceptions. States that have these laws include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • California 
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee.
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Even among the other states where there are no laws banning smoking, the local laws sometimes make provisions for strict laws. Only Virginia and Oklahoma have no strict local and municipal laws against smoking. This is due to the state laws that prohibit local governments from enacting stricter smoking regulations than what the state has.

Calabasas in California has the strictest smoking law in the country. The city bans smoking in places where non-smokers can gather. Flouting this rule amounts to a misdemeanor that attracts fines.

Does Ban on Smoking Apply to Marijuana?

Marijuana is legal for people aged 21 years and above in 36 states in the country. However, the legalization of marijuana doesn’t mean it’s legal to smoke it in public. The ban on smoking also generally applies to marijuana, especially since it’s still seen as a drug. Thus, smoking is only legal in private spaces.

Is It Illegal to Smoke in Cars?

Although the law banning smoking in public spaces may prevent you from smoking in a parking garage, things may be different when in your car. Generally, it’s not illegal to smoke while in your car. But it could become a crime based on some circumstances. For example, if your smoking should lead to dangerous driving or cause an accident, it could become a crime.

Also, some states make it a crime to smoke when there’s a minor below 18 in the car. This includes California, Arkansas, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, Utah, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico. However, in most of these states, first-time offenses only attract a small fine.

Given these laws, it’s unlikely that smoking in your car will be illegal. But if you’re doing it inside a parking garage where smoking is prohibited, there’s a risk of becoming liable. So, it’s best to avoid it altogether.

Reasons For Ban on Outdoor Smoking

You won’t be able to smoke in a parking garage due to the ban on smoking in public. Here are the major reasons for the ban:

1.     Second-hand smoke

The effect of second-hand smoke on health has been the number reason for the ban on public smoking. While there are arguments on the level of harm, the fact is that it’s harmful. Scientific evidence has linked it with cancer and heart diseases. There are also other effects such as headaches, nausea, breathing problems, etc. In addition, tobacco smoke can cause asthma attacks in those vulnerable and other health problems in non-smokers.

2.     Litter Issues

Many states also banned public smoking because of the litter. Cigarette butts constitute the most litter in public places such as beaches, playgrounds, parks, etc. A ban on public smoking has reduced this. It also means that the vulnerable, especially kids and wildlife who could pick these cigarette butts without knowing, are protected.

3.     Fire Outbreaks

Another reason for banning outdoor smoking is to prevent fire outbreaks resulting from cigarette butts. In some states, such as South Dakota, improperly disposing of cigarette butts leads to serious fines. Cigarette fires have led to serious fire outbreaks in several areas.

In Conclusion

There are no laws banning smoking in parking garages. But given that it’s a public space, any state that bans public smoking will likely include parking garages. So, it’s best to use your discretion. If you need to smoke in a parking garage, do it in your car.

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