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Is Starbucks' Outdoor Smoking Ban Legal?

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

It's official: Starbucks' outdoor smoking ban is in full effect, as of Saturday at all company-owned stores. It is already common knowledge that smoking is generally not allowed indoors at any Starbucks. But this smoking ban now also applies outdoors as well.

Those who are fans of the classic coffee-and-cigarette combination will not be allowed to smoke in any company-owned Starbucks patio, or in their outdoor seating areas, or anywhere within 25 feet of the store.

Notices have gone up in more than 7,000 Starbucks retail locations across the country. But is this outdoor smoking ban legally sound? Can other businesses follow suit?

Yes, and sure.

Smoking bans are generally on the rise in the country, and show no signs of slowing down.

Smoking is generally not allowed at most workplaces, although there is usually a designated outdoor smoking area. Even smoking in bars and restaurants is more uncommon now, although cities and states continue to find the right fit when it comes to the extent of that ban.

This also means that private businesses, like Starbucks, can dictate what their smoking policy is. Even states that have enacted indoor smoking bans typically allow private businesses to designate their own outdoor nonsmoking areas, like in New York's statute, for example.

However, this doesn't mean that this freedom is without some constraints. Businesses should always give notice to their customers ahead of time. Usually, this means some kind of obvious signage. Starbucks, for example, had signs posted at their stores, and had them printed on cards as well.

For businesses seeking to put their non-smoking policies in writing for their employees, check out this model policy by the American Cancer Society. For more specific advice about non-smoking policies at your workplace, it may be wise to consult an experienced business lawyer to make sure you don't get burned.

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