The state's new law restricting smoking in public buildings and retail businesses goes into effect Sept. 1, making Alabama the last state in the nation to enact a law curtailing smoking.
Mobile State Senator Vivian Figures, who suffers from respiratory ailments, spent six years trying to get the Alabama Legislature to pass a law to restrict smoking in public places.
The original version would have banned smoking in indoor workplaces if a majority of the employees wanted to work in a smoke-free environment. The final version leaves it up to employers to decide if they want to have a smoking policy in their private businesses and factories.
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Gov. Bob Riley signed the bill into law Thursday.
State Health Officer Don Williamson said the power of the tobacco industry and concerns about government intruding in private business contributed to Alabama being the last state to enact a law.
In the Legislature, business owners raised the most objections.
Williamson and Callaway said the best feature of the new law is that it allows local governments to have anti-smoking ordinances that are stronger than the state law.
In the new law, smoking is not allowed in common areas used by the public but may be allowed in separate, enclosed, well-ventilated areas. These cover a range of businesses and offices, such as child care facilities, hospitals, doctors' offices, government buildings, schools and the public areas of retail businesses, except for restaurants.
The designated smoking area of any business or government building may not contain any area used by non-smokers, such as the public restrooms.
Under the new law, a violation can bring a fine of $50 against a business and $25 against a smoker.