In 1975, Minnesota became the first state to limit smoking in indoor workplaces, with the exception of bars.

Last year, Minnesota passed the Freedom to Breathe Act of 2007, a comprehensive smoke-free law covering indoor public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants. The legislation was passed by a bipartisan majority of lawmakers and was signed by Governor Pawlenty on May 16, 2007. The law took effect on October 1, 2007.

Highlights of the Freedom to Breathe Act of 2007:

  • No smoking is allowed in bars, restaurants, private clubs or other workplaces
  • Smoking is permitted on outdoor patios, but can be regulated at the local level
  • Smoking may occur in places of work and public places in the following locations or situations: hotel and motel sleeping rooms, tobacco products shops (for sampling purposes only), certain family farms, public transportation vehicles (when in personal use), cabs of heavy commercial vehicles, farm vehicles and construction equipment (when used for intended purposes), certain nursing home rooms, certain rooms occupied by patients in locked psychiatric units, peer-reviewed studies on the health effects of smoking, traditional American Indian ceremonies, the Disabled Veterans Rest Camp in Washington County and theatrical productions (by actors only).

FAQ

What is the Freedom to Breathe Act?
Passed by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by Governor Pawlenty on May 16, 2007, the Freedom to Breathe Act is a statewide smoke-free law that brings fresh healthy air to all Minnesota workplaces including bars, restaurants and private clubs. When the law took effect on October 1, 2007, Minnesota joined many other states that had already gone smoke-free.

Why is protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke so important?
Because secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and other serious health problems. Secondhand smoke exposure kills more than 500 Minnesotans each year and more than 66,000 Minnesotans visit their doctor because of illnesses caused by this exposure. Many Minnesotans are already protected from secondhand smoke at work - but not all. On October 1, 2007, the Freedom to Breathe Act extended protections to every worker and every workplace.

Bar and restaurant workers are the most heavily exposed workers to secondhand smoke, and have higher risks of cancer and heart disease because of this sustained exposure.

Where has smoking been eliminated?
Inside public workplaces. The Freedom to Breathe Act eliminates secondhand smoke from virtually all indoor workplaces in Minnesota with two or more employees or customers, including bars and restaurants. The law recognizes that everyone has the right to breathe clean, healthy, fresh air at work.

Where can people still smoke?
Outside. The Freedom to Breathe Act does not ban all smoking and focuses exclusively on indoor smoking inside of workplaces and work vehicles. Although local governments can make stricter laws, the new state law permits smoking outside on restaurant patios or on the outside sidewalk. People are free to smoke in their own private homes and cars.

What should I do if I see someone smoking where they shouldn't?
Because they are so popular, smoke-free laws tend to enforce themselves. The vast majority of people smoking where they should not are simply unaware of the law. Business owners and managers are responsible to remind their smoking workers and customers of the law. If you see someone smoking, tell the manager on duty or wait a minute - they'll probably see it too and offer a gentle reminder of the law. Thank them when they do.

The Minnesota Department of Health's Freedom to Breathe website features a downloadable letter you can use to report lack of compliance in a particular business. You can find the letter at www.health.state.mn.us/freedomtobreathe/.