Atlanta mayor signs legislation to ban smoking in public places

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has signed legislation for a broad ban on smoking and vaping in restaurants, bars, workplaces, the airport and many other public places in the city.

The smoke-free ordinance takes effect Jan. 2, 2020.

It will prohibit smoking and vaping in bars, restaurants, places of employment, hotel and motel rooms and other enclosed public areas starting Jan. 2, 2020.

Smoking was already restricted by a Georgia law passed in 2005, which prohibited smoking in restaurants and bars unless minors are banned or smoking areas are in enclosed private rooms with independent air-flow systems, or outdoors.

The new city of Atlanta ordinance is more restrictive by prohibiting smoking and vaping in bars and restaurants across the board and closing most loopholes. However, smoking will still be permitted in outdoor seating and serving areas of restaurants and bars.

Some places will be exempt from the ban, including private residences, tobacco and vape stores, private clubs and cigar bars, and other establishments that ban minors and generate at least 20 percent of their annual gross revenue, or $250,000, from tobacco product sales.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport will close its smoking rooms on concourses as a result of the new ordinance.

In order to smoke, smokers on flights connecting in Atlanta will have to exit security during their layover to get to an outdoor terminal smoking area, then go back through security screening to return to the concourse.

Some restaurateurs and others voiced opposition to the ordinance at Atlanta City Council meetings.

But advocates said they wanted to protect public health, and said other places around the country have already adopted similar smoke-free ordinances. The city council on July 1 voted 13-2 in favor of the ordinance before sending it to the mayor for her signature.