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Health and Human Services
no smoking signSmoking Ordinance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Public Places and Workplaces


Where is smoking prohibited? 

  • Smoking is prohibited in enclosed public places.  Public places are places in which the public is invited or permitted.  Restaurants, bars, museums, libraries, public and private schools, convention centers, theaters, bingo halls, bowling alleys, buses, taxicabs, retail establishments, shopping malls, lobbies, restrooms, and hallways of apartment or condominium buildings are a few examples of enclosed public places where smoking is prohibited except under very limited circumstances.
  • Smoking is prohibited in enclosed workplaces.  These are places of employment under the control of a public or private employer where employees work or where employees have access in the course of working.  Work areas, private offices, employee lounges, restrooms, conference rooms, classrooms, cafeterias, and vehicles are examples of workplaces.
  • Smoking is prohibited outdoors within 25 feet of building entrance and exit doors, wheelchair ramps serving the door, operable windows and air-conditioner intake vents.
  • No one may smoke in covered concourses of outdoor arenas and outdoor seating areas of public spectator events.
  • No one may smoke in covered public transportation facilities, such as covered bus stops and light rail stops. 


Where is smoking permissible?  Are there any exemptions in the ordinance?


  • Smoking is permitted in private residences, so long as the residence is not being used as a child care, adult day care, or health care facility.
  • The management of a hotel or motel may set aside up to 35 percent of guest rooms for guests who wish to smoke.  All smoking rooms on the same floor must be contiguous and the status of these rooms may not be changed except to add additional nonsmoking rooms.
  • Smoking is permitted in private and semi-private rooms of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, but only if all occupants of the room are smokers and have requested in writing to be placed in a room where smoking is permitted.
  • Smoking is permitted in retail tobacco stores.  A retail tobacco store is a retail store that sells tobacco and smoking accessories which are at least 60 percent of the total sales and no on premises consumption of alcoholic beverages is permitted.
  • Smoking is permitted in tobacco bars if all of the following conditions are met:
    • the on site sales or rentals of tobacco products and smoking accessories for use on the premises exceeds 20 percent of total revenues;
    • the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises makes up at least 60% of total revenues;
    • entry is limited to persons 18 years of age or older;
    • the establishment has been in operation as a tobacco bar on or before September 1, 2006;
    • the establishment uses of an air ventilation and purification system consistent with the best technology available;
    • the establishment offers comprehensive health insurance to its employees; and,
    • the establishment obtains a permit from the Houston Department of Health and Human Services and pays a $325 initial annual permit fee; and each year thereafter pays a $125 annual renewal permit fee;
  • Smoking is permitted on stage of a theatrical performance if it is an integral part of the performance.
  • Smoking is permitted during private functions held in convention centers, hotels, motels and other enclosed meeting facilities if designated in writing to the Houston Department of Health and Human Services.  A private function is an event or gathering that is not open to the public and where specific invitation is required for entry.
  • Smoking is permitted in restaurant and bar outdoor seating areas. 


Note: Smoke from the following areas or establishments must not infiltrate non-smoking areas:
hotel/motel rooms, nursing home rooms, tobacco retail stores and private functions in convention centers and other meeting facilities. 

I run a retail tobacco store.  Do I need to meet any special requirements? 

You must ensure that tobacco and smoking accessories are at least 60 percent of the total sales and no on premises consumption of alcoholic beverages is permitted.

I run a tobacco bar.  How do I obtain a permit?

Go to www.houstontx.gov/health/Environmental/smokingpage.html and click on Tobacco Bar Permit Application.  Also click on Tobacco Bar Permit Application Instructions.  Complete and submit the application form according to the instructions. 

I am planning a private function in a meeting facility and want to accommodate the invitees who wish to smoke.  What do I need to do?

It is the responsibility of the owner or manager of the private function meeting facility to notify the City of Houston Department of Health and Human Services in writing of the area(s) where smoking will be permitted.  He/she should go to www.houstontx.gov/health/Environmental/smokingpage.html and click on Smoking Permitted Private Function Meeting Area Notification, complete and submit the form to the address on the bottom of the form.

Is smoking permitted in outdoor seating areas of restaurants and bars?

Yes. Outdoor seating areas are not affected by the ordinance. 

Is smoking prohibited within 25 feet of entrance/exit doors to the restaurant and wheelchair ramps serving the doors?

Yes, unless it is being used as a restaurant or bar outdoor seating area.  

What is the owner, operator, manager or person in control of establishment required to do?

  • Post signs stating “No Smoking” or having the universal no smoking symbol at the entrance to and within the establishment. 
  • Remove all ashtrays from enclosed and outdoor smoking prohibited areas including within 25 feet of building entrance/ exit doors.
  • Ask any person known to be smoking to extinguish the burning tobacco.

Note: These requirements do not apply if the establishment or area qualifies for an exemption under Sec. 21-242 of the ordinance. 


How is the ordinance enforced?


Either observation during routine health inspections or upon receipt of a citizen’s complaint, an investigation will be conducted.

What is the penalty for violations?

Violators may be subject to a fine of up to $2,000.

This document is only a summary of the smoking ordinance. 

How do I get a copy of the Smoking Ordinance?

Go to www.houstontx.gov/health/Environmental/2007smoking.pdf

How do I file a complaint or report a smoking ordinance violation?

Contact the Smoking Ordinance Enforcement Program at 832.393.5750 or smoke.health@houstontx.gov.