Smokefree exemptions for AA meetings – 6/1/10
Q: The following question from the Michigan tobacco control program arose during the implementation of the new statewide smoke-free policy:
One of the issues that Michigan is dealing with is whether Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other similar 12 step program meetings that do not have employees are covered by the new smoke-free law. In the case that they are meeting in a church or other business, these meetings would need to be smoke-free. However, some have their own building. In Michigan, private clubs are not exempt.
Do other state smoke-free laws cover the AA type organization meetings? What were the determining factors in the law when coming to this conclusion?
- Arizona: Here are a few notes from Arizona that may be applicable:
- Private clubs are not exempt from being required to smoke-free.
- Fraternal organizations (e.g. VFW, American Legion, etc.) are exempt, providing they are not open to the public. When public events occur (e.g. bingo night, off-track betting, etc.) at fraternal organizations, they are required to be smoke-free.
- Ownership of the building is not a factor of exemption from the requirements of Smoke-Free Arizona, as the determining criteria for facilities is that they are independently ventilated, with no evidence of contamination to nearby facilities.
- There has been one exemption of an AA club in Arizona, whereby the club was an official affiliate of the national AA organization, maintained formalized membership in accordance with fraternal organizations, and maintained two adjoining sites, with one ensuring a smoke-free environment. As such, members could choose to meet in a smoke-free environment.
- Iowa: The Iowa Smokefree Air Act (SFAA) prohibits smoking in public places and all enclosed areas within places of employment. Unless the meeting occurs at one’s private residence (which are exempt in Iowa’s law) Iowa would consider AA or 12-step meeting as regulated under the law because such meetings are typically open to the public (in Iowa, at least), making it a “public place.” As such, smoking would then be prohibited in enclosed areas. Also, depending on the circumstances of who organizes or convenes the meeting, smoking may also be regulated because it is considered a “place of employment.” The Iowa SFAA defines an employee as “a person who is employed by an employer in consideration for direct or indirect monetary wages or profit, or a person who provides services to an employer on a voluntary basis.” Based on this definition, someone who organizes or leads the meeting could be considered an “employee” under Iowa law, even if they are providing the service voluntarily and receiving no monetary benefits. Click for information on the Iowa Smokefree Air Act (including fact sheets and a copy of the law and administrative rules).
- Nebraska1: In Nebraska, indoor public places and places of employment must be smoke-free. Private meetings like AA can be tricky, because it depends on the circumstances of each meeting. If the meeting is held in a public place, and allows the public to enter, then they must be smoke-free. If the AA organization owns the building, then we would ask 1) if they have paid employees, and 2) if they allow any member of the public to enter the building. If the answer to either one is yes, then they need to be smoke-free. In the event that the group is entirely run by volunteers and requires membership for entry, then potentially they could allow smoking; however we have never actually seen that set of circumstances in our state.
- Nebraska 2: AA and other 12-step programs are really not "membership" organizations like Elks or other large mammal clubs. So most (if not all) of these clubhouses would be open to the public. "Joining" AA (or other 12 step groups like Alanon, NA, Alateen, etc.) is nothing more than just attending a meeting. The only requirement for membership is a desire to quit drinking. There are no dues or charges to attend a meeting, but they will usually pass around a hat for donations during the meeting. Depending on your regulatory definition of "public place," more than likely an AA clubhouse would be covered.
- Montana: This issue did not even come up in Montana. Since the establishments where the meetings (or private clubs) are workplaces, they must comply with the law.
- West Virginia: In West Virginia, our clean indoor air regulations (to date) are passed at the local level. For the most part, our smoke-free county board of health regulations cover these AA type organizational meetings.
Back to Table of Contents