California Considers Banning Guest Smoking in Hotel Rooms: Senate Bill 626

    In recent years, the debate surrounding smoking regulations has intensified as the health risks associated with smoking have become more apparent. California, known for its progressive stance on public health, is currently considering a notable legislative proposal, Senate Bill 626 (Rubio, D)—a bill aimed at eliminating the exemption that permits guest smoking in 20% of hotel rooms. The bill raises an important question about the balance between employee safety and the effect smoking in hotel rooms has on the guest experience.

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    The public health benefits of this bill are immediately clear. Since secondhand smoke is a well-documented health hazard, linked to various respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, banning smoking in hotel rooms would create healthier environments for both hotel guests and employees, reducing exposure to harmful toxins and protecting vulnerable individuals such as children and pregnant women. These benefits expand not only to guests, but to housekeepers and other staff who may be incidentally exposed to secondhand smoke as well.

    On the maintenance front, a smoking ban is also likely to lead to reduced costs for hotel owners in terms of room maintenance. Smoking in hotel rooms can cause lingering odors, discoloration of walls and fabrics, and damage to furnishings, necessitating more frequent and costly renovations. A ban could help hotels save on maintenance expenses and maintain a cleaner, more attractive environment for all guests.

    What This Would Mean for Your Hotel

    If the bill is enacted, implementation and enforcement will likely follow current practices for existing non-smoking rooms. Hotels would need to develop clear policies regarding the prohibition of smoking in rooms, and penalties for violations would need to be established and enforced consistently. This includes posting signs at entryways stating that the premises are non-smoking, and posting signs where smoking is permitted (if an area is designated). In the event that a guest smokes, the hotel/employees must ask the guest to stop smoking, but, if the guest refuses, is not required to physically eject the guest, nor is the hotel required to undertake any action which would involve a risk of harm to the employees or operators of the hotel.

    Likelihood of Passing into Law

    Currently, Senate Bill 626 is on the Assembly floor and, if approved without amendments, will proceed to the Governor’s office for his signature. Historically, this concept has struggled in the Governor’s office, where variations of this bill have been vetoed by the Governor twice before. It is unclear at this time as to whether Governor Newsom will choose to follow in the steps of Governor Brown to veto the measure, or if he will allow the measure to pass into law.


    Senate Bill 626’s proposal to remove the exemption allowing guest smoking in 20% of hotel rooms in California is not a new concept, but has typically failed at the governor’s desk over concerns about the impact on people who have smoked for their entire lives. On one hand, the bill aims to improve public health by reducing secondhand smoke exposure and potentially encouraging smoking cessation. It could also benefit hotel owners by cutting maintenance costs associated with smoking rooms. On the other hand, the proposal likely infringes on personal freedoms and may unduly affect people who seek to travel, but smoke on a consistent basis. In the event that Senate Bill 626 is passed into law, hotels will need to make minor changes to signage and enforcement of no-smoking policies, but will not be required to undertake significant enforcement actions.

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