A tighter ban on smoking and vaping inside nearly all Atlanta bars and restaurants took effect Jan. 2. The ban, which also covers Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, was passed by the City Council last year.

The ordinance tightened laws that already restricted smoking inside most places of business, but had exemptions for private rooms or if they excluded customers or workers who were under 18. Those exemptions are gone.

Outdoor smoking at bars and restaurants is still allowed, but not near windows and doors. There is also an exemption that applies to cigar lounges, hookah bars and other tobacco-focused businesses.

For violations of the smoking and vaping bans, the city will fine the owners or operators of spaces $100 for a first violation and $200 for each additional offense within one year.

The intent of the smoking ban is to prevent workers and customers from being exposed to the many health hazards of smoking without warning or practical choice. The ordinance was lobbied for by Smoke-Free Atlanta, a coalition of such organizations as the Atlanta-headquartered American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association.

The ordinance was introduced by City Councilmembers Matt Westmoreland and Andre Dickens.

The tightening of the rules had two “no” votes, from Buckhead-area Councilmembers J.P. Matzigkeit and Howard Shook.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.