Legal Issue

Whether a local ordinance prohibiting smoking in most indoor public places was preempted by a state “clean indoor air” statute.


The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department passed a smoke-free resolution covering most indoor public places, including places of employment.  The Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC), a lobbying organization that represents gambling interests, challenged the smoke-free resolution, claiming it was preempted by Washington’s Clean Indoor Air Act, and was thus invalid.  The trial court enjoined the County from enforcing the smoke-free resolution, and the County appealed directly to the Washington Supreme Court.

In September 2004, the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium and six other national public health organizations filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Tacoma-Pierce County. Our brief defended the power of local officials in Washington to restrict smoking and argued that an ambiguous state law does not preempt local health officials from acting to protect public health.


The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision, holding that Washington’s Clean Indoor Air Act allows business proprietors to designate public smoking areas.  The County’s smoke-free resolution, by purportedly denying such a right, conflicted with state law and was thus invalid.

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