Smoking by Patients in Locked Psychiatric Units - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Psychiatric Units
Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act

The Freedom to Breathe (FTB) provisions amended the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act (MCIAA) further protect employees and the public from the health hazards of secondhand smoke. These provisions went into effect on October 1, 2007. In 2019, the MCIAA was amended again to expand the definition of smoking to include vaping, the use of electronic delivery devices (also known as e-cigarettes or vapes). The amendment is effective on August 1, 2019.

Definition of "Smoking"

The MCIAA defines smoking as inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other lighted or heated product containing, made or derived from nicotine, tobacco, marijuana, or other plant intended for inhalation. As of August 1, 2019, this definition includes carrying or using an activated electronic delivery device.

Definition of "Indoor Area"

“Indoor Area” means a space between a floor and a ceiling that is 50% enclosed by walls, doorways or windows (open or closed) around the perimeter.  A wall includes retractable dividers, garage doors, plastic sheeting or any other temporary or permanent physical barrier. A (standard) window screen is not a wall.

Prohibited Smoking

Minnesota Statutes, Section 246.0141, prohibits the possession or use of tobacco by patients, staff, guests and visitors “on the grounds or in a state regional treatment center, the Minnesota Security Hospital, the Minnesota sex offender program, or the Minnesota extended treatment options program.”

Permitted Smoking

With the exception of the facilities and circumstances described above, smoking or vaping by patients in a locked psychiatric unit may be allowed if all of the following criteria are met:

  • The program administrator must establish a policy that allows the treating physician to approve smoking if, in their professional opinion, the benefits to be gained outweigh the negative impacts of smoking.
  • Smoking is only allowed in a designated, separate, well-ventilated area in the unit.
  • A sign is posted at the entrance that states “Smoking is prohibited, except in designated areas.”
  • A sign is posted at the entrance to designated smoking rooms that displays the international smoking-permitted symbol or states “Smoking permitted.”

Outdoor Smoking

The MCIAA does not prohibit outdoor smoking, regardless of the distance from building openings such as doors or windows. The law does not address the drift of smoking coming from the outside. Some cities and counties have local ordinances that restrict smoking by entrances.

Compliance and Enforcement

MDH has compliance authority over the MCIAA and may delegate compliance activities to local government. Complaints about alleged violations of the MCIAA can be directed to the MDH Indoor Air Unit at the contact information listed at the end of this factsheet. Failure to comply with the MCIAA can lead to enforcement action, including up to a $10,000 fine.

In addition to the compliance authority provided to MDH and local units of government, local law enforcement has the authority to issue petty misdemeanor citations to proprietors or individuals who knowingly fail to comply with the MCIAA. 

Local Government Ordinances

Local governments have the authority to adopt and enforce more stringent measures to protect individuals from secondhand smoke.

Retaliation Prohibited

An employer, manager or other person in charge cannot fire, refuse to hire, penalize, discriminate or retaliate against an employee, applicant, or customer who exercises any right to a smoke-free environment provided under the MCIAA.

Updated Wednesday, 24-Jul-2019 14:14:13 CDT