Washington Smoking Ban, Initiative 901 (2005)

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The Washington Smoking Ban Initiative, also known as Initiative 901, was on the November 8, 2005 election ballot in Washington as an Initiative to the People, where it was approved. I-901 prohibits smoking in buildings and vehicles open to the public and places of employment, including areas within 25 feet of doorways and ventilation openings unless a lesser distance is approved. It is the most stringent statewide smoking ban in the country.

Election results

Washington Initiative 901 (2005)
Approveda Yes 1,153,353 63.25%

Election results via the Washington Secretary of State.[1]

Text of the measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[2]

Initiative Measure No. 901 concerns amending the Clean Indoor Air Act by expanding smoking prohibitions.

This measure would prohibit smoking in buildings and vehicles open to the public and places of employment, including areas within 25 feet of doorways and ventilation openings unless a lesser distance is approved.

Should this measure be enacted into law?[3]

Details of the measure

Initiative 901 bans smoking in "bars, taverns, bowling alleys, skating rinks, reception areas, and no less than seventy-five percent of the sleeping quarters within a hotel or motel that are rented to guests." Since 1985, restaurants that allowed smoking could only do so because of an exemption in state law. I-901 would revoke this exemption thereby making all restaurants part of the public places where smoking is banned.

The initiative would also include a "reasonable minimum distance... of twenty-five feet from entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed area…" Initiative backers say the 25-foot rule is needed because of concerns over second-hand smoke exposure.

Private residences would not be affected unless they are used to provide licensed childcare, foster care, adult care or similar social service care on the premises.

Washington's 1985 Clean Indoor Air Act banned smoking in public places with the exception of designated smoking areas. The Clean Indoor Air Act was created to "secure and maintain levels of air quality that protect human health and safety, including the most sensitive members of the population…to protect the public welfare, to preserve visibility, to protect scenic, aesthetic, historic, and cultural values, and to prevent air pollution problems that interfere with the enjoyment of life, property, or natural attractions."[4]

Fiscal impact statement

The 2005 State of Washington Voter Pamphlet lists the fiscal impact statement as follows:

Summary of Fiscal Impact

Initiative 901 would have no significant fiscal impact on state or local governments. Local government law enforcement and health agencies, which would be charged with implementing and enforcing the Initiative’s smoking prohibitions, would carry out enforcement of the Initiative within their normal duties, without the need for new resources.

Assumptions for Analysis of I-901

The Initiative could result in an overall increase in the number of infractions issued by local law enforcement. However, the Initiative provides no specific provisions for expenditure or enforcement levels. The enforcement level assumed in this analysis is determined by local police, health and judicial jurisdictions operating within existing resources. Based on the Pierce County Health Department’s experience with county law similar to I-901 – in which no additional costs for enforcement were incurred – the Initiative will result in no significant additional costs to state or local health agencies.


These arguments in support appeared in the official State of Washington Voter Guide:[5]


I-901 protects families, children, seniors and workers from secondhand smoke, which is responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. By decreasing exposure to secondhand smoke, I-901 will save lives. Secondhand smoke has been linked to cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and other serious illnesses in non-smokers. That’s why the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association of Washington, and the American Heart Association urge you to vote yes! on I-901. Because children and seniors are especially vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke, which can cause asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis, the AARP and Washington nurses strongly support I-901.

EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO BREATHE CLEAN AIR I-901 protects everyone’s right to breathe clean air where we work, eat and socialize. It’s impossible to make secondhand smoke stay in the smoking section. Washington’s families and children shouldn’t be forced to inhale toxic chemicals and smell like smoke just to visit a favorite restaurant or see live music. I-901 will allow asthmatic people to attend events without worrying about secondhand smoke triggering their asthma, and allows non-smokers to sit outside a restaurant without being subjected to cigarette smoke. No one should have to walk through a cloud of toxic smoke to get inside a building.


Washington has already passed a law protecting people in most workplaces from secondhand smoke, but 225,000 workers in restaurants, skating rinks, bars, and bowling alleys are currently unprotected. They deserve the same protections as everyone else. I-901 is a fair and common sense approach that protects all of us from dangerous secondhand smoke.

VOTE YES! ON I-901 OFFICE 206.522.2233


Rebuttal of Statement Against

Everyone has the right to breathe clean indoor air. Why should anyone be forced to breathe toxic secondhand smoke at work? Why should families or children be forced to breathe poisons when they go out to eat or listen to music? Secondhand smoke kills thousands every year. That’s why the American Cancer Society says, “I-901 will save lives. It’s a common sense health safety measure that protects families, children, seniors and workers.” Yes on I-901.[3]


These arguments in opposition appeared in the official State of Washington Voter Guide:[6]

I-901 is fatally flawed with extreme policies that will not do what sponsors promise.

I-901 is not a statewide smoking ban, as all tribal facilities and land are exempt resulting in a severe shift of entertainment dollars away from taxpaying non-tribal facilities to tribal facilities.

A 25-foot smoke-free radius around all entrances, windows and vents will be enforced on all non-tribal businesses, buildings and passers-by. Ashtrays, matchbooks, etc. bring fines.

I-901 grants extreme powers to local health departments against private citizens, workers, and property owners.

Shouldn’t private property owners have the right to determine whether smoking should be allowed or should the state take that right away from only one class of owners?

I-901 won’t protect all workers, nor replace state or federal worker protection laws. I-901’s science is defective and not recognized as valid by state and national scientists or officials responsible for workplace safety.

In 1985 Washington led the nation by banning smoking in most public places, allowing business owners to designate smoking areas for customers. Today, 75% of Washington’s restaurants are smoke-free.

This extreme ban was tried in Pierce County in 2004. Visit www.noon901.org and listen to people from Pierce County whose jobs were lost, businesses closed, charitable bingo facilities bankrupted and Veterans Posts and other private organizations whose contributions to their communities decreased.

I-901 won’t mean smokers will quit; they will be more than welcomed at exempt tribal facilities. I-901 is too extreme and won’t work – vote no.

For more information, visit www.noon901.org .

Rebuttal of Statement For

I-901 ignores everyone’s property rights and your freedom of choice. I-901 makes smoking illegal even if the property owner wishes to allow it. I-901 is just too extreme. I-901 is bad policy. It is not a statewide ban. I-901 will cause many workers to lose their jobs and force many businesses and charities to close. I-901 will not protect all workers. Current law already works. Most designated smoking areas already do not allow children.[3]

Path to the ballot

Initiative 901 was filed on January 10, 2005 by Christopher J. Covert-Bowlds. 321,615 signatures were collected to qualify it for the ballot. The measure was placed on the ballot as provided for by the state constitution.[7]

See also

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