Here’s an Important Step to Protect Your Staff and Customers
Ryan Coffman, MPH, CHES, CTTS-M, Tobacco Policy and Control Program Manager, Philadelphia Department of Public Health
The COVID-19 epidemic in the United States has and will continue change the way we gather in public places.
Tobacco use and vaping may increase the risk of getting COVID-19, and can make the illness more severe.
As restaurants, bars, workplaces and other public venues gradually re-open, these venues will be taking many steps to protect their staff, patrons and the community from COVID-19.
Another important precaution that your venue can take to more fully protect people from the serious risks of COVID-19 is to remove all smoking and vaping areas. Under the Clean Indoor Air and Worker Protection Law, all outdoor seating areas are required to be smoke and vape-free. However, many venues still have formal and informal designated smoking and vaping areas which can put the public at risk for COVID-19.
These smoking and vaping areas:
- Are often near places where people need to pass to enter or exit the venue
- Increase the number of people gathering closely without face coverings
- Increase the spread of respiratory droplets among people
- Increase the number of people gathered together, putting them at higher risk for COVID-19
The suggestions below can provide guidance on how you can remove designated smoking and vaping areas in preparation for opening more safely to protect your staff, patrons and the community from COVID-19.
- Place signage at former smoking and vaping areas to indicate that they are closed to protect staff and the public and prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Remove any receptacles from former smoking areas
- If your establishment previously had an exemption to permit smoking indoors, consider re-opening smoke and vape-free. This will protect your staff and patrons from secondhand smoke and COVID-19. Whenever someone smokes or vapes, they’re breathing out respiratory droplets. If that person is sick with COVID-19, others that are near them may be at risk of getting sick themselves
- Most venues in the city are already smoke and vape-free. There is very strong evidence that smoke-free policies increase patronage, and do not negatively impact revenue and employment. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health offers free technical assistance to establishments interested in going smoke and vape-free
- Promote smoking and vaping cessation supports to your patrons and staff. Every day is an opportunity to become tobacco-free. This is especially important during the time of COVID-19. Post information about FREE help and FREE smoking cessation medications available at 1-800-Quit-Now or smokefreephilly.org