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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Americans with Disabilities Act: Effective Legal Protection against Secondhand Smoke Exposure


Abstract The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which took effect in 1992, was adopted to provide a comprehensive national mandate to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA may be used to protect people with asthma and others whose daily activities are substantially limited by secondhand smoke exposure in private and public workplaces with fifteen or more employees (Title I); while accessing the services of, or participating in, state and local government (Title II); and in places of public accommodation (Title III). This law synopsis outlines when exposure to secondhand smoke qualifies as a disability under the ADA, summarizes what constitutes a “reasonable accommodation” by an employer or public place, describes the scope and constitutionality of the ADA as defined by recent Supreme Court and other cases, and identifies the remedies under the ADA for smoking-related discrimination. The author also provides information on who to contact for assistance in bringing ADA legal actions.

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