February 18, 2021

In a time where there is more emphasis placed on public health and safety in the workplace, it is surprising that an ordinance has been drafted to bring marijuana/cannabis smoking and vaping into Denver’s restaurants, bars, marijuana businesses and other places throughout the Mile High City. If passed, Bill to Enact Marijuana Hospitality Program for Denver will bring marijuana smoking indoors to restaurants and other establishments

The City of Denver has always worked hard to create workplaces that are free from secondhand smoke from both tobacco and the aerosols emitted by electronic cigarettes. These protections remain very popular with the public. To vast public support, Denver International Airport closed its last smoking room to become 100% smoke free, thus protecting the health of hundreds of airline passengers and staff.

It took decades of effort for Colorado to achieve statewide smoke free restaurants, bars, retail stores, and most public places. Two years ago, the Colorado legislature strengthened the law and closed several key gaps in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act that was adopted in 2006. The modernized law eliminated exemptions that have allowed smoking in small workplaces, hotels, and long-term care facilities. It also prohibits the use of electronic smoking devices in smoke free venues. Undoubtedly, allowing marijuana smoking or vaping in places where smoking and vaping is now prohibited will undermine the laws that protect the public from exposure to secondhand smoke and secondhand vapor.

Smoke is smoke. Secondhand marijuana smoke is a health hazard for nonsmokers and smokers.  There is now enough scientific evidence to affirm that secondhand marijuana smoke creates a serious health risk to the public.  Just like secondhand tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is a potent source of PM 2.5 fine particulate matter, which is hazardous regardless of source, including wildfires and air pollution. Secondhand marijuana smoke impacts cardiovascular function and it contains thousands of chemicals and at least 33 carcinogens. In short, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and everyone should have the right to breathe smoke free air in public places and workplaces.

While so many neighborhoods in the Denver Metro area are currently combating COVID 19, a deadly virus that attacks the lungs, opening public places like restaurants and bars where the public and workers are exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke or electronic cigarette aerosols is a bad idea. Marijuana industry profits should not take priority over people. The last thing needed is to create a new class of workers that would have to sacrifice their health for a paycheck.

The undersigned national and statewide public health organizations have come together to raise the alarm against this attack on clean indoor air protections and worker health. We strongly urge the Denver City Council to take a stand for community health by not opting in to Bill to Enact Marijuana Hospitality Program for Denver. Do not roll back hard-won local public health protections by allowing for marijuana smoking and vaping indoors. Let us all stand strong behind the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. There is no need for people to smoke or vape in ways that harm other people including workers.


RJ Ours,
Colorado Government Relations Director
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Inc. 
Sarah Belstock, MSPH
Behavioral Health Planner
Community Health Promotion Division
Denver Public Health
Tracey Richers Maruyama, MA
Chronic Disease Tobacco Program Planner 
Community Health Promotion Division
Denver Public Health
Fernando Pineda-Reyes
Chief Executive Officer
CREA Results
JoAnna Strother
Senior Director | Advocacy | AZ, CO, NM, NV, UT
American Lung Association                     

Pete Bialick, President
Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution
GASP of Colorado 

Char Day
Program and Training Specialist
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights

Christopher Roller
Vice President of Advocacy
American Heart Association

Write a letter to the Denver Post


Smoke is Smoke


Just like secondhand tobacco smoke, many of the chemicals in secondhand marijuana smoke are toxic and contain hazardous fine particles that pose a significant health risk to nonsmokers.


It is important to strengthen all smokefree laws — both existing and new — to include marijuana in the definitions of smoking and vaping. Clearly define smoking as “inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, or pipe, or any other lighted or heated tobacco or plant product intended for inhalation, including hookahs and marijuana, whether natural or synthetic, in any manner or in any form.”

Protect Nonsmokers' Rights

If marijuana smoking is allowed indoors in public places, both employees and patrons are at risk. Secondhand smoke exposure from marijuana can cause significant health issues including breathing problems.

Many states have now legalized marijuana (also called cannabis) for medical (26, plus DC) and/or recreational use (7, plus DC), with many more considering it. A new industry for marijuana consumption is being created in the U.S. and it has one goal: to normalize marijuana use, including smoking, everywhere and to have it regulated “just like alcohol.” As the trend toward normalizing public smoking of marijuana grows, we need to be aware that more laws will likely be proposed to weaken smokefree protections and allow for broader use of smoking marijuana in public places and even in workplaces. The marijuana industry wants to accomplish this goal, in part, by borrowing tactics from Big Tobacco’s playbook and chipping away at smokefree protections.

Our position paper, Protecting Nonsmokers from Secondhand Marijuana Smoke, provides in-depth information on the hazards of marijuana secondhand smoke, industry arguments and activities, ventilation arguments, smokefree policy trends, and other resources.

Smokefree is Smokefree


contains hundreds of chemicals — just like secondhand tobacco smoke.


contains 3 times the amount of ammonia.


contains significant levels mercury, lead, formaldehyde, benzene, hydrogen cyanide, & toluene.


impairs blood vessel function. Read more.

Marijuana Smokefree Policy Trends

As of April, 2021, 785 localities and 29 states/territories/commonwealths restrict marijuana use in some or all smokefree spaces. Of these, 425 localities and 17 states/territories/commonwealths prohibit smoking and vaping of recreational and medical marijuana in one or more of the following venues: non-hospitality workplaces, restaurants, bars, and/or gambling facilities.

Keeping a Watchful Eye on Legalized Marijuana Regulations

February 2018

ANR is concerned that regulations proposed by cannabis boards in California, Colorado, and other states that have legalized recreational marijuana do not adequately consider the public health need to protect non-users from exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke.

We're concerned that communities may weaken clean air protections to allow marijuana smoking and vaping in places that are currently required to be smokefree.

Recently, ANR saw a news clip about a cannabis festival being held at a county fairgrounds in California, which highlighted that the festival would allow indoor marijuana smoking. ANR staff contacted the local tobacco control program, who knew about the festival but not that it planned to allow indoor smoking. Marijuana smoking in workplaces and public places violates California’s smokefree air law and the new state marijuana regulations. The tobacco control program mobilized quickly and discovered that the fairgrounds management, festival operators, and local police did not have accurate information about the smokefree and marijuana laws. Thanks to the program’s outreach, the fairgrounds CEO said that smoking would not be allowed in fairgrounds buildings..

This situation is a good reminder that tobacco control programs, health partners, and advocates should keep an eye out for events and venues that may try to permit marijuana smoking in places where it is not allowed. Likewise, we should all be alert to efforts by marijuana businesses and boards to advocate for weakening smokefree protections to allow marijuana smoking in more workplaces and public places.

We’re not questioning the rights of individuals to use marijuana.

We’re advocating for the rights of nonsmokers to breathe smokefree air.

The bottom line is that smokefree spaces should stay smokefree. Regardless of how one feels about marijuana use, no one should have to breathe secondhand marijuana smoke at work, in public, or where they live.

Include secondhand marijuana smoke in your smokefree laws

ANR Can Help