For years, Connecticut employers with 20 or more workers have had to provide nonsmoking work areas when requested by employees.

And in areas where smoking was permitted, employers have had to make the most of existing physical barriers and ventilation systems to minimize the effect of smoking on adjacent nonsmoking areas. Employers had the option to ban smoking entirely in their workplace and many, but not all, did so.

A new law took effect Oct. 1, 2003, eliminating that flexibility, and the smoke, from all but the smallest workplaces.

The change in the law requires any employer with five or more employees to ban smoking entirely within a structurally enclosed work facility, except in a designated smoking room, if the employer elects to set one up.

A designated smoking room will not come cheaply; it must be a non-work area in which employees need not venture as part of their job, and it must have a ventilation system separate from other parts of the facility, exhausting its air directly to the outside.

Employers that set up designated smoking rooms must also provide sufficient nonsmoking break rooms for nonsmoking employees.

Employers with fewer than five employees will have to provide a nonsmoking work area to any employee requesting one, similar to what the old law required for larger employers.

Smoking employees will still be able to step outside and light up if their employer’s or landlord’s policies permit smoking on the premises.

The new law retains a nondiscrimination provision from the old law, making it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a worker who uses tobacco products outside the workplace.

Further, the new law will eventually ban smoking in just about any restaurant, bar or private club; not only does this ban apply to employees, it also applies to customers. Outdoor seating areas of restaurants can be exempted from the ban under certain conditions.

The new law exempts some workplaces, mainly correctional facilities; designated smoking areas in psychiatric facilities; public housing projects; 25% of the outdoor seating area of restaurants; private clubs whose liquor permits were issued on or before May 1, 2003; cafes, taverns and bowling centers until May 1, 2004; and qualified tobacco bars or “cigar bars.”

To qualify as a tobacco bar, an establishment must have a liquor permit, must have generated at least 10% of its 2002 gross sales from sales of tobacco products or humidor rentals and cannot have changed its size or location since Dec. 31, 2002.