The smokefree legislation introduced in 2007 means that the buildings in which people work, relax and socialise should be free of smoke caused by tobacco.
The Health Act 2006 made it illegal to smoke in certain places in England. Smoking isn't allowed in any substantially enclosed workplace, public building or on public transport in the UK. Persons who permit smoking and those that smoke, commit criminal offences. It is also a legal requirement to display smokefree signs.
The smoking of tobacco or anything which contains tobacco and being in possession of lit tobacco or anything lit which contains tobacco, or being in possession of any other lit substance in a form in which it can be smoked.
That includes smoking shisha (Hookah, goza, narghile) cigarettes (including bidis and kreteks) pipes, cigars etc. It is also illegal to smoke tobacco free cigarettes and tobacco free shisha.
The use of electronic devices such as e-cigarettes and e-shisha pipes are not smoking. Employers can decide if they can be used on their premises.
View the ACAS advice on e-cigarettes and vaping in the workplace at The National Archives - E-cigarettes and vaping in the workplace.
Smokefree legislation applies to the following premises:
- the public has access to, for example pubs, shopping centres, restaurants, cafes
- all places of work
- providing education, health or care services
'Work' also covers voluntary work, so if a community hall holds an event staffed by volunteers, it would have to be smokefree. If the public attended, it would be both a workplace and a public place.
- Private dwellings which include holiday cottages, caravans and associated buildings such as garages that are for the exclusive use of the persons living in the dwelling do not have to be smoke free. In addition, the regulations do not restrict people from smoking in their private accommodation even if it is used for work providing the work is personal care or maintenance work. Providers of such services will have to consider how to protect their staff and negotiate private agreements with staff and clients about smoking while the care or maintenance is being carried out. Common parts in residential premises such as stairwells or workplaces such as lift motor rooms have to be smoke free.
- The regulations allow for designated bedrooms in hotels, guest houses, hostels, and members clubs to be not smoke free if they meet certain conditions, including being designated in writing by the person in charge of the premises. Shared rooms such as dormitories must always be smoke free.
- In other residential situations such as prisons, care homes, hospices the regulations allow either for designated bedrooms or other designated rooms to be used only for smoking.
Yes, at least one legible 'No-smoking sign' must be displayed in a prominent position in a smokefree premises.
It is advisable to display signs at all entrances. It is recomended that they be a minimum of A5 in area (210mm x 148mm), display the international no-smoking symbol and carry the following words in characters that can be easily read: No smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premises.
You can download an use the following signs:
- English No smoking sign (PDF, 42KB)
- Communal parts No smoking sign (PDF, 47KB)
- Arabic No smoking sign (PDF, 436KB)
- Bengali No smoking sign (PDF, 432KB)
- Chinese No smoking sign (PDF, 490KB)
- Polish No smoking sign (PDF, 433KB)
- Punjabi No smoking sign (PDF, 433KB)
- Turkish No smoking sign (PDF, 433KB)
- Urdu No smoking sign (PDF, 454KB)
Premises will be considered to be enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof and, except for doors, windows or passageways, are wholly enclosed, whether on a permanent or temporary basis.
Premises are substantially enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof, but there are permanent openings in the walls which are less than half of the total areas of walls, including other structures which serve the purpose of walls and constitute the perimeter of premises.
This is known as the 50 per cent rule - put simply:
- if 50 per cent of the walls or more are missing then it is legal to smoke in the area; or
- if more than 50 per cent of the walls are present then it is illegal to smoke in the area
Note - employers do not have to provide shelters or places in which employees can legally smoke.
Persons smoking or in possession of a lit article
A Fixed Penalty Notice of £50 may be served on the person smoking in a smokefree premises or work vehicle.
If they have been issued with a fixed penalty previously, or fail to pay then they will be prosecuted in the Magistrates Courts. If found guilty they can be fined up to £200 and will have a criminal record.
Persons in control of premises failing to display no-smoking signs
A person in control of the premises (e.g. Owner and or Manager) may receive a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200.
If they have been issued with a fixed penalty previously, or fail to pay the Fixed Penalty Notice, then they will be prosecuted in the Magistrates Courts. If found guilty they can be fined up to £1000 and will have a criminal record.
Persons failing to prevent smoking
A person in control of the premises (e.g. Owner and or Manager) failing to prevent persons smoking in a smokefree place can be prosecuted in the Magistrates Courts and if found guilty can be fined up to £2500 and will have a criminal record.
Potential offences under other legislation
Some businesses may decide to allow persons to smoke in substantially enclosed premises/rooms and even provide smoking paraphernalia (such as shisha pipes).
Serious Crime Act
If you have no places within your premises that you can allow people to smoke legally then you may also be charged with encouraging or assisting smoking offences under the Serious Crime Act.
You may be fined up to £200 per offence.
Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
When shisha coals are burnt a bi-product of the combustion process is the toxic gas Carbon Monoxide. Employees are exposed to Carbon Monoxide in both the preparation area and in the lounge area.
You are committing offences under the Health and Safety legislation by unnecessarily and illegally exposing your employees to the harmful effects of Carbon Monoxide. Offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act are subject to unlimited fines and up to 2 years in prison for individuals.
- CIEH Smoke free guidance; Implementation of the legislation in England (PDF, 984KB)
- CIEH Smoke free guidance; Information for business about the use of smokefree signs (PDF, 898KB)
- CIEH Smoke free guidance; Supplementary guidance on Shisha bars (PDF, 1003KB)
- CIEH Smoke free guidance; Prohibition of smoking in private vehicles carrying children (PDF, 1.2MB)
- How to deal with smoking in a smokefree place (PDF, 47KB)
Do I have to provide a smoking shelter for staff?
No, there is no requirement to provide a place in which staff can legally smoke.
A member of staff keeps smoking at work, what can I do?
Firstly you should ensure that you have a smokefree policy in place. You should then begin disciplinary proceeding against your employee, as you would for any other misbehaviour at work. You may wish to consider seeking help from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
Remember that if the business fails to address the issue, they to are committing an offence, by failing to prevent smoking.
I run a members only club, can members smoke?
No - Despite the fact that the membership may be a restricted sub-set of the public at large it remains a 'public place'. If members access a place that is enclosed or substantially enclosed by virtue of their membership then the smoking legislation applies. It is also likely to be a workplace and so the legislation would also apply.
As an employee am I entitled to a cigarette break?
Strictly speaking, no, you are not entitled to a cigarette break. However employees do have the right to rest periods throughout the day, see the ACAS website for more information.
I work at home in my spare room, there are no other staff, can I smoke?
Yes, because this is a private dwelling and only you work there.
What if I hold a party marquee in my garden, does that need to be smokefree?
Yes - If a household makes a formal invitation to guests to attend an event, such as a wedding in a marquee, they will be required to ensure that the marquee is smokefree and display the correct signage. If the host hires in staff to entertain and cater at a private event then the venue is also deemed to be a workplace and the law applies.
Do I have to stop smoking when workers (Plumbers, cleaners, home help etc) visit my house?
No, but it is polite not to smoke near them, and the workers have the right to refuse to work in a smokey environment as passive smoking can damage their health. Therefore if you insist on smoking you might not get the help you desire.
Last updated: 13 July 2023