Understanding the smoke-free law in England

In 2007, England introduced a law that made almost all enclosed and substantially enclosed public places and workspaces smoke-free. This includes work-related vehicles. You need to know how this law affects you and the places you visit or work in.

This smoke-free law aims to protect you and others from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

Where the smoke-free law applies

The law covers:

  • smoking tobacco and other products like herbal tobacco and shisha pipes
  • various locations including workplaces, educational settings, healthcare facilities, and private clubs
  • different types of vehicles such as buses, taxis, company cars, ferries, and trains

However, it doesn’t apply to:

  • vehicles used solely by the driver and not for work by others
  • vehicles used only for private purposes

Defining enclosed and substantially enclosed spaces

An area is considered 'enclosed' if it has a roof or ceiling and is completely closed off, except for doors and windows. This includes temporary or permanent structures. Tents and marquees can also be classified as enclosed if they meet this definition.

An area is 'substantially enclosed' if it has a roof or ceiling but less than 50% of the wall area is open. In simple terms:

  • if a roofed area has 50% or more walls missing, smoking is allowed
  • if more than 50% of the walls are in place, smoking is prohibited

Note: Openings do not count as doors, windows, or fittings that can open or shut.

Compliance with smoke-free legislation

You must:

  • display the mandatory 'No Smoking' signs
  • prevent smoking in smoke-free areas or vehicles
  • inform staff, customers, and visitors about the smoke-free requirement
  • remove all ashtrays
  • develop and enforce a smoke-free policy
  • tell anyone smoking that they are breaking the law
  • ask smokers to extinguish their smoking material or leave
  • deny service to individuals who smoke unlawfully

Displaying smoke-free signs

All smoke-free premises must display a clearly visible no smoking sign at each public entrance. The sign should:

  • be A5 in size
  • include the international No Smoking symbol, at least 70mm in diameter, in colour
  • carry the words "No Smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premises"

For staff-only entrances, displaying the international no smoking symbol in colour is sufficient, provided there's at least one A5 sign as described above elsewhere on the premises.

Vehicles required to be smoke-free must also display a no smoking sign with the international no smoking symbol, at least 70mm in diameter, and visible upon entry. No additional wording is needed for vehicle signs.

Penalties for non-compliance

Failure to comply with the smoke-free laws can lead to significant penalties, including:

  • not displaying no smoking signs: up to £1,000 fine or a £200 fixed penalty notice
  • smoking in a no-smoking area: up to £200 or a fixed penalty notice of £50
  • failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free area: up to £2,500

Contact the Smoke Free Enforcement Team

Address: Town Hall
St Aldate's
Oxford
OX1 1BX

Telephone: 01865 249811