Smoking Ban

The smoking ban is UK-wide and in England, is enforced via a suite of regulations known as the Smoke-free legislation. The legislation is designed to protect workers and members of the public from being exposed to tobacco smoke in places of work and premises open to the public.

The law applies to smoking any substance, or being in possession of lit tobacco or any other lit substance in a form capable of being smoked, such as:

  • manufactured cigarettes
  • hand-rolled cigarettes
  • pipes
  • cigars
  • herbs
  • water/shisha pipes

This law does not include any restriction on electronic cigarettes or vapes. It is a matter for the owner, manager or person in charge of the premises or vehicle(s) to decide whether to permit electronic cigarette use.

Inspectors can enter all 'no-smoking premises' also known as 'smoke-free premises', to establish that the smoke-free law is being complied with. Authorised Officers can also issue fixed penalty notices to people they believe are committing, or have committed an offence. If you are in charge of smoke-free premises you have a legal responsibility to prevent people from smoking on the premises.

Smoke-free signs

All smoke-free public spaces, workplaces and vehicles must display at least one legible no-smoking sign to indicate that the place is smoke-free.  The person with management responsibilities for the vehicle or premises must comply with 'The Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2012'. Failure to display the required no-smoking sign(s) is an offence.

There are no other requirements as to the size, shape, content or location of no-smoking signs in smoke-free premises or vehicles. 

Penalty Who is liable FPN (if paid within 15 days) FPN (if paid within 29 days) Court awarded fine
Smoking in a smoke-free place Anyone who smokes in a smoke-free place £30 £50 Up to £200
Failing to display no-smoking sign(s) Anyone who manages or occupies the smoke-free premises or vehicle £150 £200 Up to £1,000
Failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free place Anyone who manages or controls the smoke-free premises or vehicle N/A N/A Up to £2,500

Anyone who receives a fixed penalty notice can choose to have the matter dealt with in court. If a fixed penalty notice is not paid the matter may also be dealt with by a court.


Smoke-free vehicles

All vehicles used for public transport such as buses, trains and taxis must be smoke-free.

Vehicles used as a workplace by more than one person, regardless of whether they are in the vehicle at the same time, are required to be smoke-free at all times. This protects shift workers and other workers using the same vehicle from the hazards of second-hand smoke. A worker can smoke in a company care that only they use, if their employer agrees.

It is also an offence to smoke or allow smoking within an enclosed private vehicle where there is more than one person present and one of them is a child under the age of 18. Enforcement of this private vehicle requirement is carried out by Leicestershire Police.

Smoking Shelters

If you are a business owner, you do not have to provide facilities to staff who smoke and there is no legal requirement to provide a smoking shelter. If you choose to have a smoking shelter, then it must not be more than 50% enclosed.

The 50% rule applies to shelters where there is any kind of roof cover including awnings and in some areas, possibly umbrellas, whether or not the cover is actually in use. The walls or sides of the structure including doors and windows and other things that could be used as walls or covers (whether they are in use or not) must not make the shelter more than 50% enclosed.

If the shelter is more than 50% enclosed, then this would automatically make it a smoke-free premises and therefore cannot by definition be used as a smoking shelter and the smoke-free regulations would apply.

Permanent structures built for smoking will need planning permission in most cases. You can find out more on the Do I need planning permission page.

Detached, modestly sized shelters do not need approval under the Building Regulations. However, if the floor area of the shelter is greater than 15m2, there may be restrictions if the shelter is within one metre of a boundary. Any shelter over 30m2 will need approval, as well as any shelter attached to a building.

Other things to consider when creating a smoking shelter include:

  • The noise that will be created
  • Any extra lighting that might potentially cause a nuisance to the neighbours
  • Whether the shelter is safely accessible
  • Location to other buildings and the potential of smoke drift entering neighbouring properties via vents, windows or doors

If you want to use parasols, umbrellas or gazebos, you must consider if:

  • The material is fire retardant
  • The material is strong enough to resist wind
  • It meets the 50% rule mentioned above
Last updated 5 January 2024
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